Danielle and Tony are moving down the hill, so Leslie and Eddie are taking over the ranch manager duties here at Equine Partners, Inc.
I’m going to be the Sunday “relief” ranch hand, doing a morning shift and an evening shift. The morning shift takes about 3 hours and the evening one about 2 hours. The relief day does not involve the full routine of pre-mixing buckets of supplements and whatnot, as the ranch manager does that on Saturday for the Sunday and Monday volunteers. Nor is there any assisting with training or lessons, facility maintenance, holding horses for the farrier or vet, or other expert work.
The Sunday and Monday volunteers only have to feed (oat pellets, pre-measured supplements, and hay), muck, water, and move horses. Oh, and let the donkeys out in the morning and put them back in the evenings. And feed, water, and muck the pigs.
For me, it’s a chance to handle 12 – 15 horses twice a day and get some practice reading them and learn to understand more horsenalities.
It also feels good, for now anyway, to have a Responsibility: to be learning about the horse care as an adult, not just as a young teen trying to get some time at the stables. It’s also a solid day of exercise — and something various friends have already stepped forward begging to be allowed to do with me.
Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day? ~ Tom Sawyer
Except for the horses in the back 40 (which currently means Rocky, Riley, and Star) and for Sam in his own pen (as he recovers from a long-term illness), all the horses move to different areas morning and night. They are fed in individual paddocks and put into the big turnout for either the night or the day, depending upon which herd group they are assigned to.
The individual pens are next to each other and separated by electrical tape so it’s not like they are in isolation.
Each horse is haltered, inspected, led to a tie rail or tie tree, and tied for 30 – 45 minutes while we clean and water, and the horses in the feed pens finish eating, and other miscellaneous things happen (like dragging the arena). Then they are led to their destinations.
The residents of the back 40 have a different routine. They get tied to a high line in the mornings to eat from (and play with) their buckets, which are also attached to the high line with these rather elastic cables — it’s so cute to watch Rocky toss his bucket around and dump his mash all over his head.
Rocky gets beet pulp and a number of herbal remedies, such as rose hips for hoof growth and kidney function, psyllium on a regular schedule to prevent sand colic, cell food twice a week to dissolve a possible enterolith, probiotics, and he’s been on Platinum Hoof Support but I’m (most likely) switching him to the rose hips instead. And, of course, his ration of oat pellets. Then they get turned loose for their luncheon hay.
I just started handling the evening hay for the back 40, so that I can play with Rocky before feeding time, or just feed them even if I don’t play. It’ll force me to get out of the house even on those days when I’ve crawled into my hermit shell.
It’s not like I’ll be working cattle, riding fence, moseying up to the campfire at night so Cookie can hand me a plate of beans. It’s a tiny ranch, as ranches go, which suits my age and lifestyle (heh). But it’s full of horses and it’s all natural and while I know the novelty will pale over time (particularly when it turns to mud come November), I’m looking forward to what I will learn from the experience.