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### A Lifetime of Stall Cleaning

Anyone who keeps their horses in stalls or small corrals knows the daily duties; feed (twice a day), check or fill water, clean the stalls. Every day, in all weather.

I sometimes amuse myself while deftly wielding that manure fork – how many stalls have I cleaned in my lifetime? Let’s see … since I was 12 years old, that’s about 35 years. For a period of some 15 years, I cleaned anywhere from 12 to 27 stalls every morning. Yes, 27 stalls! That was when we were running a large boarding stable and while I often had help, it was my morning routine to feed and then start cleaning before breakfast. I was fast. I could clean all the stalls in two hours on the average day. Twice a week we added fresh shavings so that took a little longer.

There were three years when I “took time off” from training or running a stable professionally, but I still maintained our own personal horses including cleaning the several who lived in stalls. Only three stalls a day … how easy! Most of the rest of that time I had smaller training operations and fewer horses to care for, generally between 5 and 10.

Now keep in mind that I am a horse trainer, not a mathematician but if I take the average of 20 stalls a day for 15 years (365 days X 20 stalls = 7300 stalls per year, X 15 years = 109,500 stalls), and figure that the other 20 years I averaged something closer to 5 stalls (365 X 5 stalls = 1825, X 20 years =36,500) … that’s a conservative estimate of 146,000 stalls that I have cleaned in my lifetime. Don’t get me started on how many wheelbarrow loads I’ve pushed, or how many forkfuls of manure I’ve scooped.

We can use the same basic figures to guestimate how many flakes of hay I have thrown over a fence or into a manger. For each of those stalls that had to be cleaned, the horses inside needed to be fed twice a day. And of course there were the horses I fed when I had help … someone else was cleaning their stalls.

I have a special wardrobe for the morning cleaning chores; Rubber boots (once I discovered Muck boots, I wear them summer and winter), gloves (two pair, one over the other, in the winter), ratty sweatshirt, polartec cap. Old jeans and long underwear this time of year. Raincoat when it’s raining, ear muffs when its freezing, sleeves cut out of the sweatshirt for warm summer mornings. Barn jacket with hay in the pockets and zipper pull made out of a paper clip. It is not the most fashionable attire.

I still like to do my feeding and cleaning before breakfast, except when it is so cold that the manure is frozen to the ground and will break the manure fork. Then I save the cleaning until after the sun comes up. And, sure there are times when I begrudge heading out into the frost. Sometimes I’m sick, or sore, or just tired, but most of the time I enjoy walking down the hill to the barn, listening to the horses neighing when they hear me coming, watching the youngsters kick and play in anticipation of breakfast. I like to see the old mares waiting for their pellets, let the dogs check out the smells from any night time critters who came through the barn.

So I will start a new year the same way as the past 35 years … heading down to the barn in the early morning to toss hay and shovel horse manure, and maybe to calculate how the coming 1,825 stalls to clean this year will add to my life. At least I don’t have to go to the gym. And I can’t really imagine starting a day any other way.

May your new year hold similar promise!

Doris Eraldi of Eraldi Training in Potter Valley, specializes in training for all around horsemanship. She can be contacted at 707-743-1337, or by e-mail dyan@eraldi.net, or read her blog at Horseman's Diary

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