Sift through shavings to experience simple pleasures only a horse person would understand.

Photo by Ross Hecox

Secrets are being leaked left and right it seems. Whenever I decide to dial into the news, someone’s privacy is getting infringed or some new creep is being exposed for terrible behavior.

So in the spirit of exposing secrets, I guess it’s time for the truth. I have a confession myself.

My name is Kelli Neubert, and I secretly enjoy cleaning stalls.

I’m tired of living the lie. My friends and coworkers moan about the job of cleaning stalls, saying that it’s one of the necessary evils of owning and showing horses. I roll my eyes and lead them to believe that I agree with their sentiments. But honestly, I feel just the opposite. Yep, I’m a connoisseur of the manure rake. I’ve got my favorite pitchfork (it’s the red one), the best wheelbarrows and have my method dialed in.

It started as a way to pay for riding lessons when I was a young kid. I was terrible at the job back then, and the Thoroughbreds that I picked up after didn’t have much patience for me. But I scraped and flung and honed my skills into an efficient, effective stall-cleaning machine. My wasted shavings are at an all-time minimum, and I leave no road apple unturned.

Why the appeal? Well, it’s something only the true closet stall cleaners can understand. There is a calm simplicity to cleaning stalls. It’s a low-pressure job with a quick reward. In a matter of minutes, a stall can go from a thrashed mess to being a clean, fresh home for a special horse. It’s an effective calorie-burner and a great way to tone the arms and abs. I especially love the days that require a wheelbarrow load or two of new shavings—you just can’t beat that smell. Truly, there is something satisfying about providing a clean bucket of water, a manger full of hay, and a tidy living space for my favorite animals.

Nowadays, it’s a rare situation for me to find a stall to clean. All of our colts and horses are turned out and my days of mental serenity have idled down to random and sparse situations that occur only when someone needs to be isolated for a night or two. Sure, I’ve found substitutes to hold me over. I pacify my hobby by cleaning out the trailer and scrubbing down the wash rack, but it’s not quite the same.

I know it’s weird. I don’t expect most people to understand it, and I’m sure that if I had the chance, I could get burned out on it, too. But when the times get tough and the pressures run high, we’ve all got to find something that soothes our mind and pauses the stress.

Now that my secret’s out, I bet that I’ll have more opportunities to perform the task. And if I ever get to the point where I’ve got too many stalls to clean and it starts being work? I suppose I would have to share the wealth and extend an invitation for each and every one of you to join me in my rewarding task.

Just don’t take the red fork.

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