That’s what I see when I look out my window now. Empty paddocks.
There are horses, still. Six of them. Two will leave at the end of the month. The remaining four are mine. They will stay. And I will have time to give them the attention they deserve.
Six years ago, I started this blog with a dream of promoting the Barbs by riding them in endurance. Colleagues in other states would train and promote other Barbs in other ways. My breeding stock would be available to help meet growing market demand through commissioned foals.
I spent endless hours working with the horses, all of which came to me virtually untouched. I trained them one by one, chronicled triumphs and frustrations, solved dilemmas ranging from recalcitrant attitudes to ill-fitting hoof boots. I took them down the endurance trail. They did fine. Not spectacularly, but respectably. They did fine.
Meanwhile, the market changed. The Great Recession cut into nearly everyone’s lifestyle. Raising and selling horses was never an easy business, but now it grew even harder. Especially for a small, hot, “boutique” breed without a long performance record in an area that focuses on stocky, quiet, Quarter Horse types for western sport.
In other areas, fellow breeders seemed to be collecting stock but not really using their horses. Word was not getting out. Interest was not growing.
And I changed. I wanted to focus more on endurance and less on training. I wanted to go faster down the trail than the Barbs wanted to carry me. It took years — literally years — to release the old dream enough to buy a pair of Arabians for my endurance mounts. When I did, I was glad.
But what to do with the Barbs? I loved them as a breed. I loved them as individuals. I had two, world-class stallions, five lovely mares, and a gelding that, while stunning, didn’t seem suitable for endurance. I also had a single income, a fun but wildly busy life, and too much awareness of what happens to unwanted horses to even consider breeding foals that I didn’t have time to train and that the market simply wouldn’t bear.
In the sport of endurance, rider can choose to pull her own horse out of the race. Anytime. For any reason. No questions asked. No vet or manager approval required. Because sometimes, the rider senses something no one else can, and the rider knows what is right. This kind of pull is known as “Rider Option.”
Nobody ever wants to quit mid-race. It usually feels like failure. But life has taught me that what looks like failure often is not. Journeys left unfinished were not taken in vain. (Remember this post?) Dreams shift. We carry treasures with us from memory to motivation.
And so, after months of consideration, I made a decision. I would pass the Barb breeding torch to others. Insider and Acey went to Wisconsin. Tuetano is with a trainer who is preparing him for travel to his new ranch in Texas. Incognito (rechristened Inara) is with a Barb enthusiast here in Idaho. Consolation and Sandstorm leave for Colorado next month. CJ is with an Idaho family, soon to be started under saddle.
All except CJ (a gelding) remain in the Spanish Colonial horse community. They went to homes of people I have known for years. They are safe. They are valued. They’ll be used to preserve and promote the breed.
And the empty paddocks? I’ll tear some out to make room for a barn. Others will house Jammer, Maji, Ripple (yes, I kept one Barb), and the new mare I picked up as guest mount for less experienced riders.
Those empty paddocks are sadness, but they are also deep relief. They represent the end of guilt over having such fine horses and not using them. A gift to the breeding community. Lower hay costs. Attention freed up for the horses that remain. And especially, more time to ride.
It is, after all, called Rider Option.
See you on the trail.