If My Friends Could See Me Now (Or How I Spend My Friday Nights)

I have a horse manure vacuum machine. You heard me right.  I vacuum up horse poop. A lot of it. Here is how this happened.  I have had to research every aspect of this mid-life horse thing.  As a kid with a horse…you did not worry about managing horse manure.  That was someone else’s problem.  My horse was a “pasture horse” in that he was turned out 24/7, so I didn’t even have a stall to muck out.  See how easy it was? That horse lived until his 30’s by the way.

Fast forward 40+ years and I am a horse owner trying to figure out all this out.  Manure management is a big topic of discussion.  So is turnout versus stalls…blah, blah, blah.  Everyone has an opinion, and here is mine (because I know you are dying to know!)…after tons of reading I have come to the conclusion that the most natural and healthy state is for a horse to be turned out 24/7.  They are designed to walk and graze for basically 18 hours a day.  Stalling a horse is for people!  It makes our lives easier, and enables humans to keep their horse’s coats from bleaching out in the sun and things like that.  Horses do need shade (we built a shade barn in the middle of the pasture where they can stand out of the sun), water, and hay in the winter when the pasture is dormant.  I also feed daily a small amount of grain to give them supplements.  I live in North Florida, which means the weather issue is easier for me, but we do get below freezing and I do not blanket my horses.  I let their coats grow out as nature intended, and blanketing them would interfere with their natural way of heating and cooling.  I do not stall them in cold, rainy weather (unless I am at the barn and grooming), because it is my opinion that as long as they have a shelter to stand behind out of the wind, they are fine. My horses are also barefoot because I believe shoeing a horse interferes with the natural flexing and blood flow to their hooves. I do have them trimmed monthly.   If I have offended anyone with my opinion, I am so sorry and will ask you to go to http://www.thesoulofahorse.com and see that I am grateful for Joe Camp’s wonderful experiences and for helping me to “get it”.  So to end this little rant, I have built a barn that is great in the summer (each stall has a fan) and winter to get out of the elements when that works for me (see how a lot of what we do with horses is about humans and not horses?).  I bring the horses in to feed some days, and some days they feed off from buckets on the fence.  During the time they are in the stalls, they poop.  Horses standing in poop is not good.

I have digressed.  What about this poop vacuum? Here’s how THAT happened.  So I am worrying about shoveling poop (not great for the back and horses poop a lot).  This horse thing is my deal, and I don’t have a stable boy (I need one) who is shoveling poop every day.  Since my horses are not in my barn constantly, when they are and they poop, I just pitchfork it out the back door of their stall into a little pile in the paddock behind the barn.  I then can come around on the golf cart with my hitched up poop vacuum and suck that stuff right up.  Voila!! No accumulating poop, which is a big deal in fly control.  I then go out into the pasture and vacuum up a full load (keeps the pasture poop down until time to drag it).  This nifty machine, by Greystone Vacuums out of Australia, (I bought my online through http://www.pasturevacuums.com, an American dealer) is a pasture vacuum.  Call me nuts (my ranch manager likes to introduce me as the lady that vacuums up her horse poop) but I like things tidy and it keeps my barn area really clean, and less manure is healthier grazing.  When I fill a tank, I ride out into our timber pines and dump the tank where I have manure piles.  Back to nature!

Thus the title of this post.  My city friends would be shocked to know that one of my favorite things to do when arriving at my farm, is to go and vacuum horse poop.  I have been known to be out until sundown, trying to get one more load up before dark.  Not too long ago our caretaker drove out to where I was on the golf cart and said “You know it is dark out?!”  Well of course I knew that…but I had the lights on!  I have been out in the pasture like that working  (and the horses always come over to check out my progress), I often wonder what would my “city friends” would think if they saw how I spend a majority of my Friday nights these days?  I have to admit there are not many other places I would rather be.

PoopMachine Shadebarn  Horsesinbarn

HOW NOT TO BUY A HORSE AS AN ADULT (Since Your Dad is not paying for it)

So hopefully you read the previous post, How to Get Your Dad to Buy You a Horse.  Life was simple then…get your Dad to buy you a horse, have him figure out where to keep it, then go ride whenever you can get dropped off at the pasture (this is easier than it sounds because  you are talking parents having a teenager totally occupied and away for an entire day).  Horse is cared for by pasture owner, and Dad foots the bill.  This was a great system.

Forty years later, I decide it is time to start working on my bucket list.  I now have 200 acres, 80 of which is beautiful Coastal Bermuda grass.   I am getting a horse.  Just the mention of this “yearning” to a friend of mine who has had 11 horses over the last 25 years and she says there is nothing more fun than horse shopping and when can we go.  Now the clue here is “11 horses over 25 years”.  Horse shopping is apparently addictive.  Things quickly got out of hand.  It’s the darn internet.  You can actually find every and any kind of horse you could possibly want on the internet.  Websites of horse “traders” with beautiful videos.  I was doomed from the first click.  Two weeks later we are on a flight to a remote part of Kentucky.  Seems Kentucky has lots of gaited trail horses for sale.  We visit two barns of beautiful horses.  It is February and snowing. We are oblivious.

Now here is what I now know, that I did not before horse shopping in my late fifties.  Just because you have owned a horse as a teenager, a horse you could do anything on and with (remember, my first horse came from a girl’s summer camp)…this does not mean you are the expert rider you think you are.  Bomb-proof horses, teenage bones and confidence are a thing of the past.  The universe has a funny way of letting you know your place.  My place ended up being on the ground after a 4 year-old gelding threw me off when my heel crashed into his back girth (that turns out he was not accustomed to wearing) because he spooked and literally jumped sideways, slamming my leg into a tree and back into that girth.  This could have been a true disaster.  The side of my head hit a tree on the way down. Luckily, pumped with adrenaline, I jumped back up and on him and rode back.  Maybe it was stubborn pride, but think it was being in shock.  My friend who was riding with the owner behind me tells me that the owner had just commented on what a good, confident rider I was.  Apparently that was just prior to the nightmare that unfolded.  All ended  up well…no concussion or broken bones and I learned a valuable lesson.  I did end up with two horses from that Kentucky trip (can’t have just one horse…they’re herd animals!!).  Probably bought them two young and inexperienced, but we’re learning together.

Turns out there are all kinds of articles, books, etc. that describe this phenomena of women in their 40’s to 60’s who never got over the love of horses and come back to it at an age when they can afford it and have more time to devote to it.  They also have to basically learn all the things they were too young and naïve to worry about their first go round.

Has it been worth it? Absolutely. The learning is constant.  We figured out how to fence, house and care for horses on our property. Two more have joined our herd, and they are bomb-proof and a little older and wiser.  Four Horses. Yep.

One of the best parts has been learning about Natural Horsemanship and striving to provide my four guys with the best environment for them.  The pleasure I get from learning their personalities and traits is pure therapy.   I have gained true insight from  a great book by Joe Camp,  entitled “The Soul of a Horse”.  If you love horses, it’s a must read.

The Herd

The Herd