Archive for February 5th, 2009


It would be fair to say that I am more a horsekeeper than a horse rider. There was a time, when I was a teenager, that no day arrived that wasn’t a good day to ride. But over the years, I have become a fair weather rider. I like conditions to be just right before I venture out on horseback. A sunny, mild, bug-free day is best. What has never waned is the satisfaction I feel in just being around horses, caring for them, watching them. This unflagging dedication brings to mind the observation, generally but not always attributed to Winston Churchill, and often quoted by horse lovers, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”.  And a woman, it could be added, as many of the most devoted horsekeepers are women. That’s not to say, however, that on a frosty morning I’m not reluctant to trade the warmth of the house for the cold of the outdoors. But bundle up I do, as keeping animals demands a constant attention to the routines of feeding and care. My morning horse routine involves carrying out beet pulp and water to the barn and setting out breakfast.


Louis the donkey (named after BaBa Louey of Quick Draw McGraw fame, for those of you old enough to remember) gets his handful of maintenance ration first. He is served inside the shelter, where he won’t be bothered by the horses.


Mousie comes next. The two horses each have buckets outside. As the dominant personality, Mousie gets her ration of beet pulp first, and then Czarina receives hers. The girls are only so-so about beet pulp. It is served as a mash, created by soaking beet pellets in hot water till they disintegrate into a soft gruel. In the winter, it provides a warm filler. It is topped with a cup or two of a maintenance ration, which the horses much prefer.


After the two horses have finished the maintenance ration and sampled the beet pulp, they often swap buckets, just to be sure they’re not missing out on something better.


Czarina usually finishes first and moves on to the main course, flakes of hay, which I spread out around their enclosure to ensure that no one monopolizes the offering. Of course, grass is the mainstay of a horse’s diet and here in our northern winter, hay is fed over the many months when snow covers the fields.

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