Ah, the muck -

I am told that horses, like some dogs and some cats, pick one particular part of the pasture or the corral to use as a loo. And it’s true – I have the dead spots in my pasture to prove it. Or at least, last year I did. For some reason, this year, the whole entire five horse herd decided that the strip immediately outside the barn – all along the backs of their stalls – was The Place. I’ve had it dug out and filled with tiny, clean, tumbled gravel twice now, hoping to shame them into stopping. But alas, they are dedicated.

And this year, with all the cold and snow – more snow than we’ve seen in a decade (all that global warming, dang those republicans) – they’ve evidently decided to install indoor plumbing. I thought I’d also heard that horses didn’t like to muck up their eating area. This is a dirty lie. Or rather, the truth is the dirty part.

Dustin’s stall stays fairly clean. Nobody really dares even enter that area. I suppose I should explain that these are not real stalls, as my barn is completely open on that side. But I’ve defined several open backed twelve foot square “stalls,” mostly to slow down Dustin and Sophie, who tend to want to chase everybody else out of anywhere at all. And feeding times are more peaceful if Dustin can’t just raise his head and scare the next guy away from his trough.

It’s the baby, mostly. I’ve caught him at it, tail raised and bliss on his face. I spend hours and years of my life raking the stuff up and then shoveling it into the cart, then schlepping it out to where I’m trying to build a dike that will keep the irrigation water out of the back of the barn. Only to come back next day and find a new, fresh supply – usually too frozen to rake. Or at least, frozen enough to give me an excuse to give up and go back home where it’s warm.

Compounding the issue is the fact that every one of the darn horses slops his hay out of his trough – they scoop up the stalks with their noses and throw it several feet away – forgetting, I guess, that sooner or later, they’re going to be interested in eating it. The stuff falls in the muck, which would not pose much of a problem, considering the pick-up sticks stacking it does – except for the fact that the same horse will, a few moments later, shift his position so as to get his nose further into the trough and step on the stuff on the ground. Stamp on it really. Mash it into the gross mud and muck and — I can’t go on.

Isn’t there somewhere in the world where people build houses out of bricks made of straw and manure? Didn’t I see that on Nature or something? Then why, after this entire several months of straw strewing, do I not have have nice, natural brick flooring in those stalls?

At least there’s still snow on the ground. Sooner or later, there’s going to be a thaw. And when it comes, we’ll be up to our knees in the brown, and the sweet smell of a winter’s worth of self expression will probably knock us flat.

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