There are lots of things about owning and riding horses which bring great joy. Unfortunately, there are others more likely to come under the heading of ‘necessary evils’. Here are H&H's top 10 least favourite horse jobs...
1. Sheath cleaning
There are lots of reasons some of us prefer geldings to mares, but cleaning their ‘boy bits’ is really not one of them. There’s only one way of dealing with smegma (even the word induces a grimace): rubber gloves on and warm water at the ready. Hard hats and caution are also advised — your horse may dislike having it done as much as you dislike doing it!
2. Poo picking, particularly in the pouring rain
Everyone knows that poo picking is important; it prevents sour patches in your grazing and helps control internal parasites in your horse. However, until some kind soul develops a fool-proof way of training horses to use a ‘poo corner’, what gets dropped must be picked up again — even if it rains, Biblical-style, for 40 days and 40 nights. Cagoules might not be cool, but they’re essential kit for this job.
3. Dealing with filthy, wet rugs
One of the very best things about the arrival of summer must surely be saying goodbye to filth-caked, sodden turnout rugs. Who needs the gym when you’ve dragged off a rug weighing twice what it did that morning, before wrestling it onto an overhead rail in a vain attempt to dry it about before turnout tomorrow.
4. Filling haynets
Ah, they look so innocent, those little mesh creations. Odd, then, that they somehow develop a life of their own when you’re trying to pack hay in — twisting up and cleverly hiding the drawstring beneath a tangled mass of hay. Internet forums are full of advice on ways to make this job quicker and easier, but filling haynets remains on the most hated list for many.
5. Mucking out
Perhaps the ultimate necessary evil of horse ownership, mucking out is an obvious contender when it comes to least favourite jobs. Whether it’s mucky mares, box-walkers who stir things into an unholy poo porridge or bed trashers who wreck banks with reckless abandon, mucking out is hard work that leaves you smelling like you slept on the muck heap.
6. Sweeping up woes
While we’re on the subject of mucking out, sweeping up is another chore which rates low on the enjoyment scale (unless you have equine OCD and love the look of immaculately-swept concrete). Bad enough pushing a broom, but when a gale is blowing and the boss has decided light-as-a-feather paper bedding is a great idea, sweeping up is no fun at all.
7. Tack cleaning
This one is a bit of a Marmite job — while some take real pride in keeping their leatherwork gleaming and supple, for others tack cleaning is only rendered bearable by copious cups of coffee and one eye on the TV. Just don’t forget to cover the kitchen table in newspaper to avoid complaints about soap patches from non-horsey members of the family.
8. Treating thrush
If there’s one thing you really don’t want to get on your hands, it’s the pungent and long-lasting stink of hoof thrush. Once the farrier has pared back the horn to healthy tissue, it’s down to you to treat the problem — which can mean iodine washes.
9. Dragging out stinking rubber mats for a wash
If your hands hadn’t already suffered enough dealing with most of the above, pulling out stinking rubber mats will render them beyond the help of all but the most skilled manicurist. Heavy and unwieldy, rubber mats are the devil’s work in bedding form — the only upside is you usually need two of you to drag them out, so at least you’re not the only one who’s going to smell like a blocked drain!
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10. Doing studs
We all have the best of intentions when it comes to stud holes, popping in those neat little foam plugs the moment the farrier has finished. Which is why it is all the more mysterious that, once at the show and dealing with a horse hopping about with excitement, the stud holes appear to have filled themselves with concrete no amount of digging will shift. Pin, anyone?