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June 19, 2012

Difficult Tasks

Cartoon by Custer Cassidy.

July 22, 1988

Cooky McClung's humorous articles were an instant hit in the Chronicle.

No one ever promised that keeping horses and maintaining a stable was easy. Those of us who choose to do so, do it for many reasons, none of which include easy.

We do it because it’s more satisfying to look at a clean barn and freshly bedded stalls than it is to vacuum and dust the house. We do it because we don’t mind the exercise involved, which is equally as strenuous as using 20 different Nautilus machines, and we don’t have to join a club or leave home.

We do it because feeding and mucking out for more than two horses is cheaper than paying someone else to do it. My mother often pointed out it would be even cheaper to have no horses at all, but that’s not a valid argument because you’d just spend the money on frivolous things like clothes and vacations to Jamaica.

Although running a stable isn’t easy, it’s often the little things that are harder than the big ones. I was thinking about some of the things which I find are the hardest horse-related tasks, for instance:

-Opening the barn door when you’re carrying 100 pounds of feed.

-Opening the feed bag while you’re balancing it on the edge of the bin, the “easy-pull” string usually breaks before it pulls, leaving you to rip open the bag with a hoofpick.

-Carrying a hay bale without getting wisps inside your shirt.

-Sweeping the barn floor when the wind’s blowing in the door.

-Getting a rock out of your horse’s foot when it’s wedged tightly in his shoe.

-Hosing off a horse without getting soaked.

-Using hoof dressing brush when the temperature falls to 0 degrees.

-Pulling a horse’s mane with a blister on your thumb.

-Clipping a horse without leaving lines or tufts (which will only appear in sunlight).

-Bandaging a horse who’s been standing in his stall for two weeks.

-Getting the first bale of hay down after it’s been stacked to the ceiling in the loft.

-Dragging a hay bale backward without tripping.

-Keeping the dogs out of the cat food in the barn.

-Pushing a wheelbarrow through the snow.

-Carrying water buckets while walking on ice, or hanging them on hooks without spilling water down your leg.

-Leading more than one horse on a windy day. (Not recommended.)

-Sweeping out a trailer after the temperature’s dropped below freezing.

-Putting up a tailgate by yourself.

-Hooking up your trailer on the first try at night.

-Hooking up your trailer on the first try in the daytime.

-Remembering to turn off the electric fence before you check to see if it’s broken.

-Cleaning tack without using your fingernails.

-Growing fingernails long enough to use cleaning tack.

-Getting the bit off the cheekpieces without breaking the fingernails you’re trying to grow to help you clean tack.

-Finding the light-switch in the barn at night.

-Fastening a throat latch wearing mittens.

-Fastening or unfastening any piece of tack with frozen fingers.

-Parallel parking a truck and trailer.

-Backing up a trailer in a narrow driveway.

-Tying, and untying, a haynet.

-Keeping every pair of shoes you own from smelling like the stall floor, even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t wear your good ones down to the barn.

-Braiding a horse at 4 a.m.

-Surviving the schooling ring.

-[Not] Forgetting the last fence in a hunter stakes.

-Smiling even when you don’t get a ribbon.

-Turning down a lot of money for a horse you love.

-Trying to get a lot of money for a horse you don‘t love.

-Shaking burrs off your riding gloves.

-Pulling your boots on past the wrinkles in your breeches.

-Pulling your boot-hooks out after your boot is on—snugly.

-Pulling your boots on over long johns and breeches, and trying to walk with no circulation from your knees down.

-Tying your stock in a mirror.

-Tying your stock when you’re in a hurry.

-Replacing the top of your flask at a trot.

-Eating a sandwich at a canter.

-Retrieving your Caliente cover after it’s snagged on a tree while everyone else gallops off.

-Backing your horse out of a vine.

-Jumping a fence without getting left while everyone’s watching.

-Dismounting after a six-hour hunt.

-Driving home after a six-hour hunt and a two-hour breakfast.

-Not blaming your partner when you come in off the time and out of the ribbons in a hunter pace.

-Not blaming your horse when you fall off over a fence.

-Zipping your breeches over your long johns.

-Convincing yourself to leave before the hunt’s over because you have to go home and fix dinner for 14 guests.

-Convincing your horse to leave before the hunt’s over.

-Finding the proper apology when your horse gallops past the master nearly knocking him off his horse in the process.

-Apologizing to a hound your horse steps on in front of the huntsman.

-Riding with eyeglasses on a rainy day.

-Throwing out your best pair of barn jeans just when they’ve gotten comfortable, just because you could never wear them in public.

-Not striking your horse with the pitchfork after he’s stepped on your frozen toes.

-Wearing a dress without your long johns when it’s -25 degrees.

-Remembering to unroll the straw out of your pantcuffs outside.

-Going to a party without one single other horseperson and talking about baking and decorating—and staying awake.

This article was first published on July 22, 1988, in The Chronicle of the Horse. It's part of a series celebrating 75 years of Chronicle history.

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