When I say that I live in a barn, the reaction is always the same. There is a look of surprise followed by a few moments of silence in which I imagine the person is thinking my living quarters look something like this:
|Source: John Dominis. Time and Life Pictures/Getty Images|
I assure them that I have an actual (albeit small) apartment across the aisle from my horse and that the living situation couldn’t be more ideal. The barn owner is a decorator so the two-level apartment is beautifully furnished. Visitors always say that, once inside the apartment, you would never know you were in a barn. Everyone who has seen it has been incredibly impressed by how livable such a small space can be. (I’m now a huge proponent of the small-living movement). I don’t have a true kitchen but since I don’t (can’t) cook, that doesn’t bother me at all.
That’s not to say that it didn’t take some getting used to sharing living space with ten horses. For the first few weeks, I had no idea what constituted normal nighttime horse noises. There was the usual snorting and stomping but was the sound of a hoof striking the wall repeatedly just boredom or the sign of a horse cast in a stall? I think I got up to check on the horses at least three times a night during the first two weeks.
Even more than a year later, several times a month I’ll hear a strange noise and go out to check the horses. It’s 2 am, I turn on the lights and all of the horses are looking very innocent, peacefully chewing their hay or sleeping. I firmly believe that they’ve made a game out of trying to get me to walk the barn aisle in the middle of the night.
“Okay, Bronze, it’s your turn. What are you going to do tonight to wake her up?”
“I thought I’d squeal like a little school girl repeatedly as if I’m being attacked.”
“That should work. She’s so gullible.”
“Deja, your assignment for next week is to cough loudly a number of times at about 1 am. Really make it sound like you are choking. That one always scares her.”
This is not to say that there haven’t been times when I was glad I checked on nighttime noises. For example, several times someone forgot to attach both hooks on McTavish’s stall guard. Despite being a fairly broad Haflinger, McTavish can be a real Houdini. He got out and started wandering the aisle. Since he has front shoes, I could hear his very definitive “clip-clop” on the cement floor.
After nearly a year of having just a stall chain, Deja (who is just about 14 hands) discovered she could shimmy under it. FREEDOM! Because they are on strict diets, Deja and Queenie do not have access to as much hay as the other horses in the barn, so freedom meant that Deja could find the nearest hay pile.
Two horses, Diva and Super Girl like to push their hay out into the aisle to eat (for dining while watching all the barn activity, I suppose). Deja only had to wander down to one of their stalls to find ample hay in the aisle. Deja escaped twice before I heard a noise in the middle of the night and opened my door to find the little fugitive calmly enjoying Super Girl’s buffet.
|Queenie at my barn-side door|
It didn’t take me long to figure out that kicking and banging are very frequent occurrences at all hours of the day and night for a variety of reasons. McTavish, for example, discovered that the bottom of his stall door was not secured to the broken slide mechanism. He would “ask” for attention by pushing the door so it swung out about a foot and then slammed back against the stall. He was particularly fond of doing it during the evening if I was preparing Queenie’s medicine or cleaning her stall.
WHAM! Followed by the humble, “Can I have a treat, please?” look.
And, I admit that I was guilty of responding since McTavish has the sweetest “woe is me” face ever. We finally tied the stall door so that he’s unable to bang it quite so hard but he still will push it to create a little “notice me” noise.
|McTavish, the cutest (and only) Haflinger in the barn|
For several months, we had an almost 18-hand Oldenburg in the front stall recuperating from surgery. His temperament and behavior reminded me of a lab puppy—big and very goofy. When he first arrived, he was confused by the two (of our four) minis in the stall behind him. He could hear but not see them and his reaction was—you guessed it—kicking the stall walls incessantly. With his size and force, the whole barn would shake in the middle of the night.
Then there are the times when a horse is upset about a change in the normal routine. Super Girl LOVED Tex, the handsome Palomino in the next stall. About six months after I moved into the apartment, Tex’s owners decided to move him to a farm closer to their new house. Tex’s stall became home for two very young minis that were rescued from a farm owner who planned to send them to auction. Super Girl was NOT happy about the change. For a week, she kicked the back of her stall loudly and often to protest having those impish minis take the place of her beloved Tex.
Super Girl showing her displeasure
If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m definitely not. As I’ve said in earlier blogs, I came back to horses after a 43-year absence. I was starting at the very bottom of the learning curve. Living on the farm, and in the barn in particular, has been a crash course in horse care. I’m often stunned to think about how much knowledge I have gained, but I have so, so very much more to learn. I look forward to continuing my “living classroom” experiences.
|One of my favorite things about living in the barn apartment is having minis in my front yard.|