Zen and the art of stall maintenance

The ground here is softening, with temperatures in the thirties and forties, so all the snow is melting and turning into mud. Good in that they’ve finally scraped the roads back down to pavement, bad as . . . well, it’s mud. And yucky.

Lucky is on the cuddly side. Or at least he likes attention. I stood with him by the fence for a while and scratched. He can still be mouthy, but I think it’s just typical horse mouthing, not intent to bite. He also seems to like to stand in the corner near Trudy’s pasture, near where she hangs out. I don’t know if it would be a good idea or not to try him turned out with her first. I’ve noticed that a lot of barns seem to want to put geldings with geldings and mares with mares. I’m resistant to this as blanket policy mostly because of my previous horse. Benny, we found once we moved to a barn that turned horses out in small paddocks by twos, simply could not be turned out with other geldings. Or even next to particularly obnoxious ones. He would turn into Studly Do-Right, pushing, biting, pulling the other horse around by the halter, fighting through the fence . . . .You could, however, put him with just about any mare, and he would happily play the henpecked husband. The barn owner and therapeutic riding director eventually started using him as a bit of a test for some of the therapy horses–one mare, for example, had a serious attitude problem. She was decent when actually being used, but cranky in her stall or being groomed, and she fought with any horse she was put with for turnout. My horse was a last-ditch effort for her. He ended up kicking her and the program gave up on her, on the theory that if Benny couldn’t get along with her, no horse would, and decent behavior in the ring did not make up for her being borderline-impossible to deal with in the stall or the paddock. Lucky, I have never seen out, so I don’t know if he has a preference, but he does seem a little more kindly disposed towards Trudy over the fence.

So regarding the post title–technically, I’m on full board, and don’t have to do much besides show up, groom, and ride. And pay the bills, obviously. But especially since I usually only get out on weekends, when the BO and her husband do the cleaning later, I’ll take care of his stall myself. The BO uses straw over shavings and a dirt floor for bedding. I like this, because the straw is thick and warm and comfortable for him, plus tracks seem to use straw more often than most barns, so quite possibly he’s used to it as well. By contrast, I haven’t used straw much. The barns I boarded at used shavings, and we did at home with our ponies and then with Benny after we moved. There was one time when we did have oat straw–for some reason I don’t recall, one year we planted the hayfield with oats, and we ended up with straw to use. We didn’t have a problem with the ponies (Babe, a solid bay POA/Appaloosa cross who looked more like a small horse, and the two foals she had while we owned her, Chocolate Chip and Pumpkin) eating the straw, but a bigger issue was bedding waste. There’s a knack to picking just the dirty parts with straw. At my parents’, we had metal pitchforks and it took a certain flick of the wrist to get just the piles into the muck bucket and keep most of the clean straw. Lucky’s barn has “apple pickers”, the flat, usually plastic multi-pronged tool allegedly named for its use picking up windfall apples in orchards, not for dealing with “road apples.” I find they provide a greater challenge when it comes to picking through straw.

Lucky is, as the BO said, nosy when someone’s working in his stall. He did come in while I was finishing up, to have a look-see and to check whether there was hay left in his manger. And of course while I was taking the bucket out to dump it, he decided to wet down where I’d just cleaned. He has all of the outside to go in, but no. He does this every time, apparently. Whatever makes him happy, I guess.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Natalie Keller Reinert
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 15:58:22

    I have to tie Final Call to do his stall. Otherwise he follows me around, trying to keep his nose permanently attached to my arm. Very annoying.

    How expensive is straw in TX? It is crazy here. Last year I didn’t bed down the two foaling mares with straw. (I know! I’m evil!) It was just too much. Anyway one was born outside and other one in a pile of timothy hay I put down at the last minute, much cheaper.

    Studly Do Right. Thanks, I didn’t need that mouthful of coffee!! ::wiping coffee off keyboard::


    • luckytocope
      Jan 17, 2010 @ 16:02:34

      I’m in Michigan, actually–I haven’t checked lately, but it can start around $7 a bale (and I don’t know if the stuff at Tractor Supply is suitable for horse bedding. The bales the home and garden places sell for decoration and craft are generally more like $10/bale.) I don’t buy in barn-size bulk lots, so it might come down. I think the TSC-brand shavings are something like $5.99/bag, though when I was little, we’d take the utility trailer to the local sawmill and just fill up a load!


  2. Natalie Keller Reinert
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 16:05:12

    Hmm where did I get TX? Anyway that’s about half what it goes for here… typical…

    I don’t stall enough to use bedding, fortunately. When I do, I like the pelleted stuff. It’s supposedly better for the environment, and I’m a green freak. And I think it’s priced right – around five to six dollars a bag, four bags to a 12×12 stall, a new bag every other day…


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