Trouble In Paradise


It all started a long time ago...

Well it did!

Shauna and Irene had been friends for almost thirty five years. Maybe even longer.

About fifteen years ago, or so, Shauna and Irene decided to start a horse breeding business.

Irene's family property, although technically in town, still allows livestock. Irene's Mother, where Irene and her daughter Megan live, has enough property (when fenced) to accommodate, a mare, a foal, and a small round training ring to start a young horse.

So... One day, while Shauna and I were on vacation at Irene's, we all decided to get things rolling. Irene knew someone with some acreage that had 'Jack-Pine' trees (small and tall) we could harvest for a price (which Shauna and I paid of course). We weren't looking for a large amount and the property was able to support our need without notice. Shauna had her cousins (loggers) come and fall the trees and size them for fence rails for us. We collected the fence-rails, over the next few days, pickup-truck load by pickup-truck load, and hauled them to Irene's.

And Irene built fences with them.

And we said 'Let There Be Horses'.

What a mistake!

Anyway... Shauna and I paid for the mares and the breeding. Irene was to birth, raise and start the foals (her expertise so we thought). However... Shauna was to train and sell them (her expertise, well, not so much).

To make us different. Better then the competition. Shauna had an interesting idea. She had been following Olympic riding and thought she could do better. Not with the riding but more importantly with the breeding. Actually... It was more like a 'competitive edge' advantage. An improvement to the breed. Which, in turn, should be an advantage in the sport. It's all about the competition. It's something we still believe in.

Shauna suggested that Irene and her could breed in American Quarter-Horse with European Warmbloods (Hanoverian, Holsteiner, ...) to get better turning and sprinting speed from improved hind-end strength. Quarter-horses are known for their speed and agility but not endurance. Perfect enhancement to 'gran-prix' jumping. The concept seemed sound so we (myself included) decided to give it a try.

Enter... The 'Quatravarian'. Our 'new' breed.

In retrospect... What we had here was a great idea. Good intent. And a lousy (ultimately doomed) business plan.

The first horse we bred was named 2E (pronounced: Two-E). The meaning behind this name comes from her mother, and father's names, which both began with 'E'. Hence 2 E. Her father was a Stallion from Spruce Meadows (Canada's Olympic equestrian facility) named Elute. Most of the horses we ultimately bred were to Spruce Meadows Stallions. Unfortunately with brood-mares that Irene chose.

Ok... As per our agreement Irene bred, raised, started 2E and then shipped her down (to L.A.) for Shauna to train and sell. Shauna immediately put 2E in a training facility and 2E did well. She was a willing jumper and she was a great trail horse (unusual to get both). The only problem was that 2E was too short. (apparently a result of Irene's upbringing and feeding habits). Anyway 2E showed great prospect. She won practically every show we entered. Unfortunately, when it came to the 'Big-Time', we just couldn't sell her. She just wasn't big enough for a full size rider in a gran prix (other then that she was unbelievable). Thus, nobody serious was interested in purchasing her And, we were to inexperienced (in business) to know what to do now. So, we kept campaigning 2E, at great expense, Shauna's and my expense. Something that Irene always disregarded. Irene never considered how hard we worked to generate the money to pay for all this. And everybody (Shauna, Irene and I) became frustrated.

Note to myself: If we had just dumped 2E and put our resources into a better prospect things would have turned out differently (probably better). Cut your loses and move on is a good philosophy to live by. Don't make the same mistake again!

Anyway...Shauna (after a huge 'under-appreciated' effort) finally sells 2E, for a fair price (all things considered), to a Veterinarian in Canada for her daughter to compete with. A perfect match (Canada and a young rider). The final sale transaction happened to almost coincide (missed it by a week) with a California visit from Irene and her daughter Megan (at our expense of course). One day, Irene and Megan were riding 2E on the trail and somehow they fall off the trail and into a ditch. Driving into the ditch is actually a Canadian tradition. Now, 2E is wounded, she has some lacerations, and the prospective buyers are about to arrive. So... Shauna has to get a super-quality Vet to stitch 2E up (at our expense again) and hope it doesn't look to bad at purchase time.

These are a sample of the constant and never ending efforts Shauna and I are contributing (including paying for everything) which Irene has chosen to totally ignore. Irene still thinks we have done nothing for our part. Irene thinks our money doesn't equal her 'hard work' (her opinion) even though all she ever did was complain how hard it was for her to make money. When she had a job. Can You Remember Back That Far Irene? Irene never considered how she could 'never' do this without us or how hard and how much sacrifice we made to support this. And that hurt us a little bit. I could have been living in Bel-Air if it wasn't for this stinking horse thing.

Finally the big day comes. The buyer and her daughter, from Canada, are there. 2E doesn't look to bad. And. 2E and the young girl get along terrific. 2E is performing well (as she always had) and the young girl and her were a great combination.

Wow! We finally sold 2E. After years and many tens of thousands of dollars expense (remember, we should have cut our losses earlier).

Interlude: We still occasionally here from the family that bought 2E and she is doing well, wining everything and everybody is jealous of the little horse that out-jumps their big (expensive) imported Warmbloods. Alas. If 2E was only a little bit bigger then we would have been watching her compete in the gran-prix at Spruce Meadows .

Oh well...

The best I can tell... This is where all the trouble began. It is after all about five years into the business and only our first sale. Shauna and I lost more than fifty-thousand dollars (after the sale) trying to get rid of 2E (on top of supporting Irene and her daughter) but we still gave Irene a cut (even though we pay for everything). However. Irene says she never got anything from the sale of 2E. In my book Irene should have got a 'Bill' not a 'Cut' for the sale of 2E. But we had to placate Irene, to keep her interested, so we gave here a share (pretty good too, all things considered). So, rumor has it, that Irene is bitter because she 'thinks' (we think differently) that she got neglected in the sale of 2E.

This is where Shauna and I are starting to get disappointed too. We now know that Irene considers the contribution we make as insignificant. She thinks that paying for everything is much easier then the hard work (her opinion again) she is putting in. She neglects that Shauna and I work very hard for the money that supports the 'whole' effort. Ten to twelve hours a day. At jobs we hate. With increasingly unbearable L.A. traffic to battle everyday. In fact we make more money combined in a month then Irene is capable of making in a whole year. When she worked. Way back when.

From then on in all Shauna and I heard was how hard Irene was working and how much effort she was putting in. We came to learn later (basically now) that this effort was a complete fallacy compared to our effort to support it (our opinion). The reality is that Irene spent less time at the farm with the horses than I spent in traffic to support all this. On any given day. One way! And, Irene refused to use our contribution ability (which was always available in drips and drabs) to improve the farm. I guess that would have actually meant physical work instead of just thinking about it. Actually... Irene seemed to have a phobia against improving the farm. She was so afraid that anything she 'might' do would damage a waterline (easement) or a drainage channel. So she did nothing. Not even routine maintenance (drain channels again). Except for feeding the horses ( improperly ) which only took a few minutes a day. Once in the morning (before she took her daughter to school) and once in the evening (after she cooked dinner for her daughter and mother). There were the occasional battles with weeds, where she picked them by hand and piled them up as garbage to litter the property, however, they were completely ineffective so I will ignore the effort (made matters worse I think; we'll see how good I do at this). How does it feel, Irene, to work at something and get no credit?

So in our book... Irene hasn't been contributing her share for many years now. But of course she still calls upon us when the hay needs to be paid for, or the vet needs to be called (a horse would have to be pretty much dead for her to call the vet), or the taxes are due, etc...

In the meantime, now that we have been paying for everything, the farm is falling apart. The plumbing in the little house was failing. The hay shed is rotting away. So is the loafing shed . The fences are held together with Binder Twine (BT the stuff they bind hay bails with) and the electric fence is completely broken (it's never worked right for Irene). The driveway is a disaster. And... The horses were not getting the proper nourishment . Oh yeah... Let's not forget the round corral at the top of the property (farthest away from the highway so no one could see how Irene treated the horses when breaking them). Like anybody really cares. The round corral was just posts for, oh I don't know, maybe ten years before I came along and created a corral. And then Shauna's family came and graded it so it was useful. And, on top of that, the posts that stood for so many years weren't even dug and set by Irene herself. Also, the pastures are in complete neglect. The grounds are a swamp from 'lack of maintenance' I fail to see here where Irene was working her share. She is ignoring every major problem on the farm. OUR FARM. The one Shauna and I are counting on her to improve, let alone, maintain, so we all would have something we were proud of as well as an 'investment' for when we were old, and didn't want to do this anymore, we could at least retire, comfortably, on what we had built.

Oh! And let's not forget the ever popular 'a horse has escaped (excluding no horse)'. Irene used to just collect them in town and then take them back to wherever they belonged (the farm, her family house). Since we have been here (and many have tried) no horse has escaped the property. We've been ankle deep in muck, in our underwear (right out of bed), capturing horses that have breached their fencing (not hard at this place).

One would think that Irene would be grateful for some help (after all she has been complaining for so long how 'hard' she is working) but instead she seemed offended. Like 'now' she can't do her part. WHAT PART IRENE! You Have Never Done Your Part. You have never pulled your weight. Feeding the horses with a broken ribs because you got kicked by a young horse (your fault) does not constitute contributing your share. You had it easy We paid for everything, including gifts from you to your daughter (because you had nothing else). Because We, And Your Mother, were supporting you. Have you forgotten already. And your daughter. Which we wont get into BECAUSE YOU CHOKED ON THAT TOO! Didn't You? In spite of our effort to provide her with a 'better then average' (more balanced) childhood your influence has still ruined her.

Are you feeling good enough about you life yet Irene. Well the roast isn't over yet!

It seems that everything Irene touches turns to ruin (sorry Irene your karma, not mine). Irene, your a Medusa (a.k.a. Wicked Witch of the North).

Well... Shauna and I figured we had no choice anymore so we sold our house (we were really unhappy where we were), packed what we could (we left almost half our belongings behind) and headed to Canada . Shauna and I were tired of the constant traffic and the lack of quality life that rural folk take for granted anyway. And, we still had the goal to turn the farm into an equestrian facility.

Something Irene (apparently) could never do no matter how many resources she had!

Now, on top of all that, anything and everything Shauna and I would like to do to the farm is vetoed by Irene. She's the only one who knows what this property needs, what can not be done, what should be done, what will be done. Hail Irene. It turns out that she is one of those people who learned everything about the world when she was ten years old and everything beyond that is nonsense.

Every time time we try to help Irene takes offense. Including feeding the horses. She has come out in the winter with broken ribs (stupid horse accident of course) to throw hay. Even though we were perfectly willing to do it. Somehow she thought that her five minutes of throwing hay each day was enough to justify her share of the partnership.

Wow! This investment is deteriorating faster then my Smith Barney accounts.

Now... The stallion, my favorite asset, has come up with a bad leg . Not lame. But a competing prohibitive injury none the less. And of course... This is a result of being repeatedly kicked in this leg by another horse (on the property) when he was young. As you may remember... I had a plan (dream) that we could show the stallion at a few shows and get him a name in the breeding books. We're not quite set up enough to show any horse on a circuit yet. However... I believed that presenting him (occasionally) would, at least, only increase our income from breeding. When we (Shauna and I) came up here on vacation a while ago (when we actually made the decision to move here) we found the stallion untouched (at about four years old). Irene had never haltered him, picked his feet, not to mention any riding. As per 'my' instance the round corral (for starting young horses) was completed and graded so the training could begin. Not only did Irene (who was actually appreciative that the coral was usable) was dragging her feet. Fortunately there was Cheryl. A friend we met while building the corral. She was unbelievably helpful in starting the stallion. She was willing to take the initiative, and because she has great experience with horses she was able to help us start the stallion.

She was going to single handedly ruin any possibility of a profitable business (not intentionally, it's just her nature).

Not likely!

For Shauna and I the farm is a first class training/breeding facility waiting to be born. We had been investing our money, hopefully, so we could fulfill a dream as well as have a good retirement when we were to old to farm anymore. Now Irene, on the other hand, was determined to present a look of poor farmer. Why? Well if there were to many improvements the taxes would go up. Excuse me but if the taxes go up then the property value went up to and that is exactly the point of an investment property.

On top of that Irene seemed to be upset that we were having 'fun' on the farm. She actually said to me that the farm was "Not For Having Fun On" . What's up with that? There are twenty acres here, ten on flat (enough) land. Is it not possible for someone to train in one corner while people are having a beer and a cigarette in the opposite corner.

Suddenly, as soon as we moved into the little house on the farm people started to visit and an old property, that has been neglected for far too long, came to life. And somehow this tweaked Irene. It was not in her plan to have people on the farm. Unless she invited them of course. It seemed that only her guests were welcome. And what a bunch of losers they turned out to be.

A short retrospective... Shauna and I were at Uncle Wayne's the other day watching some old family films (late-60's to early 70's) and low and behold the little picker-shack (where we are living) was in it without the fencing and trees. It turns out that Wayne's family used to own the property across the highway but lost it in an inheritance tragedy. I was also surprised to see Irene in many of the clips riding with her friends at the expense of Shauna's family (on their land, with their horses). It seems that Irene has been taking from this family for many long years. And what's she ever given back. The only thing I can remember her doing for me was buying me lunch. WITH MY CREDIT CARD. Talk about an insult!

I think now that this was the turning point. Irene became increasingly argumentative. She has a habit of waiving her arms in the air while walking out of the house, slamming the door, getting in her car (her mothers car actually) and burning rubber all the way to the highway. 'Her way or the highway' we used to say.

I should have seen this coming. When ever we came here we were surprised to find out that nobody (everybody Irene new anyway) knew that we had half ownership in the farm. Apparently, Irene always told anyone she knew, or met, that the farm was hers where as we always told anyone that we owned the farm 'with Irene'. On top of that, everything Irene was constantly demanding "you (meaning me) need to build me this" (and pay for it). It was never 'we' need. Additionally if I suggested something I wanted the answer was always "that doesn't belong here" or "you have no idea what your doing" or "I've been doing this (wrong) my whole life" . How can you argue with that?

Meanwhile my investment has been going steadily downhill. The fences are held together with binder twine (leftover from hay bales), the hay shed is rotting away, the loafing shed has a broken ridgepole, the pastures are full of weeds, the stallion has never been touched (he's almost five) and the electric fence is only about 10% effective.

Now the deal between Shauna I and Irene was that we would become 50/50 partners on the farm. Her mother had previously given her some money to buy the farm (about 25%) but there was a big balloon payment which she couldn't pay. Enter Shauna and I, Our deal was that we would buy the rest of the farm, pay for everything and she would maintain the farm and train the baby horses (it is a breeding facility after all). When the babies were mature enough they were shipped to us for showing and sale.

In the meantime Irene had not worked for maybe five or more years. We paid for as much as we could and she squeezed the rest out of her mother (where her and her child Meagan were living). We paid for clothes and games and computers and Internet access and vacations and Christmas gifts and whatever.

So I'm wondering... Am I here just so Irene can tell me what to do, and pay for everything, without having a say in what gets done all while not having any fun. Wow... What a shock. Time to regroup.

Let's recap....

Shauna and I pay for everything. We also support Irene and her daughter Megan. Irene has not had a job in over 15 years. Irene and Megan live with Irene's mother Donna (that's three generations of women-only living in the same house). We paid for trips for them, and Megan's friends, to come down to visit in California. At least once every year. We took them to Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, Hollywood, Mexican Riviera cruises, etc... We also gave Megan, many computers, paid for her Internet access, Play Stations, software, games, etc.... We even gave them (emergency) credit cards, which we paid for, so when they traveled (to California) they would not end up lost and hopeless.

Short interlude... The only time I remember Irene buying me a meal (I bought her many) she paid with 'my' (emergency) credit-card.

In coming up here to help Irene what were our risks. We gave up our jobs, sold our house, moved to a foreign country (without immigration papers), we gave up all our comfort, moved away from our family, gave up half our possessions (can't find the rest so it's like giving up everything). We gave up our tools, appliances, half our furniture, a car. The list goes on. Frankly we gave up more then Irene owned in her whole life (by a large margin).

What risks did Irene take. Well... Hmmm... Uh... Yeah what risks did Irene take. She got to come home to the comfort of here life-long home and all her friends and the town she grew up in. She was no longer bound exclusively to farm duties. The farm was now going to undergo improvements that she proved were beyond her capability to orchestrate. She had all the things she thought she wanted.

So... now Shauna and I, and out two cats, are living in a picker-shack. My old Living Room was larger then this entire house. We eat with utensils bought at a farm auction (because we can't find ours) where no spoon or fork or knife matches (we do have our plates though). As for comfort. Well... There isn't much.

So it's became obvious that there is no real partnership here. Irene thinks we are here to do what ever she says. Be there when she needs help. And. Pay for everything. Without getting in her way.

Excuse me... That's not what I expected to happen!

For crying out load! I only have so much resource. And no Income. Maybe Irene could got a job and support us for a change!

I hope by now how clear it was for Shauna and I to eliminate Irene from the equation. As long as she had any control here no problem could be solved, no progress could be made and we weren't allow to relax here. Or even help. What are we here for then. Yeah... We were really confused too. So after a very uncomfortable six months we all decided to sell out. But. We have still not given up the plan of an equestrian center and this farm property has everything desirable for a facility. So Shauna and I decided to buy Irene out. We bargained to pay half the farm's current appraisal value. That wasn't really fair since there was still a loan out on the property which Irene was still responsible for a share of in order to meet her fifty percent ownership quota. But that's what Irene decided she wanted. Fifty percent. That's what she figured her half was worth. Even though she never contributed an equal share to the 'partnership'. Our opinion.

Well... Because of circumstance... And being caught off guard... We not only have to pay Irene off but we also have to pay the 'bank note' off as well. And... Now we get word that Shauna's mother is not well.


Here's the real kicker... Now If Irene paid her legal tax burden as we did then, combined, we all probably paid our respective governments more then we paid each other.