By chance, I had driven past a riding competition at a barn near my Airbnb apartment when I first arrived in Chartres. It was a beautiful day and I had nothing specifically planned so I parked the car and went ‘inside’. There were people everywhere. The woman working behind the concession stand walked me over to the barn manager and we had a quick conversation about Bandit. I gave them my anticipated timeline and left with pricing and contact information (After watching the competition, of course).
Now that I had an apartment, it was time to start thinking about Bandit in earnest. The original plan was to have him arrive mid to late December but that timeframe was contingent upon my having an apartment first. It was now late November and I had been gone for almost a month. I had friends looking out for him in New York but that was a lot of responsibility to leave in someone’s lap and I just wasn’t comfortable doing it for too long.
I made a list of possible barns based on pricing and proximity. The next step was to visit them. In New York, Bandit was about 10/15 minutes from my house and I still had difficulty getting there regularly. That was not an option here. He would be in a completely foreign environment with no familiar faces but my own. It was imperative that he see me every day which meant he needed to be close by.
The first barn was close on paper but a complete nightmare to get to in reality. Added to that, it felt like a scene out of Children of the Corn when I pulled into the driveway. It was woodsy and run down and there were children running all over the place. When I drove up, they all stopped and looked at me – CREEPY. I knew there was no way in hell I was bringing Bandit there. Next up was the barn I happened across a few weeks earlier. As it turned out, it was 5 minutes from my apartment. Five minutes! It felt fortuitous. I spoke again with the barn manager, Julie, and gave her a more definitive timeline for Bandit’s arrival. All that was left to do was write the check.
I’m not going to lie to you, writing that check hurt. A lot. It costs a small fortune to ship a horse across an ocean and I was still very much on the fence about whether or not I was making the right decision. He wasn’t a young horse, it would be a difficult trip, it was costing an obscene amount of money, maybe he’d be better off with someone else, the list goes on and on. I mentioned these concerns to my friends who all understood and commiserated with me. Some of them even articulated their own concerns – which didn’t help matters in the least. But it’s funny how the smallest comment can have such an impact. “Worth every penny! Safe travels Bandit!” Only a few words but in hearing them I felt a kind of release. I’m certain my friend Franz had no idea the impact those words had on me but it lifted the cloud of uncertainty and allowed me to move forward with my crazy plan.
I was working with a fantastic company based out of Long Island. The beauty of spending that kind of money to relocate your horse is that you don’t have to do anything. From the moment he left his barn in New York until he arrived at his new home in France they handled every detail. I was just the panicked mom who would harass them until he was safe in my care.
They picked him up at the barn on a Monday afternoon. He would need to spend some time in quarantine at JFK airport before boarding the plane so they picked him up a day early to avoid any potential problems. From the moment he stepped on the trailer to begin his journey, there was an entire cheering section following his every move until he landed safely in France.
Kerry, his New York guardian, had organized his things and coordinated with the transport company. There were a few items he needed to have in order to fly: his blankets, his paperwork but most importantly his cookies. Bandit has a thing for oatmeal cookies from the Dollar Store. I blame this obsession on my friend Paula who gave him his first molasses cookies as a present when I became his owner (of course we had a party to celebrate). Since then, he has refined his palate and has shown a distinct preference for oatmeal. (*NB – they don’t have oatmeal cookies in France. It has made the transition a bit challenging. Did I mention Bandit is a prima donna?) Anyway, the company had strict instructions to give Bandit cookies at each leg of his journey. I hoped he would understand it to mean he was coming to me.
Bandit, leery of any change in routine, figured out something was up. He expressed his displeasure by refusing to get on the trailer. We had to bribe him with – you guessed it – oatmeal cookies.
He arrived at JFK airport and spent the night at the vetport. We were already experiencing the first of many delays. His morning flight was now scheduled to leave mid afternoon. That would throw off all the connecting pieces. Here is how the trip was supposed to go….. Trailer to JFK from Bandit’s barn, stay overnight and board plane to Liege, Belgium….Spend the day at the barn in Belgium to recuperate and travel the next day by trailer 6 hours to the barn in Luisant, France. Nothing went as planned.
The next four days were a whirlwind of stress and sleepless nights. It was out of my hands. I was relying on strangers to bring Bandit safely to me and I did not like it one bit. I gave hourly status updates on Facebook to everyone following his journey. I mean, it’s not everyday that a horse relocates to another country. Every flight that could be delayed was delayed. I was on the phone with the transport company regularly. I’m certain I was their most annoying client. Most of their clients are professional equestrians with horses accustomed to traveling. My family was on that plane. For me it was very personal.
The delays pushed Bandit’s arrival back a full day. He wouldn’t arrive until Thursday afternoon. I was a wreck. Bandit was on the last leg of his journey, trailering from Belgium to France and I had been camped out at the barn since early afternoon waiting for him. The driver was texting me regularly with updates on their progress. When they finally arrived (after 2 additional hours in Paris traffic) I breathed a sigh of relief. He had made it and any lingering doubts dissipated the moment he stepped off the trailer and heard my voice. Bandit was home.