A Horse of Course…

I think I’ve achieved what I wanted to when I approached the owner of Grandalia Bend Farms on Rigsby Lane to ask if I could help around her horse barn.

I’d always dreamed that one day a horse would whinny at me and come over  to be petted.  I wanted to be as comfortable around horses as I am around the dogs that walk with me along the lane.

The only experience I’d had with a horse was when I was 5 years old on a camping holiday in Italy with my parents.  I reached up my hand to stroke a horse harnessed to a taxi cart, he had his feed bag on and lifted his head up just as I touched him with my little 5 year old’s hand.  He caught the whole front of my body with the metal clasp on his harness scraping me badly and knocking me down.

It didn’t make me frightened; I was still in awe of them; but my parents weren’t horse people.

My only other experience with a horse was riding on a trail with the children once for a birthday party…pretty ho-hum.

When I finally decided that wishing, as I walked daily past my friend’s horse barn, that she would call out to me to come help her, wasn’t going to gain me access to her farm, I emailed her about mucking out stables.

“It’s on my bucket list to become comfortable around horses.”

“Perhaps it would be better if you come up once a week and brush or wash a few, that way you’d get to know them and not just clean out their empty stalls.”

As it turned out that was perfect and I became the first equine beautician on the lane.

Over the year I’ve expanded my services to some of the boarders.

I’m kept rather busy especially when the weather is warm and it’s been raining; horses love to roll; the muddier the patch the better…

Although they all know me now and whinny when I enter their paddock I can’t let my guard down.  They are large beasts and startle at the slightest thing. I have to stand back while they gather their wits about them.

I’ve achieved my goal though and have made about a dozen horsey friends.

Here are a few.

One of the owners buys racehorses, ‘fresh off the track’, to sell on.  These are young, about 2 years old, easily excited, very highly strung and fleet footed – if they get out!  Two have come in during the year and they’ve both looked very thin and delicate.  Once they get their chill on they turn out to be loving and adaptable.

This is Princess, 


Her legs and hooves are petite compared to the rest of her.

She didn’t stay long before going off to a trainer to learn how to do something else besides run hell for leather around a racecourse, like eventing, or trail riding, or maybe being turned out in a pretty meadow to add to the pastoral charm.

Deno, the other racehorse, has been at the farm a little longer.  He doesn’t like to be tethered to the cross ties in the barn,

“He’s not used to being inside,” his owner told me.

So I take my grooming kit out into his paddock and together we curry, brush and chat while he munches on his new favourite treats, carrots.


He is very slender and I can count his ribs so he gets as many carrots as he wants to put some meat on his bony frame.

Jay, a palomino, was a character.  At first I wasn’t assigned him to groom,

“He pulls back and is unpredictable,” his owner told me, “but he sure could do with a good bath and some attention.”

Eventually I persuaded her to let me bathe him, with her, and he was so good that she went off mid lather to finish mucking out.  Thus Jay became a regular client.

However, as I’ve recounted, one afternoon he did shy and pull back so hard he broke loose and thoroughly whipped up the whole farm with his shenanigans.

Jay was a mixer, arguing with his neighbours, kicking and denting his pole fences and somehow by-passing the electric cable to assert himself as top-horse.

But I liked this ornery Pig-Pen who enjoyed rolling in the mud until he was unrecognisable!

I certainly had my work cut out with him!


Eventually he transferred to another State to work at a riding stable where he is much happier.

As my friend remarked,

“When he’s saddled under a human he behaves…”

Then there’s Skittles, a pony who was brought on-board to give riding lessons to children.  But Covid thwarted that plan so he just hangs out, responds to Skits, and is the star of the stable because of his good natured and steady temperament.  .

He makes a welcome noise whenever he sees me; I’m the keeper of the treats and  I try to have one in my pocket as I pass him whether I’m going to work on him or not.

Here he is in repose patiently waiting his turn at the shower and grabbing some Zzzz’s in the meantime.


“They think the ground is warmer,” explained my friend.

I suppose that makes sense in the summer, but on this particular March day although it was sunny I don’t think the ground was warmer!

Charm was a little intimidating the first time I groomed him.  He can’t stand still and grapevines from one side of the passageway to the other.  At first I felt sure he just wanted to pin me up  against a wall.

I soon discovered the canny art of gently shoving these 1000lb+ beasts to move them back to where I want them and out of my way -this, I’ve learned, is a valuable skill.


Cash was the first horse I ever groomed.  It took me almost an hour because he had so much fur on him and I asked my friend,

“How long should it take to groom a horse?”

“About 20 minutes!”

It’s taken me a year to get up to speed, but when they’re muddy, or in need of a bath everything slows down.

Cash is the largest beast on the farm and probably the oldest one that I care for weekly.

He has Cushings Disease which is a metabolic condition that doesn’t allow him to shed so his coat gets thick and curly. It makes him look like Snuffleupagus, but the condition causes him to overheat in the summer so invariably his owner shaves him.

Cash spends his days in the field eating and dozing and is quite a fallollop when I go get him, sometimes I have to wake him up but he’s always in a good mood and walks sedately with me to the shower station.

On the way back though, refreshed and pampered, he trots proudly alongside me, head turning from side to side taking in the sights, I’m a little worried he may forget that I’m beside him and take off running but I keep him in check.  As I’ve said, it’s not safe to grow complacent on this job.

As soon as we get to his paddock and I un-harness him he runs off at top speed.

I video this show of energy to his owner who texts back,

“That’s the only time he does that.   Thank you soooo much!”

Last week he had been shaved so was much easier to groom.

No running this time, the noon feed had been put out and he just wanted to get his head in his bucket!


Remi is a paint who will run from me if he can.  I have to trick him into coming into his smaller enclosure by rattling his feed bucket.  He always forgets it’s a ploy for me to harness him and falls for it every time.

Once he’s safely harnessed he’s as good as gold…but his coat holds on to a field of mud!

Last time, after a few days of rain and lots of mud-rolling, it took nearly an hour to uncover  all his distinguishing white markings that set him apart from the others.


Tango is a new addition to the line up, he is 24 years old and looks forward to exercising with his owner, who comes as often as she can.

“He used to live in my front yard, ” she told me one day, “so I would ride him everyday.”

He responds to his name and I help out by grooming him once a week.  He’s a roller and doesn’t stay clean for long but at least I can work on his matted fur behind his ears and between his front legs.  Then he’s all ready to be saddled up when it’s a riding day.

Like all the other horses Tango loves his treats and asks for them by lifting a front hoof, turning his head coyly to one side and looking up at me with his big brown eyes.


He’s trained me well as I always succumb.

Carrots, apples, grapes, bananas and sweet potatoes are the healthy snacks I take with me!

Positive re-enforcement wins every time…

Do they whinny because they’re pleased to see me?

Or are they just after the treats?


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ElRay Mac

2021-04-12 17:43:27 Reply

Great Article & Photos!

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