Thursday, December 3, 2009

Winter Barn Chores

When I get home from work my husband and I do the winter barn chores together.  It's been this way ever since we've had horses.  Whoever gets home first waits for the other one and then we go out together with our dog, Hank. 

This is our time to talk about our days and shake off any leftover thoughts of work and stress.  It's our time to mentally come back home.  Work talk stays at the barn, home talk comes back into the house.

We've separated the barn chores and each of us has our own tasks.  We split the water, my husband does the hay and I do the grain.  I go about opening the various garbage cans of grain set up for each horse, dipping the scoop in deep and coming up full.  The grain and pellets smell good and there's a feeling of wealth in seeing the cans brimming with feed, just as there is in seeing all the plump bales of sweet smelling Orchard Grass.  I deliver my grain to each horse a little differently. 

For Cisco, our Quarter Horse and our been there/done that guy who keeps his distance and isn't personable, I offer a handful of grain before pouring it into his feeder.  I wait for him to approach me and eat out of my hand.  I have spent the last two years trying to get him comfortable around me and allow me to pet him without seeing his skin shudder at the first few strokes.  He now waits at his feeder for me and has stopped backing up when I approach and offer my hand of grain.  It might be taking years but I'm slowly making progress and the wait is worth it.

For Sunny, our ancient Belgian, who is as kind as he is big, I slowly pour the grain into his feeder with the pomp and circumstance of someone carving a Thanksgiving turkey.  I can hear him saying, "Ummm!  Me Like Grain!!"  I then pet and coo over him while he savors his grain.  I tell him how special he is to us, our first rescue horse, now starting to physically fail.  It's important that Sunny knows how special he is to us.

For our new younger horse, Gus, also a Belgian, feeding time includes training.  Gus is also kind and sweet but he's full of personality, which includes lots of nickers.  He's anxious to get his grain and is learning that he needs to respectful of my personal space when I feed him.  He's only been with us for a week but he's already learning to wait for me to pour his grain before he proceeds to come forward and eat.  I can see that he's a smart horse and learns fast.  He's going to be a good horse for my husband to ride.  While Gus eats I rub my hands all over him, picking up his feet, smoothing out his long white mane.  I tell him he's a good boy and that we're happy to have him as part of our family.

We do our winter chores by the indoor and outside lights of the barn.  We're accompanied by the dark and cold of winter along with the challenging weather it brings.  We've stood inside the barn listening to the rain pound on the tin roof and then suddenly fall quiet as it turns to snow.  We've silently glanced at each other as the wind howled and the lights flickered off and on (both of us realizing we didn't bring a flashlight).  We've hustled through the barn chores as our bodies and breath froze.  Just last night we hung on the fence and watched the full moon and how it lit up the fields.

Winter chores are harder and take longer then summer chores.  But the extra physical labor is a good feeling after being cooped up in an office all day. 

On winter nights we always sigh when we come into our warm and cozy house.  I light candles and the fire, put on my cozy sweats and start dinner.  There is a feeling of peace because our animals are safe, warm and fed.  All is well with the world.


  1. Ahh. YES! When the animals are taken care, then it is a good feeling! Today I spent all morning rigging up an extension cord for the Horse Water warmer! Yes, I was hoping I could of waited a bit to get it out, but NOT! Winter IS upon us, but you know what? 18 more days, and the days start to get LONGER! YEAH! LOL

  2. Your routine sounds lovely. You are right about winter chores taking longer, but are rewarding. I did barn chores last night in -5F temperature. But it is worth it so see the horses happily munching their hay. But this morning, I couldn't even scoop up the wet stall shavings cuz they were frozen. Hoping to warm to 20F today. I too am counting down the days to more daylight.

  3. Lovely description - I like your special routines for each horse - they are very lucky to have you and your caring.

  4. Beautiful words. I enjoyed reading them. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I'd be happy and peaceful about walking up to the barn in temps as low as minus 9 degrees with wind freezing my nose and chin, that I'd patiently and without complaint break ice and refill buckets by hand from a pump, that I'd sit beside my horse as she eats jst to listen to her munch contentedly as my toes froze....I'd have laughed silly.

    Back then I couldn't have been convinced to even get out of bed until my first cup of coffee and the sun was fully up.

    Whew. Times do change.


  5. Enjoyed your blog today and thoughts about your horses. They are all special in their own way, aren't they?

    About the only thing I like in the winter is the time in the barn. Although our horses are pretty self-sufficient with their round bale and auto-waterer, something about being in the barn on a cold winter day - their noises, smells, breath. Nothing like it in the world...