Good Old-fashioned Customs for the Modern Stable Hand

Now you are going to find out how old I really am! In the good old days (I am talking about last century) you learned the ropes from an old horseman. Here are some rules I learned and still follow.

Bailing twine & hay

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALet’s start with some good habits around bailing twine…

#1 Only cut bales open that lay on the ground, not the ones on top of the stack. The stack become a mess in no time with all the loose hay.

#2 Always cut the bailing twine NEXT to the knot, never somewhere in the middle. It will be useless if the knot is in the middle of the string. If you cut it next to the knot it will be much easier to pull away the string from the bale.

#3 Always carry your own pocket knife to cut bales and put it back in your pocket immediately after each use. Never leave it on a bale of hay.

#4 If you don’t have a pocket knife, use a baling twine to rub through the one on the bale. See #2, this will not work if the knot is in the middle of the string. A pair of scissors attached with… a piece of bailing twine to the designated wheelbarrow for hay will do it’s job too.

#5 Always put the bailing twine direct into a designated place: a nail on the wall or tie it together and put it in the garbage right away. Bailing twine that is lying around is a hazard.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA


#1 Sweep, sweep, sweep. Sweep before you leave the aisle to go to the arena, sweep before you leave the barn and sweep whenever your horse drops something.

#2 Don’t forget to sweep in your horse’s stall where you put his hay or under his net so he can also eat the hay that has fallen onto the ground without ingesting bedding or worse –  manure.

Always keep the barn clean

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA#1 Clean up after your horse. Sweep the aisle after grooming, especially in Spring when your horse is shedding. Do it right away, before you forget.

#1 Put tools in their designated area right after use.

#3 Never, never leave your tools (broom, prong, bedding fork or shovel) in the stall when mucking stalls. Not even for a moment. Even when the horse is not in his stall at that time, you never know when he is coming in. When you forget about leaving tools like a rake or bedding fork in a stall it can be very dangerous when the horse comes in.

Check latches

Always check all the stall doors after leaving a stall and again before leaving the barn. Just make it a habit.


#1 Am I the only one that has a high standard of the water buckets or water fountains? My standard is: if I would make a cup of tea with that water, it is clean enough for the horse to drink. If I don’t want to make myself tea out of that water: scrub the bucket/fountain! Horses have much a better nose than we do. So maybe they don’t see the gunk in the bucket but they will smell it for sure!

#2 Never leave a hose running unattended. You might think you will remember, but the reality is: you probably have your attention on something else that seems very urgent until you hear the water running over the bucket. Happened to me so many times. Now I plan it and do a chore nearby so I can keep my eye on the hose too.

#3 Always provide enough water. Some horses drink small amounts, some drink lots. Just provide more than enough water. Horses can get colic if they don’t drink enough water with their food intake. Keep that in mind. One vet bill can be higher than the yearly water bill._clean-water-bucket-barn-hack_hippologic


#1 Always pile up the manure at the back end of the pile and stack it neatly so there can be as much as possible in there.

#2 Only put compostable items on the manure heap. No bailing twine, no plastic, no nails of horseshoes, no stones et cetera.

#3 If you have cold feet in winter, just stand on the manure dump for a while.

What good old fashion habits have I forgotten to mention? What were the pet peeves of your horsemanship mentor?

Sandra Poppema

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