Friday, January 25, 2013


Working in the stable is not an easy task. It is very labour intensive with a strong emotional attachment that draws you to the barn and its inner sanctum of care. The well being of its inhabitants is a heavy weight to carry especially when mother nature's wrath is upon us.

With 28 horses in the stable, 3 cats, 2 dogs and one pet pigeon, it is a lighter load today than a year ago. But looking after 28 or more horses is still a lot of work for one person. I wish I could hire on more help to ease the burden, but economics do not dictate this during these times of financial strife.

My day doesn't start that early as it once did in days gone by when I worked outside the home. Since I now put in a 12 hour day at the stable, I begin at 9 am and try to leave the stable by 9 pm which doesn't often happen. When I worked outside the farm, morning feeds started a 4:30 am. But then we didn't have nearly as many horses, or ran a lesson program as well. Back then it was strictly a breeding and training barn in the evenings. I was also a lot younger with a lot less baggage on my person.The pounds just seemed to melt away.

Today one feeding takes 1.5 hours. This includes watering, giving grain rations and providing hay. Then I make up the grain rations for the evening feed. In cold weather like today, the watering takes longer since buckets need the ice removed before warm fresh water can be added. Next comes turnout of half the herd and a few others. Since I lead every horse in and out, I make 80 trips in total each day trudging back and forth between turnout and bringing horses back in. With all the extra pounds of apparel and heavy boots added to my already overload of muffin top, my tired old legs feel the strain. Ankles twist easy only adding to my misery especially when I tread on frozen poo balls. It would be easier to just open a gate and run them out from the barn, but that isn't safe nor does it promote manners. So each horse has a little dose of discipline by simply behaving on the end of a lead shank when being led out.

Stall mucking is an arduous chore for someone nearing 62. For fun today I weighed a light frame plastic tub 8 cubic foot wheelbarrow and filled it with stall waste. Each load weighed on average 100 lbs. of rolling weight. Since I muck 14-16 stalls a day that amounts to roughly 3/4 of a ton loaded and taken out.That's a lot of sh....t

Dealing with cold weather just makes the whole routine a little more miserable. It's not that it is cold, it is more that you get overheated doing the stall work. As you peel layers off you run the risk of catching a cold or flu bug. Inevitably you get a chill once in a while as your sweat soaked undergarments provide no protection against the blasting cold wind. And speaking of clothes, it is so hard to tear off clothes when the urge to hit the washroom comes fast and furious. Taking diaredics has its drawbacks!

 On really sub-zero temperature days chores are, for lack of a better term, a 'bitch' to get through. If we have a lot of snow, a path has to be cleared to Mount Trillium (manure pile.) If not, you are not only pushing 100 lbs. of crap, you are struggling to push through the snow as well. Ice grips on boots is a must if we have freezing rain with it as well. Ice and I don't mix. I've broken too many bones falling on ice over the years. I'm terrified of it knowing that if I slip and fall, I'll break something.I know I shuffle like a little old lady getting ready to throw a bowling ball, but I find the shuffle safer than skating my way around.

The other day it took me an extra hour to water. I had 30 buckets of ice to deal with. I had to smash out the ice in each pail with a hammer being careful not to crack the pails. In the end, only one bucket met its demise with my hammer. The buckets were almost completely solid with ice. Do you know how heavy a 5 gallon bucket of ice weighs? One thing is that you don't get the splash of water down your pants carrying the buckets. A small saving grace.

As most of us know, impaction colic is a high risk for horses during cold weather when water intake can be limited. So the rush to clear the buckets and have them drink as soon as possible is an urgent demand.The outside water tank does have a heater so fresh unfrozen water is available during the day for the turnout crew. Ugh...again another chore filling the 100 gallon tank. Sometimes I forget the hose as a small skating rink forms by the water trough. Now I have to add safety salt pellets to the ice.

In spring time I'm dealing with the big swamp of mud. My boots sometimes get sucked off as I work the gate to let a horse in or out. Sometimes it is so bad that you tip over into the gooey mess. And soakers are common. Sloshing around in wet boots is no picnic.

In summer your are sweltering in the heat but I rarely complain as winter is never too far off. By this time my turnouts and bring ins have doubled from 80 per day to 160 per day. Good thing about summer is the cool clothing and light footwear. What a relief from wearing all those layers. But now I have to content with headgear to protect my skin from the sun. It's not that I'm trying to keep my not so porcelain skin ageless, but to save myself from skin cancer. Funny how your face drops with the gravity of age. Wrinkles aren't too bad so that is either a good thing or a bad thing meaning you don't smile enough to create creases of humour on your face. Oh dear,,, better revisit that.

I don't know how far I walk in a day, but I know it is more than a mile. Between doing chores and turnouts, I walk each lesson at night. Someone said I should get a pedometer and really see how many miles I travel. Funny thing about all of this is that I don't seem to shed too many pounds of fat. Maybe I need the fat to keep warm, but then that doesn't explain my need for it in the summer. I know I have a lot of upper body arm strength and core. I seem to do things easier than most people, like tightening a girth or hoisting up a sack of grain. Still, I'm finding that I am less efficient as the years pass especially with my sad back and its crushed vertebrae. My hands don't open lids well anymore and sometimes the simplest of things seem impossible with my aching hands. I guess my old body is getting a little tired and parts are slowly wearing out. But I can tell you one thing, I'm probably fitter than most of today's youth who can't even mount a horse without assistance. Now that is pretty sad when you think of it. But then again, I can't work my new cell phone either. The kids are whizzes at it.

Well now you know that I've had to inspire the name Sampson by living up its reference of strength in the biblical sense. My maiden name was Hosken that motto means (Force is stronger by union.) add to Sampson's motto (Disgrace is worse than death.) I'll take Hosken over that, but at least I haven't disgraced the Sampson name.


  1. After reading this I shall no longer complain about doing chores as mine consist of only looking after four horses, two donkeys, three alpacas, four dogs and a couple of cats...and they live outside with a run in shelter so no real "mucking out the barn". I hang my head in shame for whining about the little bit of work I do do (sounds funny but...) :(

  2. Thanks for your confession of complaint doing your daily duties. No shame in that.