What Exactly Do You DO?

A lot of my readers are non-horsey friends and family, and y'all deserve an award for managing to make it through this blog on a regular basis. After spending a lovely Thanksgiving with my wonderful family, it has come to my attention that many of you don't actually know what it is that I do when I say I have to work at the barn.

Today is your lucky day!

I am about to take you on a photographic journey through a typical morning at the barn. You'll get to experience a day in my mud-and-manure caked boots. But before we get started, I'm going to answer some of the questions I regularly get asked at family gatherings.

Do you have to feed Dino every day? No, I personally do not have to physically give my pony food on a daily basis. The barn work is divided between myself, Jess, and Jenna, and whoever is working feeds all of the horses at the barn during their shift. The horses get 2 grain meals a day, one in the morning, and one at night, and have access to hay or grass 24/7.

Do you have to clean the stalls? Yes, yes I do! We have 8 horses at the farm right now, and all of them have to have their stall cleaned every day. Thankfully, we split the stalls between the AM and PM shifts, so whoever is working only has to clean half of the stalls. Unless you are doing both shifts on any given day. Then you get to scoop all the poop.

Doesn't Dino get cold living outside? The short answer to that question is no. The long answer is this: Horses are designed to thrive in cold weather. They grow thick winter coats that they can puff up to insulate their bodies. Horses' digestive systems also work like furnaces. As they eat and digest hay, their bodies warm up, and the simple act of stuffing their faces keeps them nice and toasty. Dino, spoiled pony that he is, also gets dressed in waterproof blankets appropriate for the temperature. If he's wet, he can't fluff up his coat enough to keep himself warm, so a blanket helps keep him nice and dry and comfortable. Since he's also prone to muscle tightness, I like to keep him a little on the warmer side to keep him feeling loose.

And with that, onward to the barn!

Required equipment: Coffee. Lots of coffee. It's early and it's freakin' cold out. Optional: personal photographer, hobo outfit.

First things first. BREAKFAST. Since Dino is a special little Cushingoid snowflake, he gets a snack first. His snack also involves drugs, but he doesn't know that, so it's all good. Dino gets his pill hand-fed every morning to make sure it gets in his mouth, and not dropped on the ground.

Yay drugs!


Good Pony!

After that, everyone gets a flake of hay.

Prince is VERY EXCITED about his hay.


While all the horses are munching on their hay and hopefully not knocking down the barn walls, I get their grain ready. Everyone gets a different concoction according to their particular dietary needs. It's a huge perk to being at a small barn! Some horses get a grain with higher or lower protein and fat values, some get vitamin supplements, and some get electrolytes or medication. Yes, I can mix all of them from memory.

My life is so glamorous.

OMG WE GET MORE FOOD!!11!1111!!!!

While everyone is chomping away, I take the opportunity to clean out Dino's Pony Palace. The horses stayed inside during some recent bad weather, so the Pony Palace was particularly disgusting this time. His Highness's lodgings have a stone dust floor, so cleaning them out is a fairly straightforward task. Once all the poop, dirty hay, and soggy mess have been removed, I sprinkle sawdust on any wet spots.

Ready for action.

Scooping the poop.

Dino thinks it's awesome that he has his own personal maid service.

More scooping.

If anyone ever tells you horses are glamorous, they are lying.

Oh, hey.

Halfway there!

 And we're done!

After the Pony Palace is clean, all the horses are done with breakfast, which means it's time to turn out. Everyone goes out to play and graze in a field for the day, and they come back in at nighttime. Turnout is SUPER IMPORTANT for horses. They are made to move constantly, and the more outside time a horse gets, the healthier and happier he is.

Getting all the kids dressed to go outside

Yes, I am leading three horses at once in the ice and snow. No, you should not try this at home. I'm a highly trained professional.

No, Charlie is not blindfolded. He has a chronic eye condition that makes his eyes extremely sensitive to light, so he wears this mesh mask which acts like sunglasses. As long as Charlie's got his shades on, he can avoid annoying eye infections.

While I'm dropping off the kids to play in turnout, I also take a look at their water troughs. Oh, look. They're frozen. Swell. Normally, my weapon of choice is a sledgehammer when it comes to breaking up ice in water troughs, but in a pinch a pair of waterproof boots and a good kick will do.

Hollywood is SO VERY THIRSTY

After all of the horses are settled outside for the day, it's time to clean some stalls.

Let's do this thang.

Stall cleaning does take a certain amount of skill, believe it or not. The goal is to take out all of the poo, as well as any urine-soaked hay and bedding, while leaving as much clean stuff behind as possible. A certain type of sifting and scooping must be employed in order to attain this goal.

Not pictured here: depositing a wheelbarrow of fresh sawdust into each stall to replenish the bedding I took out during cleaning. The ponies need a nice, cushy, absorbent bed to lay on.

The horses also need clean, un-frozen water in their stalls for when they come in later in the afternoon, so their buckets have to be dumped and re-filled. Lucky me, the water spigot closest to the barns is frozen, so I get to haul buckets from the spigot all the way down the hill by the front paddocks.

Yes, it is as far away from the barn as it looks.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how I stay so svelte.

So, after feeding, turning out, cleaning stalls, and filling water, all that's left to do is sweep up, because in doing all this I have made a horrible mess.

I hope you enjoyed this visual trip through a day at the barn! Happy Trails!


  1. Interesting post! That's the perfect balance between self-care and full-board, I think. You still have people who know what's going on so they can cover for you when you need to get away, but you're involved when you can be.

    1. I LOVE the arrangement! Working gives me the intimate knowledge of what's going in with the barn & my pony, and lets me monitor him even better for any changes that might signal something is wrong. Plus Dino is on a very specific feed/meds/turnout regime because of all his issues, and I can keep him exactly how he needs to be kept at this barn. If I wasn't boarding here, I would need to have him at home.


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