On the joys of horses at home…

_DSC5937I am a very fortunate person, I really am. Having my horses at home is a wonderful thing, a dream come true – cue soft violin music – as I am gazing out of the kitchen window with a wistful smile on my face as I see my beloved money-munchers dreamily grazing on a perfectly lush green lawn…

This is the bit where, if this were a movie, the violin music would seize rather abruptly with the scratchy noise of a needle being lifted from a piece of vinyl, the colour palate would change from soft pastels to the much harsher greys and browns of your average British February and the camera would inevitably zoom in on a particularly appalling bit of muddy bog, perhaps adorned with a sprinkling of rather sad and soggy looking hay that someone (I am naming no names) must have pulled out from a hay feeder and carelessly thrown on the ground…

And as I am pushing the wheelbarrow around and over said mud (for some reason spiked with sticky out bits that are invisible to the naked eye, but somehow and mysteriously still large enough to make the barrow bounce all over the place, thus causing it to drop half its content all over the place, or even get the wheel stuck altogether from time to time…) – where was I? Ah, yes, as I am pushing said wheelbarrow from the mares’ paddock to the muck heap, I am amusing myself with a little list of the sort of horrible little things that make me want to take to strong drink, or cry, or take up something altogether more soothing, like knitting, or weaving… Funnily enough, these are never the big things. In a real crisis (and believe me, the next crisis is only ever just around the corner), we apply Gin, grow a backbone of steel, and get through… it is the LITTLE things, somehow, that are, well, a bit much, sometimes…

So, here comes my list of ‘little things that make horsey people want to cry, turn to drink, or take up knitting’. It is by no means complete, and, dear readers, feel free to add suggestions of your own in the comments…

1. The Perfectly Timed Poo
Non-horsey people may find this difficult to understand, but keeping our horses’ living environment poo free, neat and clean is an endeavour, nay an obsession of truly Sisyphean proportions. And just as poor Sisyphus knew that with absolute inevitability, that rock would roll down that hill again, only for him to have to recommence his arduous labour, we know that by the time we finished mucking out and poo picking our horses’ stables and turnout areas, a new poo will have materialised. Usually at exactly the point where we have put everything away and are on our way back to the house for a well-earned cup of tea…

Now, another thing non-horsey people do not know is that picking up an UNDISTURBED poo fills us with a satisfaction akin to… ummm… in fact, very little else in life! Picking up an undisturbed poo means that the poo has not yet had the chance to spread its evilness and yuckiness and contaminate the adjacent bit of bedding, grass, or surface. It is an act of successful damage prevention and everyday heroism and one of the non plus ultras of good horsemanship. The worst kind of poo is a poo that has been trodden on, dragged around, and split up into its tiniest little components, mixed into the ground, and sitting there with its evil little greenish-brown fibrous pieces strewn everywhere….

Anyway, no horsey person can possibly walk past an undisturbed poo and rest easy. The cup of tea would be spoiled by imagining the horrors and destruction that is taking place just on the other side of the kitchen wall… a knot of anxiety building inside our stomach that will make it turn to instant acid…

So, I do what everyone would do, l turn around, get the wheelbarrow and fork, and head over to pick up the offending item, quite disappointed that wheelbarrows are not normally fitted with blue lights and sirens…

And, of course, in those two minutes that said poo has remained unwatched and unattended, the inevitable has, indeed, happened, and two playful geldings have danced a polka on it, causing the exact kind of nightmare scenario I tried to prevent…

2. The Suicidal Worm
The second most satisfying thing in a horsey person’s life, after the swift removal of an undisturbed poo, is a clean and fully filled water bucket. There are, of course, those among us fortunate enough to have the luxury of automatic water feeders, but they are accompanied by their very own set of difficulties (poo straight into the water feeder, anyone?)… anyway, I am not one of those privileged, and instead I have a set of large round water tubs to fill. And scrub. And obsess over.

By way of explaining this to non-horsey people, while horses in the wild will drink from ponds, streams, and, I guess, puddles, full of all the trappings of nature one would expect, domesticated horses will undoubtedly be put off by even the tiniest bit of dirt in their water. And what you have to understand, dear non-horsey people, is that it would be perfectly possible for a horse to turn up its nose at said water and subsequently perish from dehydration! Oh yes! Because domesticated horses are notorious for refusing to carry out some of the most important and basic functions necessary for their survival – such as eating, or drinking – at the drop of a hat! (to be fair, I am yet to see a horse refusing to breathe, but you never know…)

It therefore behooves us (see what I did there?) to keep the water tubs sparkling clean and inviting, filled to the rim with the freshest and nicest water (gathered from mountain dew would, indeed, be a bonus). Which would not be such an issue if it were not for the fact that said water tubs quite frequently like to defy the laws of science by accumulating on their bottoms and sides the most astonishing variety of offending substances, items, and, indeed, creatures.

Which leads me to the question: What do we know about worms? Apparently, they crawl around in soil, eating and pooing out a considerable amount of it. And that is pretty much all there is to know? Well, dear readers, it turns out that this is wrong, for, as every horse owner knows, and I know this will indeed astonish biologists far and wide, worms FLY.

There really is no other explanation. For the second item on the list of little things that make me cry is: finding a worm on the bottom of a freshly cleaned and freshly filled water tub. You turn around, and there it is. Wriggly, and pink, and fleshy…. You can get Tequila with a dead worm in the bottom of the bottle, so perhaps this may be a variation on the theme… who knows, perhaps the whole thing was invented by a desperate Mexican horse owner who took to drink after yet another worm-in-the-water-tub incident?

Why do these worms insist on jumping into the water tubs? Personally, I can see very little opportunity for a little worm to make a life in there? Perhaps it is a suicidal worm, who climbed up on the barn roof and, with a plaintive cry of ‘I cannot take it anymore’ took a jump and landed, by sheer coincidence, in the water tub? Or is my farm this year’s location for the Worm Water Jump Olympics? It is a mystery…

3. The Unkindness of Feed Bags
Now, I know I should not take it personally. I also know, deep down, that inanimate objects cannot be unkind. But, why oh why is it that every single bag of chaff I ever open always runs out just at the point where I have prepared everyone’s feeds, and am just requiring half a scoop for the last one? Which means retrieving a new bag, usually at the bottom of a pile of all sorts of feed bags at the back of the barn, and then storing it rather precariously until the next day with only half a scoop having been taken out, thus rendering it far more likely to topple over and spill its precious contents everywhere…

Again, I realise that this is not a complaint likely to meet with much sympathy and understanding from non-horsey folk. After all, it’s just half a scoop, right? Why not just feed half a scoop less, and add it tomorrow? Surely it does not matter? Right? RIGHT?

A this point I am usually far too churned up with anxiety at the mere thought of such preposterousness to even reply. Instead, I try a variety of alternating deep and shallow breathing exercises to get my emotions back under control and wave at the board behind me, on which is listed in great detail what and how much of it each horse is having, and how often, and when.

I have you know, this board is a work of art (in fact, my father photographed it on his last visit, my only slight suspicion is that he did not do this out of admiration). It has been carefully thought out. Articles upon articles on equine nutrition have been studied in preparation for this board. The backs of feedbags have been read with great concentration, and calculators have been worked to breaking point in order to determine the exactly correct combination of feed for each horse on the farm. Quantities have been calculated and weighed out to the nearest gram, and are carefully adjusted according to a variety of factors, including the weather forecast, the quality of the hay, and the position of the stars. You get the picture. Feeding half a scoop of chaff too little (or, indeed, too much) would be simply, well, preposterous. End of.

And this finishes tonight’s exploration of the ‘little things that make horsey people cry, turn to drink, or want to take up knitting’. I am sure there will be more to follow if you (or I) can bear it…


2 Thoughts

  1. Haha. Very good. But what about the fencing. Which akways breaks down if you are in a hurry and it is raining heavily.


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