As I’ve said many times before, and will no doubt say many times again, having a horse is very like having a child in many ways. It’s expensive as hell. You’re responsible for the destructive forces unleashed by your affiliate, and due to the nature of the being, the opportunities for destruction are myriad. You worry all the time. You can tell when it’s sick or emotionally unwell, but it doesn’t have the language to explain any of that, so you’re constantly trying to guess what is wrong. They’re both prone to temper tantrums, and have the attention span of the average leafy green twig. You can’t ever turn off your phone and go totally incommunicado for any appreciable length of time. They require vast quantities of arcane, expensive, and highly specialized equipment. They both engage in constant, 24/7, or possibly even 25/8 testing of boundaries, organizational hierarchy, and dominance. It doesn’t serve any purpose to lose your patience with either, nor to yell at them, even though you frequently have the urge to do so. Having one of your own is a totally different experience than borrowing one from someone else for the short-term.
And, as may be surmised by the title of this post, they both spend every waking moment, and quite a few of their sleeping moments, generating Dirt, Messes, and Smells, or, in a word, Filth.
And some of them are more efficient than others in the Filth Generation Process.
I am virtually certain that Huey’s great-grand-pappy was a hog. No doubt he was a particularly splendid hog, and he’d have to have been a very large and very hairy hog, but I assure you that if you travel very far up Huey’s Family Tree, you’re going to run into things with snouts and bristles.
It’s the only way to explain it.
We’ve just had the wretched experience of having our second Mud Season in one calendar year. Generally, we only get one of these, and it’s 6 weeks centered around the first of April. The snow melts, the ground thaws, and everything becomes disgusting. It is why any house in this area worth having incorporates a Mud Room, a special zone of the house for quarantining the muddy outerwear. And then, thank the lord, it is over, and we go into spring. In the interim, though, everyone spends that 6 weeks cursing and promising themselves that Next Year, In Florida.
This year, due to the wettest September and October on record, and the Great Halloween Blizzard of ’11 that dropped two feet of snow on us in six hours – after days and days and days of rain – we’ve had a second Mud Season, and this one has gone on even longer than the first. It’s been foul. Impossible to get in a good amount of riding, for one. And you can’t really go hiking either. I mean, you can but you should not. Hiking on wet trails is destructive to the environment. It’s bad for the trails and everything living near them. Much better to just stay off, or as my Dear Spouse has obliged himself to do, work out in the gym.
I hate Mud Season, and I really hated it when it came around for the second time in a year. And I hated it even more because I can’t ride when it’s raining and super wet out. The one shining ray shooting forth from the silver lining is that it is clear that My Precious Wittle Baby loves Mud Season. I can always tell where the wettest spot in the paddock is. It’s the one right under his feet. I’ve actually seen him make mud: he finds a bit of dirt that is damp, and then he pees on it to make it damper, and then he stamps about in it until it’s properly churned up, nasty, naaasssttyyyy mud. And then he stand in it.
I actually taught him to come when he’s called, not because I thought it would be a Fun Trick, but to save myself the grief of having to wade into his Mud Wallow after him.
It was bad before the Great Halloween Blizzard of ’11, but after getting 2 feet of snow slowly melting into a gelatinous quagmire over the course of a several days, it reached The Mud Of Heroic Proportions. Standing in one spot for more than 15 seconds was a sure way to lose a shoe. I even thought a few times that I might lose a boot. And, of course, as always, you can easily identify the muddiest, nastiest spot in the entire pasture. It’s the one right under my horse.
On top of this, the weather has been completely psychotic. If last week it was a sudden leap-forward to the middle of January, this week has been a look-back to the middle of September. It’s been t-shirt weather during the days. I figure it’s just another way for the planetary climate to deliver another bitch-slap to us here, because by the end of last week, everything was frozen. Now it’s thawed again, and perfect for making…more mud.
I hate mud.
Huey doesn’t have to be outside to manufacture a disgusting mess, either. He’s what the barn owner tactfully refers to as “wet”. As in, I had to provide two water buckets for him, because he wants to drink that much overnight. And no, his bloodwork looks fine to the vets, so he probably doesn’t have diabetes, he just gets thirsty.
I know why. It takes a powerful lot of water in a bucket to make a powerful lot of horse pee to make a powerful lot of mud.
He practices in his stall in the barn at night. The stablehand usually goes through the bedding with something that looks like a gigantic cat-litter scoop, shaking out the dry bits of wood shavings, and tossing the wet stuff and horse apples into the wheelbarrow.
Huey’s stall, she tells me, is the only one where she doesn’t have to do any shaking. She just fetches a shovel and starts to move most of the bedding out. Because it’s always completely disgusting. Heaven help us if he ever has to go on stall rest. I may have to have a special drain put in, just to remove his effluvium.
Now that it’s been getting cool at night, the horses have been getting blanketed up. Please, no vitriolic commentary on the tremendous question of Horse Blankets Or Not. The only opinion I’m interested in on this matter is that of my barn owner, who knows the terrain, knows the horses, has loads of experience and a barn full of happy, healthy, sane horses. The horses are getting their winter coats, even though they’ve been getting blanketed. And Huey is getting a winter coat too, only his is very short. He wouldn’t need clipping even if I were interested in that sort of thing. He’s not a super hairy horse, I guess. He did have a pretty thick winter coat last year, I hear, but he was also not in good condition and hadn’t been cared for properly for some extended period either. Now he’s fattened up for the season, happy, and sleek. So, he gets blanketed according to a schedule that the barn owner suggested, and which I accepted, because she knows what she is doing and I do not.
As is fitting for any critter under my care, Huey has a Wardrobe of stylish and well-made blankets. Two of them came from a massive blanket sale and are as functional as can be imagined. Both are waterproof, one is insulated, and both of them became instantly filthy within the first day of their relationship with Huey. I take them out every week or so, hang them over the fence, and brush them thoroughly with my stiff hoof brush.
Then there’s the blanket I splurged on. Having acquired a raincoat and a heavy winter coat at something less than half price, but in colors I wouldn’t have chosen, I then needed to obtain a “stable” blanket. That is, a blanket that is intended to be worn inside or under another layer – yes, the horses layer – and not waterproof. Thus, I found this item:
This is a “fleece cooler”, aka Huey’s Blankie. This business with the blue and silver stripes looks absolutely smashing on my huge red horse.
Or, at least, it did for the first five minutes. When I returned the next morning, it had developed odd brownish splotches on the sides, and was covered with wood shavings.
I took it out, hung it over the fence, brushed it with the hoof brush, and returned it to its position. He’s been wearing it most nights for the last month or so, and usually I only have to brush it out a bit (and ignore the stains).
This morning, however, it was…disgusting. Or, in the immortal word of one of my Emergency Backup Kids, it was BISGUSTING. The brown splotches had multiplied. It was…wet…despite having been worn only inside. The edges of the back of the blanket were encrusted. With the sort of thing that one imagines might encrust anything in the vicinity of a horse’s tail. It was vile. It was foul. And I say this as someone who doesn’t think twice about kicking horse poop onto a pitchfork with my bare shoes.
I hung it over the fence and left it like that all day so that whatever Foul Humours infested the thing could evaporate. Then I brushed it again. After five minutes, I reached the unavoidable conclusion that It Must Be Cleaned Properly.
My barn owner has already advised me that every laundromat in town will lock the doors and shutter the windows if they see you approaching with a dirty horse blanket. I accepted this as a Truth, but did not really understand why this would be the case. After all, it’s just a big blanket, and if it fits in the washer or dryer, what’s the big deal?
In any event, I had been warned in advance not to even try it with the laundromat. Apparently the Thing To Do is to send the blankets out to a commercial cleaner at the end of the winter, and then have them stored over the summer. But I needed this thing cleaned, and I needed it done now. Round Two of Indian Summer is supposed to be coming to a close tomorrow – with more rain of course – and he didn’t need it tonight…but tomorrow night is another matter.
Now, in my household, we do not have a Laundry Maid. We have a Laundry King. My husband, who finds the smell of a basket of hot clean laundry to be irresistible. He is also a massive Control Freak, and does not appreciate any interference on my part with the Laundry Operation in the basement.
But…he is out of town tonight…so I capitalized. I brought Huey’s Blankie home – in the trunk because I didn’t want any part of that thing touching my interior – and tossed it immediately down the steps into the basement. And I let it sit there for 30 minutes while I checked for care instructions online.
After that time, I went down into the basement, was immediately enveloped in a warm atmosphere redolent of the stables, and tossed it into the washer, set the thing on Super Extra Huge Load, and departed for other parts.
Thirty minutes later, I moved it into the dryer, set that on “fluff” for ten minutes, and came down when the clattering of the buckles stopped to retrieve the Blankie and spread it out on the dining room table to finish drying.
Now, I’ve got to comment that one of my favorite smells in the world – right after a glass of distinctive scotch, baking bread, and brewing coffee, is the smell of the stables. Yes, including the horse poop. It’s not just a smell. It’s an Atmosphere. And within that Atmosphere is an aroma that I can recognize instantly, with no effort, no delay, and no uncertainty whatsoever.
Arome De Huey.
This, I understand, is another way in which Having A Horse Is Like Having A Kid. I never understood that whole “put your nose on the baby’s belly and inhale until you grow faint and fall to the ground” thing. I accept it, I just don’t understand it. I do not like the smell of babies. To me, they smell like urine, baby powder, desitin, and soggy saltines. Ugh. Huey, on the other hand, smells like Heaven. He’s all sort of dusty, and spicy, and leathery, and sweet. It’s just as well I’m allergic to something in that mix, because otherwise, I’d put my nose on his side and inhale until I grow faint and fall to the ground. The ground under Huey tends to be a bit nastier than the ground under the average baby.
So. After 30 minutes of the Blankie sitting out in the basement, the entire basement smells like Huey. After being washed and dried the Blankie still smells like Huey. As do, at this point, the washer and the dryer. I understand, now, why horse blankets are Banned from the laundromats. You can’t get the smell out.
And, hell, why would you want to? What could smell better than a horse?
I am going to have to just keep saying this over and over again, because the Lord Of The Laundry has a vastly more sensitive sniffer than I do, and thus this aroma is unlikely to escape notice. At least it got the stains out and the encrustations off. Now I just need to wait until it’s dry, and then I’m Scotchguarding the living hell out of that blanket. In the (probably vain) hopes that it will stay clean, or at least, clean-ish, for more than a day or two.
I can’t say the same for Huey. In the five hours that elapsed between me leaving the stable this morning and returning for his blanket, he’d managed to find, or manufacture, more mud and to anoint himself thoroughly with the stuff. Oink. Oink.