Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A series for barn girls: What'd ya think?

Let's talk about the real work that goes on at barns. I do horse care (mucking, feeding, turnout, etc.) on Sundays, and that's plenty for me. I tip my hat to the folks who do it all, from mucking to managing to mowing, every day. I'm thinking of starting a little series on barn girls -- including "mature" barn girls such as myself -- and barn work. Here goes...

Observation #1: Grass is not your friend
The season of grass is on the wane. Horses love it, but I won't miss it all that much. The beauty of early morning dew-covered grass loses some of it's allure when you start working at a barn. Why, you ask?

Go turn all the horses out in those dew-filled pastures, and you'll see.

Welcome to the world of wetness -- wet slacks, wet socks, wet shoes, and guess what? Your next task is standing in shavings, mucking stalls. Your shoes, and the bottoms of your jeans will look like they've been breaded.

Solution: Nancy Sinatra has some boots that are made for walkin' -- but comfy boots you can do a LOT of walking in are hard to find and not that cheap--when you get some, do you want to wear them for barn work? I bring extra sneaks and socks, and wear breeches as they collect less moisture and dry fast. Why not shorts? Ticks and hay handling, that's why.

An update: Invest in boots for barn work! Sunday I got whacked in the leg by a young horse who spooked at some cyclists. Her hoof caught my sneaker clad left foot at the ankle bone. I managed to hobble through chores, but spent the night on the couch. Monday morning I didn't see how I'd make it to work much less do my job. In desperation I dunked my foot in a bucket of ice water and took some Aleve. That combination worked a miracle. I made it to work! But ankle-height boots would probably have protected me better.


  1. Keeping your feet dry with some good rubber shoes is easy, but those wet pant legs......and then covered with soiled shavings, hay...

    The image of horses on TV needs a workover....girl in spotless white dress galloping in the surf on equally white horse....never a drip of sweat, horse slobber,'s all fantasy.

  2. We keep our horses at home, so I have a whole series of footwear that gets used regularly.

    1) I wear a pair of Dansko sport clogs in spring, summer and fall for quick trips to the barn for things like late night last tuck-in checks or feeding the cats or shutting the chickens into their coop.

    2) I wear a pair of paddock boots when grooming or riding in spring, summer and fall. They get wet easily, so I try to stay out of the longer grass whenever possible. Luckily my horse comes when I call or whistle. (I'm very spoiled, I know.)

    3) I wear a pair of Muck Boots for all heavy-duty barn work such as stall mucking or walking fence lines or repairs. They protect my feet from almost everything including wayward horse hooves stomping on my feet. They're hot, annoying and clunky, but they're my footwear of choice for heavy chores, even in winter.

    4) I wear a pair of winter riding boots when riding in deep fall, winter or early spring. My feet sweat a lot, so I have trouble keeping them warm. I use a lot of foot-warmers as the temperature drops. And I practically have stock in SmartWool socks.

    Wet grass has landed me on my butt more than once. It's slippery!

    More than anything, though, I hate having to keep things mowed and weed whacked. It's a constant process throughout the growing season, and it's very necessary if you don't want snakes and rodents and an unsightly farm. I've burned out my fair share of grass cutting machines...

  3. Hunter Wellies are comfortable and last for ever. Expensive, but worth it.

  4. When I helped a friend at a barn years ago, I always wore some kind of boot. It doesn't take long for an accident to occur. Then there are the horses that like to prance or lean on you as they're going to the paddock. It's a tough chore to lead raucous horses to a paddock when the owners don't want chains over their darling's nose.

  5. Wellies - I use Hunter's most often - in the summer, spring and fall - and Mudruckers insulated boots in the winter - warm, dry feet all around. Not much foot protection from the big horse feet, but I rarely get stepped on. When it's dry, I wear my Ariat paddock boots for a little extra toe protection.

    Like the idea of a "barn girls" series!

  6. Y'all are so civilized and everything, I often feel like the country cousin from the boondocks...however, if there's one thing that we Swamplanders know about, it's keeping feet dry (and warm).

    Explore here, if you will:

    Truly, the $13 rubber boots at the farm supply store will do the trick....they are ugly, but your feet will stay dry. With daily use in acidic conditions (thick mud, deep manure, etc) the cheap boots last about a year before they crack and leak. Tuck your jeans/breeches in to keep dry and cleanish. Buy them a half-size bigger to combine with thick wool socks for winter. If you have a horse who walks on you, these boots aren't much protection. I wish they were cuter.

  7. My rubber boots stay by the front door and are my best friends. I am religious about putting them on when going outside, even when it's 100 degrees. In summer, I keep a pair of socks drapped on top to wear.

  8. You don't like muck boots? I couldn't do barn work without mine, especially in mud season.

  9. I am lucky in that my barn is adjacent to my house, so going in and changing is not a problem. I am even luckier that hubby keeps the pathway to the paddocks mowed close, and I turn them out at the gate, since they have individual paddocks. But I hear you about the wet lower extremities, and I take great pains to avoid it at all costs, because I HATE wet feet (especially in socks)! I wear paddock boots most of the time around the horses, sneakers only when doing the night check, hay and stall-pick. If you don't like the paddock boots for walking (Ariats are really comfy) then I guess muckers are a good choice, as mentioned above, when they have ankle support.

  10. I invested in muckboots (ankle high) at the end of last winter. And I love them... and use them for walking the dogs when its nasty and rainy out as well as barn work.

    Oh, and next in the series should be how to go from barn chores to a public place without looking like you rolled in manure. One of my favorites for this transformation? Any brand of those face wipes or make up revover cloths (Olay, Biore, even Target brand!). I keep a pack in the glovebox of the car.

  11. I bought rubber boots at walmart last winter. They're ugly brown men's boots that probably cost $15 and I LOVE them. It's comforting to know I can wade through anything and not get my socks wet or muddy or anything.

  12. I have a pair of ariat tall boots for winter (cracked now with age), but they are exhausting to walk in when you have to walk a lot. Turning out and bringing in 24 horse is easier in my tennies, but then my ankles are exposed.

    I'm just not a fan of wearing boots in summer.

  13. I used to wear gum bottoms back in the day but now Mudruckers are pretty much my barn shoes. They are good for the soft sands with no mud but I wouldn't swear by them if you live around clay that gets like bread dough with too much water! They would not ruck the mud to well, I fear. LOL!

  14. Muck Brand boots--the birthday gift that keeps on giving! But I have to differ on your title, Stacy. Grass is my friend--it's free!! And I don't have to throw it into my loft! ;)

  15. I don't miss the days of wet grass AT ALL! I used to have an old pair of sneakers I'd use to muck - after a few days of being wet then dirty, those bad boys would REEK! Then they would get all hard and stiff when they dried...nope, don't miss that at all!


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