Horsing Around

My wife runs an equestrian facility on our property – boarding, training, therapy and recreational riding for those who enjoy horses.  It’s a lot of activity and it’s a whole lot of work to maintain.  When our barn help doesn’t show up, that’s where I come in.  I don’t ride but I can do the work.  I suppose you could say I’m a horse of a different color.  My wife and I knock out the myriad chores in about four hours (morning and evening combined), and I get a kick (hoof?) out of all of the terms and phrases that are uniquely “equine”.  Consider the five essential aspects of daily horse care:


Grain – Are you “feeling your oats” today?  That’s a reference to horses (of course!) and the boost of energy derived from their daily dose of grain.  “Grain” means a lot more than “oats” these days.  Grain is a general barn term to include the endless supplements for the specific needs of a horse (i.e. fiber boost, joint care, digest assist, immune system boost, metabolic stimulation).  Solid, liquid or “mash” (something in between the first two), grain is measured in bins, sacks, and baggies; scoops, cans, and cups, and even tiny bits like pinches, eye-droppers, and capfuls.  When all is measured and done – voila! – your horse has a complete pan to feast on.  So remember – grain is not just grain.  That’s putting the cart before the horse.


Grass – Have you ever been the recipient of a “haymaker”?  That’s a powerful, forceful punch (which means someone must’ve been really mad at you).  But a haymaker is also a machine that dries grass, thus creating “hay”.  And horses need a lot of hay.  You could start with a handful but your horse will probably demand a flake or a cube, and if he’s really hungry he will devour an entire bale.  But I’m talking the 50 lb. bale you see stacked in the fields.  If you want to seriously hay your horses (and take a two-week vacation), opt for large bales – round or square – which can weigh up to a ton.  Your horse will think he’s found an all-you-can-eat-buffet.


Water – You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  When a horse does drink however, he’ll take in a gallon or more at a time; a glassful simply won’t do.  Watering horses requires everything from a hose to a pan to a pail to a bucket to a tank to a trough.  If you want to get really crazy you can even install a cistern (or a water tower) and then you never have to worry where your water’s coming from (even if your well dries up).  Finally, don’t forget the fishnet to keep the water clean.  Horses muck it up while they’re munching on hay.


Cleaning – Speaking of mucking it up, are you a “muckety-muck”?  I hope not because that means you’re an arrogant, self-important person.  But come join me in barn chores and I’ll show you all the “muck” you could ever want.  A horse processes grain, hay, and water into a mountain of manure, and unfortunately for me a horse does his business wherever he pleases.  That means a lot of cleaning.  You’re going to need a muck rake for starters (and a hoe if it’s cold enough outside because then manure sticks to the ground).  You’re also going to need a muck cart – the wheels underneath the muck tub where you’ll deposit all of that manure.  Lastly your manure needs a final destination.  That would either be a manure pile (which is eventually removed by a manure hauler), or your pastures themselves, by means of a manure spreader.  Not to beat a dead horse, but your goal is to get all those “apples” as far away from the barn as possible.


Enclosures – If it came straight from the horse’s mouth, y0ur equine would demand to be put out on pasture and never ever brought in.  That’s because he wants to graze all day and night, which is almost never a good idea.  So a horse “comes in”, which means he retires to a pen or a stall.  If he’s really lucky, his stall has a run, and sometimes he can hang with other horses in a paddock before he’s moved back to pasture.  If he wants a place to go when he needs some alone time or gets tired of the rain he goes into a loafing shed.  And when he’s actually ridden he goes to an indoor or outdoor arena, or perhaps for a trail ride (which is sometimes just called “down the road”).


There’s a lot more equine-speak where that came from but it’s time I got off my high horse.  If you’re in the market for a horse I hope everything I’ve talked about here is enlightening.  To me it’s just horse sense.