It was hard to get a hold of anyone in charge of the boarding situation. They had just added a new website and had an information form. I submitted a query there. Never heard a thing. I tried emailing the addresses listed on the website and my emails were bounced back. I tried calling. Never got called back. Finally, I messaged them on facebook because at least there was activity on their page.
This should have been my first big clue that maybe things were off. And honestly, I was annoyed that it took so much effort on my part to get a response, after all, wouldn't they want my business? (HA) We finally arranged a date on 12/26 in the morning to meet at the barn.
The 26th started off horribly. I was coming down with a cold, but with no medicine in the house where we were staying, I tried taking an Emergen-C to ease my symptoms a little. Turns out I am extremely sensitive to Vitamin B12, especially when it's 5000% of your daily value. I could. not. sleep. It was awful, I was crying I was so tired and exhausted. As a result, I was in no condition to drive the next day so we all went.
When we arrived, no one was there. Flag 2. I tried calling but didn't get an answer. We decided to tour ourselves. We had been expected, so I didn't think like that would be out of turn.
The outdoor arena. A little soppy but not flooded.
We toured counterclockwise around the facility. From the aerial views I had seen on google maps I could identify most everything. What I thought was a super nice round pen had a horse turned out in it and was crazy muddy. There was a smaller round pen and mud everywhere.
The viewing room/party room that they rent out.
There had been a car in the driveway when we arrived and I thought it was the person we were meeting but I never saw them and by the time we made it around the property that car was gone. The indoor arena was nice enough and there was an indoor bathroom and kitchen in the lounge room.
Horses on pasture board. There was one run in shed that was 36 feet long (guesstimate) and lots of trees but nothing else
The farm sits on 300 acres and apparently the pasture boarded horses are out on that acreage. There was a ton of farm equipement in the field and the field itself looked muddy as well. I know mud sometimes can't be helped, but I thought they could probably do some better pasture management.
Apparently, they grow their own hay across the street and just feed the horses from that and will, in the winter, just loosely collect the hay and not bother baling it, and just dump it into the pasture for everyone to fight over. That explained the skinny horses I saw. There was no consideration for feeding all the horses, it was just a free for all.
Skinny pasture boarded horse, another flag.
Stalls with runs. They were gross and muddy (and on the north side so no sun in the winter)
Nicer stalls with runs that would get afternoon sun.
When the girl finally arrived to show me around (as we were bundling back up into the car) I learned some fun stuff. The barn that I liked the most, and would have paid more for, was only available to the Chartier Family. They used to run a livery stable and have over 100 stalls. Now they keep the farm to stable the family horses and the boarders are an afterthought. I'm not assuming on this point, mind you, she outright told me that they only have the boarders to cover the taxes from the other businesses the family owns. They have their own barn so they can 'get away' from everyone and have a private space.
I think I was too exhausted to really grasp what was going on, at this point. I was just walking through the barn in a state of disbelief with this nagging feeling that I couldn't trust that Gwyn was being taken care of at this barn.
Nicer stall on the nicer run.
Chickens in a nice stall.
Price list. They nickel and dime you.
Strange stalls that weren't in use but could be 'day use' for pasture board clients.
Because they are in terrible condition.
The boarding barn stalls. Decorated for christmas.
None of these stalls were clean. None of them. The excuse was that it was the holidays and don't I understand? They only clean stalls 6 days a week and give their cleaner the 7th day off and the family turns up to do the 7th day. But... then which day off was the cleaner on, and technically this wasn't the holiday anymore, so shouldn't they have coverage for their stall cleaners?
I was out at Shadows on Christmas Eve helping them clean stalls so that they could go home and celebrate with family. Shadow's staff is out there EVERY DAY regardless of holiday, to take care of our animals.
Stall out onto the awful runs. Nothing is cleaned at 10 in the morning.
Cinderblock large stall.
The barns available for the boarders were awful. They had low ceilings and were in a crazy state of disrepair. I thanked the girl who gave me the tour and left and told Eric that I was not going with them.
I had this sinking feeling the whole time I was on property. If Gwyn was there I'd be out there every day making sure she was getting fed and being taken care of. I guarantee I'd end up cleaning her stall too because I obviously don't trust that it's going to get done after seeing what I did. And then, what am I paying for? She'd be ankle deep in mud there, and she isn't now, in the PNW in the middle of winter, when mud reigns supreme.
I sent a text to my barn owners telling them how much I loved them, and visiting other facilities really made Shadow's shine.
As we drove around the area, doing more things, I finally realized why I was so uneasy. Chartier does not put their customer first. The customer is an afterthought. They don't matter. The newest building was for the family's use. There were no obvious improvements made to anything. It all looked run down. It was worse than Charlottewood (my first boarding experience), which is saying something.
Either way, I'm not bringing Gwyn there. I'd rather have her thousands of miles away under the care of people I trust.