5 Simple Things I’ve Learned about Horsekeeping

1. Always have a pair of scissors handy.

You know your old sewing scissors? The ones that, when you bought them on sale with your 40% off coupon at JoAnn’s? The ones you told your whole family NOT TO TOUCH, and THESE ARE FOR FABRIC and NOT FOR PRUNING THE BUSHES? The ones your kids ended up using for school projects and your husband used to cut the wire off of something in the garage, and which you will never, ever be able to use for cutting that beautiful fabric again? Don’t throw them away.

We always keep a pair out in the barn (okay, it’s not really a barn, but hey this is Arizona. Barns are hot. It’s a glorified shade but we call it a barn. Yes, I know the difference, I grew up in farm country.) Anyway, there’s nothing worse than needing to cut open a new bale of hay to feed your horses (which I’m sure are starving), and there is no blade to be found.

Stick that old pair of slightly damaged scissors out in your hay, and they will find new life.

2. Always stack your garden hose on a slant.

That way, when you drag it over to water your horses, or wash your car or whatever, it will not get all tangled and bunched up and make you say things like sh*t! and g******it! and son of a bee stinger! And other colorful words that entertain the neighbors.

And if everyone else in your family puts the garden hose away like this:

Then you may feel the way I do sometimes:

3. Always keep water from spilling.

Some of you lucky people out there have horses who never rub on anything in their stalls and never knock over their feeders or water buckets. My horses will mess with anything in their stalls. And they aren’t even kept in their stalls all day – they have free reign to wander about as they choose. When the barn was built, we had automatic waterers installed, so the horses would always have fresh, clean water. This one is dog height:

But the ones we had installed in the stalls were just the right height for the horses to use as butt-scratching-posts. And from the repeated leaning on by 1000-lb. animals, the waterers got tilted just enough to leak. All the time. Which resulted in huge mud puddles right where the horses need to stand to drink their water. Horse stalls and standing water do not mix. Hoof fungus, mosquitoes, and the smell are the three main reasons, but I’m sure there’s more.

So we got these big half-barrel water buckets from the feed store. Which are just the right height for the horses to scratch their hind legs on. And then they discovered how much fun it is to tip over the water bucket when it is about half full. Which goes back to the same old water-in-the-stall problem. It took me a few tries to final figure out how to do it (hint: looping chains around the bucket doesn’t work).

So I drilled holes in the top of the bucket. Wasn’t easy because the loopy do-dads that I bought have wide ends so I basically had to drill two holes next to each other and then widen it further. You probably have better tools than I do, so maybe you’ll have an easier time of it. Then I took some Clip-hook do-dads, attached to the loopy do-dads (all very technical here) and clipped the hooks to my fence. Voila! Horsey-no-knock-over. So there.

4. Always, ALWAYS latch gates closed behind you.

None of this, “Oh, I’ll be in here for a sec to spray some fly spray/scoop poop/etc.” and then swinging the gate behind you without latching it shut. 9 times out of 10, you end up going out a different gate than you came in anyway. But it only takes a second.

Do not be deceived by their big-eyed innocent faces. Horses are known escape artists.

horse caught by speed camera in Germany

The minute you turn your back, they are nosing that gate open, and GONE! This is especially important if the place they can escape to is potentially dangerous, as in the photo above—into traffic—or in my backyard, one of the gates leads to a play area where we have a trampoline which is sunken into the ground. My horses thought it would be cool the other day to push on this gate and run around back there, nearly giving me a heart attack.

Luckily they just ran around and munched on the pine trees, and avoided the black hole of the trampoline. But it could have been bad.

5. If you give your horse a bath, and you are not dirtier than your horse was when you started, you are doing it wrong.

There is no possible way to bathe your horse and not get wet, dirty and smelly. If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to get your hands dirty, don’t even think about wanting a horse. Or just be rich enough to have some one else do it for you.

But where’s the fun in that?

Oh – by the way, I just saw the movie BRAVE today. If you are as much of a Celtic folklore geek as I am, you will love it. Pixar did an amazing job, capturing the beauty of Scotland, and weaving a story around a strong, smart female character. AND they have an awesome Shire horse—and whoever was in charge of animating the horses did an excellent job of capturing the character and how they really move. Anyway, just go see it, it’s good. Visually stunning.

Here’s my LittleFilmReview tweet:


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4 thoughts on “5 Simple Things I’ve Learned about Horsekeeping”

  1. We saw Brave last week and Loved It!! Pixar did do a fabulous job and the horses were beautiful! It’s amazing how an animated horse can look so much like the real thing. Lucky you, you get to hang out with them everyday!


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