Neu Perspectives

For Whom the Bale Tolls

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Feeding horses is an ordinary, non-eventful, messy chore, and I love it!

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One of my first jobs was feeding my neighbor’s horse five nights a week. I earned $1 each time I fed, which was shelled out in $5 increments. I remember feeling proud of myself for cutting open those 3 strand bales and hoisting a big flake on my shoulder to each animal. I loved to listen for their nickers and I wore those shards of stems and fine alfalfa leaves on my clothing proudly.

I suppose that this little gig ignited a lifelong fire in my heart for throwing hay to horses, because here I am, 24 years later, still loading up bales a couple of times a day onto the wagon. I know, Luke and I could hire someone to drive around and pitch feed to all of our mares and geldings, but it’s an important part of our “riding” job—whether we’re taking care of our own animals or those that belong to our customers. Plus, admittedly, I really get a sense of enjoyment out of it.

Now, I’m not going to get into each and every individual feed program. The topic can be quite controversial when it comes to the “right” hay and grain for a horse. Each animal has specific needs and the details vary drastically based on factors such as region, equine activity level and personal preference. However, it’s the process of feeding them that I treasure (though it has significantly cut into my social life countless times).

When I do my own feeding, I get to know each horse’s habits and tendencies. Some of them clean up all of their hay, every day. Some of them eat slowly and there’s no cause for concern if their manger still has alfalfa left in it. I know that if something is a little too fat, or needs to gain weight, I can ration its feed accordingly and take responsibility for maintaining the proper weight on each animal. I can scan every horse twice a day for injuries or chewed tails. And I also get to check that their water source is fresh, clean and filled.

I love seeing their ears pricked and eyes bright as they nicker at me for their meal. I love knowing that all the animals in the barn are healthy and taken care of by me personally. And if something seems a little sick or uncomfortable, I am thankful for the opportunity to catch it early. Although our business is to ride our customers’ horses, the proper care and prevention of potential problems is a big part of our responsibility.

Sure, sacrifices have been made due to having animals to feed. The pay isn’t great, either. To be honest, I think I made more cash feeding horses when I was 7. Nowadays it seems as though I’m the one forking out money to fill the barn with the best hay possible. But I must admit, when the day is done and everyone’s munching on their fodder, soft-eyed and content, and those fine alfalfa leaves have found their way into my hair (and all over my shirt), it brings me real peace of mind.

And you can’t put a price on that.

 

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