My horse and I have been at Steadfast Farms for 14 years now. Before that we had been at 12 barns in 12 years. War Penny was glad we settled down. Some of that moving around, prior to Steadfast, was due to me being in college and early career-hood. Some of it was because i wanted him nearby even for short stays when I came home from college for Christmas or summer breaks. Most of it was due to me not being happy with the care.
We did have a few long stints at three barns. One of them I was a barn manager and instructor at during my last two years in college. Another was a very expensive with amazing attention to detail barn that I continued to return to for lessons and three-day stays as I could afford it. In Alabama we stayed at a lovely family farm for four years until I moved back to Georgia. The last barn before Steadfast was one that I rented so I could do my own care of War Penny. I selected his feed, his hay, his shavings, his turnout schedule and which stall he could have. Then I got a new job where I traveled more and I wanted to have children so I needed a new barn - again.
I had heard of Steadfast through my long-time farrier (I did keep the same farrier - until he retired). He really liked it and he was a low-key, didn't heap-on-the-praise-kind-of-guy.
I called Steadfast a few times and finally got an appointment to get a tour to possibly be allowed to board there. I already liked it. Ada was very clear that there were no stalls available for boarding only a pasture. I wasn’t so sure about that as War Penny had always had a stall but I knew with my travel schedule it would be better for him to be out more. So off I went for a tour/screening/DNA sample.
I arrived in late June, with the oak trees in a full cloud of green embrace surrounding a gravel road. I got a feeling in my stomach of hope at imagining walking down this road and then dread that this place couldn’t be as good as those trees were promising, then hope as I remembered that my farrier liked Steadfast, then dread wondering how long a good place like this could last, then hope again as I saw a huge field that maybe I could ride in.
Obviously, since I am writing this 14 years later, all the good things proved true. The oak trees are still there on the road and the care at Steadfast has never changed in quality but has adjusted for War Penny’s needs. He moved into a large, lush pasture, then a stall with pasture for a few years, then back to a big pasture and now to a smaller “grumpy-old-men” paddock so he can get fed alfalfa-senior-feed soup more often as his lack of grinding teeth requires.
My favorite memories are of the group sunrise rides and moonlight rides with the best horse people and friends. My boys had their first fall off War Penny walking along the gravel road when one boy started to slip off the side and grabbed the other which resulted in a double slip off. One of the best solo riding experiences I ever had was cantering in the winter at night in the same big field that I first hoped I could ride in. I could barely see that night, but War Penny could and by that time we knew every bump and hill of that part of the field. Less terrifying physically are the hand-held side-by-side rides with my now husband. .
War Penny now carries only my 40-pound daughter as his 31-year-old back doesn’t allow for much more. But he still has a mischievous spark in his eye thanks to his good care. I haven't mentioned all the bucking, wheeling and feistiness this horse has under saddle while having great ground manners. Everytime I get worried about his elderly status he reminds me by doing something unexpected. Most recently, I walked him to the big field to graze while I did squats and lunges. He stepped on his rope, normally resolved by a sedate backward step. But this morning it resulted in a jump, a buck and a racing gallop away from me and back under the now-laughing trees, across that gravel road and back to his grumpy friends.