Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024

Horses At Home? Don’t Forget To Ride

A few weeks ago I received an entertaining e-mail titled “My First Year Anniversary Keeping Horses At Home,” which was a forwarded message written by an unknown author who compiled a list of the 70 most important things she learned in that 12-month period.

I don’t often send forwarded e-mails, but I thought that this list just might hit home with a close friend. It did.   

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A few weeks ago I received an entertaining e-mail titled “My First Year Anniversary Keeping Horses At Home,” which was a forwarded message written by an unknown author who compiled a list of the 70 most important things she learned in that 12-month period.

I don’t often send forwarded e-mails, but I thought that this list just might hit home with a close friend. It did.   

Last winter, after years of agonizing over the decision, Diane finally made her lifelong dream come true when she bulldozed several acres of woods in her backyard and built a small barn for her horses and ponies.

After reading the list over, she chose her favorites and commented on them. (Scroll down to see the full list.)

#46 – You can get tennis elbow from mucking stalls.
“I just got my second cortisone injection in the past year. I don’t even lift my coffee cup with my right hand anymore!”

#30 – 15 minutes of barn work does not equal a Big Mac and fries.
“Oh, yeah. That’s an absolute.”

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#69  – Nothing ever “gets better” if you ignore it. Nothing.
“That’s self-explanatory.”

#11 – Don’t wear your best running shoes out to the barn.
And if you do, throw them away after. “The same goes with work clothing. Dry cleaning doesn’t always work, either.”

#48 – Manure adds up fast.
“I’m looking into a manure removal company. If I have to give up pedicures to afford it, so be it.”

#21 – Stock tank heaters are automatic.
“I’m now lugging buckets to the field because my hose froze.”

#10 – Sometimes all you have to do is hold a crop. It’s amazing how things seem to go your way when you just have it in your hand.
“This seems to work on and off the horse, I’ve found!”

#41 – Young men are infinitely stronger than old women.
“Having a handyman around is critical. He does my honey-do list without any lip and finishes it completely in just an hour or two.”

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Like the author of the original list, Diane has found that some surprises awaited her once she bedded up the stalls, ordered the hay and grain and trailered her horses home.
   
With a family and career, Diane, a foxhunter, has to carefully juggle her responsibilities, including the care of her horses. “I love to feed and muck,” she said. “I go out for 20 minutes each morning and evening. All the animals in the barn: cats, dog, ponies and horses, are so happy to see me—I love hearing those nickers. It’s strangely rewarding, and I go back into the house and I’m ready to manage all the logistics of my family and work.”
   
Some people justify having their horses at home because of the belief that “no one can take care of your horses as well as you can.” But Diane doesn’t necessarily believe that’s true, at least in her world. “Still, my horses are always muddy, it seems. You don’t always have time to groom. You’re lucky to make time to ride,” she said. “One must make hay when the sun shines…do the chores (barn and household) later.”
   
And that brings me back to the original list, for one of the most important lessons—#6 – Play. Life is short and the time for enjoyment fleeting. Ride horses. Have fun!
   
Tricia Booker, Editor



“My First Year Anniversary Keeping Horses At Home”

Author unknown

1. A horse will respect two thin wires of electric fence. If and when he wants to.

2. “Break away” barriers are good things. Gates, fences, halters and even support beams should all be engineered to “give” when under pressure from a 1,300 lb horse with a big spook.

3. Kindness is still the most powerful force. Win his heart and the mind follows. And all four hooves, too.

4. You can’t fight the weather. Live with it. Prepare for it. Don’t ignore it and don’t forget it. Sometimes the weather screams at you to hunker down and stay inside. Do it.

5. Life is hard. Don’t underestimate the physical challenge of life. Get in shape. Life weights. Eat right. Run. Develop good cardiac health & a foundation of strength. And yes, that IS fair.
  
6. Play. Life is hard (see #s 4 and 5 above). When it lets up, find time to play. Life is also short and the time for enjoyment fleeting. Ride horses. Ride bikes. Read books. Go fishing. Play a game. Have fun!
  
7. Be flexible. The old adage, “fix it once,” is wrong. You may have to fix it 100 different ways, 100 different times. Life changes. You change. The frickin’ weather changes. Don’t invest too much money thinking you are only going to fix this once. Fix it now. Keep a reserve. You may have to dig it up and fix it again. That does not mean you did it wrong.
  
8. Water freezes at 32-degrees Fahrenheit. Every Time.
  
9. The most beautiful sunrises & sunsets happen on cloudy days … but not too cloudy. Too many clouds obscure the events entirely. But a clear day affords a bland sky. The most spectacular sunrise slips through just a bit of cloud cover.
 
10. Sometimes all you have to do is HOLD A CROP. It’s amazing how things seem to go your way when you just have it in your hand.
 
11. Don’t wear your best running shoes out to the barn. And if you do, throw them away after.
 
12. Wind on the prairie is relentless. It SHOULD be harnessed for energy because it is otherwise worthless. It does NOT make us cooler in the summer, either.
 
13. A swimming pool is a good thing. A lot of work, but a good thing.
 
14. It is also good if you can drive a truck right into your barn, your workshop or your basement.
 
15. The feed store delivers! And stacks!
 
16. Horses prefer dried brown grass to fresh green hay.
 
17. I have enough pasture to feed a horse that has teeth. This does not include King.
 
18. The water in the pond is safe for the horses to drink.
 
19. By and large, horses are NOT intent on killing themselves. Six days out of seven they prefer to graze peacefully, groom each other, and socialize with the neighbors over the fence. It’s the seventh day that gets you, though! You have to prepare for the seventh day!
 
20. You cannot mow a field with a lawn mower.
 
21. Stock tank heaters are automatic!
 
22. That funny water hydrant inside the barn is called a freeze-proof hydrant and for the most part it is. But when it isn’t, a propane torch is a handy accessory.
 
23. You must remove the hose AND the quick-connector to maintain the freeze-proof properties.
 
24. The cat is a good mouser.
 
25. The dog serves no purpose whatsoever. Other than to keep you busy, tear up your stuff, and make you get out of bed in the morning. Okay — that is “some” purpose.
 
26. You can keep more than 150 lbs of feed at a time.
 
27. Fence wire goes on the INSIDE of the fence.
 
28. Horse fence is woven not welded. Welded wire breaks.
 
29. You can install electric fencing with just one ground rod. And that voltage meter does not work as good as your hand — but it hurts less.
 
30. 15 minutes of barn work does not equal a Big Mac & fries!
 
31. Horses and dogs are natural enemies.
 
32. You cannot have just one horse. Even if he is old and should “know better.”
 
33. Horses can stay outside overnight. Even old horses. Even when it is raining. (But show barn babies prefer to be IN when it rains.)
 
34. Don’t open the pool in April.
 
35. Close off the skimmer when you vacuum the pool.
 
36. It takes more than one day to get a pool ready to swim in the spring. And it takes more than one person to cover a pool in the fall.
 
37. Hard surfaces make good floors in a farm house. There is no room for carpet.
 
38. Always schedule the next hoof trimming when the farrier is HERE.
 
39. Don’t take your horses outside your perimeter fencing on the way to turnout.
 
40. The stars are brighter over the prairie.
 
41. Young men are infinitely stronger than old women.
 
42. A phone in the barn is a good thing.
 
43. Don’t dump the muck cart into the wind.
 
44. Satellite services do not offer high speed internet. No matter how much they charge.
 
45. There is no such thing as “reliable high speed internet” on the prairie. No matter how much it costs.
 
46. You can get tennis elbow from mucking stalls.
 
47. Horses can learn to walk themselves into their stalls. This saves a LOT of time — if you keep the exterior barn doors closed.
 
48. Manure adds up. Fast.
 
49. You can survive without a truck. But not without a hat.
 
50. Winter lasts a long time. It’s cold. It’s hard. And it is very very boring. Get an indoor hobby.
 
51. Horses are a lot of work. Unless you love them, then there is no “work.” Just life.
 
52. Heat the feed room. Feed with molasses in it will freeze into a solid rock if you don’t.
 
53. One scoop of Nutrena Senior = 3 lbs.
 
54. BOSS = black oil sunflower seeds.
 
55. Don’t break ice with the bucket heater.
 
56. Wear gloves when refilling frozen water buckets. Every. Time.
 
57. There is a contraption called a T-post puller. And you need one.
 
58. You also need several sizes of wire cutters.
 
59. No. It is NOT a good idea to burn off your fields. PERIOD. No matter how many people say it is. Pay someone to run over them with a bush hog. Trust me.
 
60. If you see smoke & flames, then that’s a fire. Call the fire department. Now. Hook up the 100-ft. hose. Now.
 
61. If a fire jumps a fire break and gets onto your property, get the horses into the barn. Now.
 
62. You cannot hold down a 1,300-lb horse on a spook. Let go. Now.
 
63. You do not have to groom & pick hooves every day.
 
64. Severe weather = colic risk.
 
65. Fill water buckets at night. Dump in the morning. Unless frozen. Then set the frozen buckets in the heated feed room all day and dump at night. Before refilling.
 
66. Put your foot on the brake to start the tractor.
 
67. You do not need a refrigerator in the barn. But you could use one in the garage.
 
68. Wake up with the sun. Forget the alarm.
 
69. Nothing ever “gets better if you ignore it.” Nothing.
 
70. A single woman can learn to survive on the prairie. She can keep horses, build fence and stack hay. She can muck stalls and drive a tractor. She can unfreeze a frozen hydrant, install a stock tank heater and close the swimming pool. She can strip and rebed horse stalls and she can install a gate. She can haul water and break ice and sit up with a colicky horse. She can pick hooves and pull manes. She can treat wounds and kill flies. She can teach an unruly horse to mind. She can calm a nervous horse. She can earn trust and give love. She can kiss noses and snuggle her face into warm, soft shoulders. She can sleep hard at night and work hard during the day. She can keep them safe. She can walk into a cold dark barn on a cold dark morning and hear sweet soft nickers. She can leave that barn to the tune of contented munching. She can survive. But better than that, she can live.

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