Friday, October 19, 2012

Why I Admire Horse Groomers and Other Digressions

Lostine was looking a bit ragged and the two grays had brown manes and yellow tails, so I promised all the horses that I would clean them up soon.  I went out to the barn at 9:30 AM to start the process of trimming, bathing and grooming three horses and didn't get back into the house until 2:00 PM.  Fortunately, the dogs didn't pee on the carpet, but they were squealing to go outside as soon as I walked in the back door.  Next time that I think I'm going to spend an hour tops out at the barn, I'm taking a water bottle with me because everything takes a lot longer than I expect, and if I spend too much time outdoors I start feeling the effects of dehydration.

I think I spent the first hour just trying to get all my supplies together and reflecting on how easy it used to be to do such tasks as my old house.  First off, my horse space was contained in a very small portion of property that was a little less than a third of an acre, so everything I needed was within reach.  With our new house, the electrical outlets, the hose, the tack room, and the gates are all spread out, so I spent a lot of time hiking back and forth, plugging in electrical cords, turning on water, retrieving supplies I forgot, but needed once a problem cropped up.

At my old house I had several fenced off pens.  Everything was double-fenced, so the horses could break out through one gate and still be contained.  That was especially helpful in the end there when my annoying neighbors' son kept climbing the fence and opening the gate to cut my horses loose just to get a rise out of me.

However, at our new house we only have one large fenced in space.  It's difficult to separate the horses unless I lock them up in their stalls or bring one horse outside the fence and risk having it break free.  The horse trailer was within a fenced area at our old house, so I often tied the horses to the side of the trailer, but at the new house the horse trailer is out in the open.  I don't feel comfortable tying a horse to the side of the trailer here, because they get so worked up when I separate them, and we've got so many unexpected challenges like dust devils, horseback riders and packs of coyotes coming through our property.  I don't want a horse to pull back on the lead rope, break free, and take off with no fence to contain it.

So, the first challenge was finding a place to tie the horses while I bathed and groomed them.  I don't think the metal fence posts are strong enough, so my only option was to tie them to a railing of the barn.  Of course, the other two horses kept crowding me so that I couldn't work.  I tried spraying them with water to chase them off, but they liked it.  So, I had to hike back to the tack room of the trailer to get the long whip.

One thing that does impress me about my horses is that they know who I'm directing my commands to, even when they are bunched up together.  That means I can crack the whip and the two horses who are not being groomed know that I want them to move out and stop pestering me and the horse I'm working with.  I can use this technique while free lunging -- just point at a horse in the crowd, crack my whip, and that horse begins exercising in a circle around me while the others watch.  I can quickly switch one horse out with another or lunge two or three at the same time.  It's a beautiful thing.


Anyway, once I finished washing up the first horse I found myself in another quandary.  At the old house I kept a freshly bathed horse from rolling in dirt by cutting him loose to graze on grass.  I had grass on my RV lane, which was also covered in pebbles, and the horses didn't want to lay down and roll on that, so they'd just graze until their fur dried.  However, here, at my new place, there is no grass -- only dirt for as far as the eye can see.  If I locked the horse in a stall, it could still roll in the sand because they are 16x16' box stalls.  I ended up putting each one in a stall to dry with a slice of hay, making sure that I spread the hay all around to discourage the horse from rolling in it.  That tactic worked for every horse except Gabbrielle, who ate a little, took a dump, and then rolled in both the hay and the poo.

I was a bit baffled because I ran out of shampoo, and when I left Nevada I know I had four different brands of horse shampoo.  I dug all through the horse trailer and couldn't find anything beyond that one bottle that was now empty.  With strangers using our property like it is public land, I worry about someone breaking into my tack room and stealing stuff.  The lock has been fussy so I can't always lock it, but it doesn't make sense that someone would help himself to shampoo and ignore all the other expensive items in there.  At the same time, I had multiple items hanging on every hook in that tack room and noticed a few weeks ago that the hooks were starting to look naked.  I wracked my brain to figure out what was missing, but can't remember.  I have a lot of old tack I used for training that doesn't get used anymore.  I guess I'll have to just take pictures and keep inventory like I did back when my hay farmer suspected that someone was stealing my hay.  Turned out he was right.

With the temperatures cooling down, we are getting more horseback riders coming through, which poses a problem with our dogs.  We have to take our dogs outside to do their business, and they do bark at strangers on our property.  They don't bark at my horses, because they understand that they belong here, but they will charge a strange horse and rider.  So, we have to keep them on leashes on our property.  We had to put an extra magnet on our screen door, because the dogs could run into it and the screen door would fly open.  If horseback riders ride too close to our house while we have the doors open, we have to scramble to jump up and shut the doors before the dogs get out.  It's a pain.

I was stunned to find hoof prints right outside our front door on our landscaped driveway.  Either a rider lost control of her horse in my front yard or was just rude by messing up my gravel when she could have easily rode down the street like everyone else.  I think I know which rider did it.  I've seen her cut through my alley to the north before, so I set up NO TRESPASSING signs at the points where she enters and leaves our property.  There's another sign that clearly instructs riders to go south, which she repeatedly ignores.

Also, I've noticed that the horseback riders follow hoof prints of other horses, thinking they are following a trail.  However, I walk my horses on parts of my property where I do not want strangers to be for a variety of reasons.  Unfortunately, they see my horses' hoof prints and go where I led my own horses instead of using their common sense and thinking, "Gee, this path cuts a little too close to this house and disturbs the landscaping.  Perhaps I should walk along the property line and give the homeowners their space."

Anyway, while I was bathing the horses I heard voices and turned around to find a vehicle stopped at the dead end on the bluff while the occupants watched me washing the horse.  There's this road that would go straight to town if the arroyo, my property and the Trust land weren't in the way.  Maps show the street going straight through, but that is a mistake.  I think that so many drivers end up on that bluff above my back yard because their GPS tells them to go that way.  They get to the dead end, see my horses, and always stop to watch them.

One day my husband and I drove down that street just to see the view of our back yard, and I have to admit that my heart skipped a beat because my horses looked so gorgeous down there.  There's something about seeing a herd of horses from up above that offers a unique, awe-inspiring perspective.  I'll hike up there and take a picture looking down at the horses one day when it is cooler and they come out of the shade of the barn.  But my lack of privacy does get annoying after a while, especially when it's 6:00 AM and I'm out there in my pajamas throwing hay to the horses with yet another audience in a vehicle on the bluff.  Still, having different strangers who just happen to be passing through spying me in my backyard is a lot better than having the same people watching me under the eye of microscope day in and day out, like my nosy neighbors at the old house.

The other night I was walking around the house in my pajamas.  The front door was open with the screen closed, and I got lit up like an actress on stage when someone pulled into my driveway and shined his headlights right in through the door at me.  I expected the driver to either keep on driving all the way around and leave, or back out and leave, but when he saw me in the house, he stopped and just sat there idling and shining his lights on me.  I shut the solid door, and then he backed up and drove off.  It's amazing how many people have the voyeurism gene in them.  They may be decent people, but if they get a chance to spy someone in a private moment through a window or door, they'll take it.

But I digress.  Back to the horse grooming.  I probably spent the last half hour cleaning up all the supplies, coiling extension cords and hoses.  Bombay has been rubbing the crest of his neck on the barn railing to itch his mosquito bites, and about half his mane hair came out when I brushed it.  I had balls of mane hair from each horse that needed to be thrown in a trash can so that it wouldn't blow into their hay and get ingested.

I really don't do all that much work when I groom the horses.  For instance, I don't trim their faces anymore since I don't show them.  So, I think about all the work that is involved in getting 10 or 20 horses ready for a show at these training barns, and I have a lot of respect for the grooms.  Not an easy job at all.  I was sore just after grooming three horses.  Normally, I would just groom one horse a day, but it took so long for me to get all the supplies together and the electric and water setup that I knew I had to get all three done right then.  But they are happier horses for it.  Lostine feels like a queen again.

What do you think?  Could she use a little mascara and eye shadow?

6 comments:

fernvalley01 said...

grooming horses for show is not all relaxing and fun , but just doing it for the sake of it at home is sooo relaxing .Even when they rush right out and mess it up buy rolling in poo.Its good for us and our stress and good for them stimulates their blood flow and is a good exercise in training and patience .The up side of grooming at home is if it gets messed up or you don't do fine details it was still good for both

Paint Girl said...

Since I have been groom for a big horse farm, yeah, it's so much work. But you know what is worth it? When they come out of a class Champion or Reserve, and you were the one that made them look that good! It feels awesome! And yes, it is a ton of work, especially getting 10+ horses ready in one day!
Love your pictures and so happy you finally got to get your horses groomed and bathed!!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Oh, I don't mean to make it sound like I haven't groomed the horses since I moved last spring. I've groomed and trimmed and sprayed them down plenty of times. It's just been too hot for me to stand out there for hours shampooing and conditioning their fur and hair.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Having been a groom for some of the big farms back in the day... I really didn't think it was all that tough. First off, everything is laid out differently to be efficient. Clipping is kept up between shows, sanding feet was done about a week prior as was body clipping and otherwise they had a healthy coat and shine anyways.

At the shows, prep time was fairly quick as I used the minimalist approach. A coat of GC spray, polish the hooves, goo the face and off they went. Next!

Sometimes the classes were spaced out enough you got to be ringside and watch. As Paint Girl said, it is fun seeing them come out of the ring as winners. Knowing you had a big part in that- priceless.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Having been a groom for some of the big farms back in the day... I really didn't think it was all that tough. First off, everything is laid out differently to be efficient. Clipping is kept up between shows, sanding feet was done about a week prior as was body clipping and otherwise they had a healthy coat and shine anyways.

At the shows, prep time was fairly quick as I used the minimalist approach. A coat of GC spray, polish the hooves, goo the face and off they went. Next!

Sometimes the classes were spaced out enough you got to be ringside and watch. As Paint Girl said, it is fun seeing them come out of the ring as winners. Knowing you had a big part in that- priceless.

achieve1dream said...

I think Lostine looks gorgeous au naturel! She doesn't need makeup to look pretty. :D I'm glad you were able to bathe all three of them. Maybe you will be able to get everything more organized once it cools off to make it all go more quickly and smoothly.

On the road behind your house is that your property or public property. I was thinking maybe you could build a privacy fence and hang a dead end sign. Then there wouldn't be a pretty view and they would just turn around and leave. Not sure if it's like I'm imagining it in my head though so I don't know if it will work.