Where to go? Where will the horses live? I had found myself in quite a dilemma – having to leave a new, state of the art facility; specifically built to house a huge lesson and show program. I found myself searching high and low for a suitable location in which to start the Louisville Equestrian Center “Do-Over”. As everyone said, “You’re in the heart of horse country—there’s a million barns—you’ll have your pick of barns!
Mmmmmm, no, not really—I’m in the business of starting new riders and families, and building them into show riders and horse owning clients. I’m not in the business of breaking and training young horses, and I’m not in the business of selling a dozen horses each month.
So there are some basic requirements needed to run this business:
- An indoor arena – I looked at a lot of farms with no indoor arena, and maybe not even space to build an indoor arena
- Stalls – I moved 55 horses (clients and lesson horses)
- Bathroom Facilities (it is a luxury that some stables simply don’t have, and a porta-potty could work for a while, but bathrooms aren’t cheap to put in)
- Storage for Tack and other “important stuff” (yes I have 45 English saddles and about 10 Western saddles, and enough other “vitally important” stuff)
- Parking – years ago I leased a facility that had so little parking, that people had to leave their keys in their car, so we could double and triple up the cars—move someone else’s car to pull yours in
- Some kind of area for clients to watch lessons
- Location – needed to be within 30 minutes of the majority of my lesson riders (although the new location is only 14 miles from the old one, many of our lesson riders thought we had moved to Florida—they couldn’t possibly drive to the new location—some even told me this when they lived closer to the new stable than the old one? Hmmmmmm)
Everyone kept saying just get a piece of land and then make it work for you. Okay, but building something does require money and time. I’m not in the financial position to be able to shut down the entire business, take some time to build and then re-open (even though several people said I should do this?). Unfortunately I am not independently wealthy. So I started searching, calling friends, realtors and eventually just driving up and down the road asking people with farms it they were interested in leasing or selling their farms. Yes, I even got run off, with threats from one farm, even though it had a For Sale sign on it.
I started getting really stressed—I mean really stressed. One day I must have gotten 15 “No’s” – the final straw that day was the “No”, I got from a farm owner—who had her stable listed for sale or lease, both on the internet and with a sign. She simply decided not to sell or lease, after showing me the facility. Guess she didn’t like the look of me.
The “Yes’s” that I did get were usually priced at a million plus dollars, and most had a 6000+ square foot home, and either a 15 stall barn and large indoor arena or a 25 stall barn and no indoor arena. Nothing was working. I mean nothing. The closest I got was 17 miles away, a 7 stall barn, a metal utility shed with room for about 30 stalls sitting on 9 acres, on a narrow road about 2 miles from a main road. It was actually fairly level and had perimeter fencing and a couple of paddocks fenced. It was a strange set up, as there was no house, not sure what the original owner’s intentions were. So the thought was to purchase it. It was fairly inexpensive, it was located in Shelby County and priced at $228,000 for everything.
But it would take time and money to build an arena (any arena—inside and out), and where were the rest of the horses going to go? Just kick out half of the paying clients? How do you pick which ones to keep? After the Chapter 11 process, several clients decided that they would look elsewhere and had moved their horses. But the really dedicated clients, the clients who really appreciated what Betsy Webb Stables and the Louisville Equestrian Center, was all about—they stayed. They were committed to move their horses, their children and themselves wherever we ended up. How do you tell those kind of clients, “Hey, sorry we don’t have room for you.”.
Pick the horses that cost the most, pick the clients who had been with me the longest, pick the clients who spent the most money—what about the handful of older, retired boarding horses. So finally after hashing out this dilemma, I just decided this is not what I am about. I simply could not tell clients new or old, rich or poor—“Hey, I don’t have room for you.” These are clients who were committed to Betsy Webb Stables, they would move wherever I would go. I would either find a place that would work, or I would shut the doors. I simply couldn’t live with deciding who could and couldn’t be a part of the future.
Everyone said that’s just dumb. Pick out your best clients, and tell them they can move with you. Tell the other clients, “sorry, that you’ve spent years with me and my staff—committed money, time and dedication, but your horse didn’t cost enough to move with me.”. No way.
And that’s when it happened.
Literally less than 30 days before we had to get out of the current facility, a client walked in with a flyer. A flyer with a large stable (actually a rodeo arena) not too far from the original location, and it was all for sale!
I had actually called on this property about 4 months prior to this. But when I reached the owner, she told me the property wasn’t for sale (of course). Which actually was true, the property was and had been tied up in litigation for over a year, in order to dissolve a partnership. The owner that I had talked with didn’t want to sell the property, so she had made it clear that the facility was not for sale. But now the court was ordering the sale of the property.
I was on the phone at 7:50 a.m., the next morning with the realtor. Not sure what to expect, as the realtor was also a local auctioneer—“Was the place for sale?” “Was the place to be auctioned off?”. For those of you not from the south, most realtors especially auctioneers are especially known for their exceptional personalities. Mr. H is no exception. Within less than ten minutes he knew my entire life history.
So now the ball was really rolling. I possibly had a new location. I had been out to the rodeo arena several years before, but hadn’t been there in a long time. The Red Barn Arena, this is not only the literal name of the facility, but it is quite a landmark for the area. It is a giant red barn and facility. The Red Barn Arena was built in 1997 by a local personality who had two daughters who loved barrel racing. Shortly after building the arena, the gentleman unexpectedly passed away. The two daughters attempted to keep it running for several years, but it was more than they could do on their own. In order to maintain the facility, one of the daughters took on a partner to help with the financial side of the business. Partnerships can be tricky in themselves, and this partnership did not go well.
So the remaining daughter found herself forced to sell to dissolve the partnership. Unfortunately one person’s misfortune becomes another’s answer.