Sheath cleaning — and 9 other less pleasant jobs horse owners have to do


  • There are lots of things about owning and riding horses which bring great joy. Unfortunately, there are others more likely to come under the heading of “necessary evils”. Here are H&H’s top 10 least favourite horse jobs…

    1. Sheath cleaning

    There are lots of reasons some of us prefer geldings to mares, but cleaning their sheath is really not one of them. There’s only one way of dealing with smegma (even the word induces a grimace): rubber gloves on and warm water at the ready. A hard hat and a healthy dose of caution may be advised — your horse may dislike having it done as much as you dislike doing it! If you really don’t fancy it, you could call the Bean Queen instead!

    2. Poo picking, particularly in the pouring rain

    Everyone knows that poo picking is important; it prevents sour patches in your grazing and helps control internal parasites in your horse. However, until some kind soul develops a fool-proof way of training horses to use a “poo corner”, what gets dropped must be picked up again — even if it rains, Biblical-style, for 40 days and 40 nights. Cagoules might not be cool, but they’re essential kit for this job.

    3. Dealing with filthy, wet rugs

    One of the very best things about the change in seasons must be saying goodbye to filth-caked, sodden turnout rugs. Who needs the gym when you’ve dragged off a rug weighing twice what it did that morning, before wrestling it onto an overhead rail in a vain attempt to dry it overnight?

    4. Filling haynets

    Ah, they look so innocent, those little mesh creations. Odd, then, that they somehow develop a life of their own when you’re trying to pack hay in — twisting up and cleverly hiding the drawstring beneath a tangled mass of hay. Internet forums are full of advice on ways to make this job quicker and easier, but filling haynets remains on “I’d rather not” list for many.

    5. Mucking out

    Perhaps the ultimate necessary evil of horse ownership, mucking out is an obvious contender when it comes to least favourite jobs. Whether it’s mucky mares, box-walkers who stir things into an unholy poo porridge or bed trashers who wreck banks with reckless abandon, mucking out can be trusted to leave you smelling like you slept on the muck heap.

    6. Sweeping up woes

    While we’re on the subject of mucking out, sweeping up is another chore which rates low on the enjoyment scale (even if you love the look of immaculately-swept concrete). Bad enough pushing a broom, but when a gale is blowing and bedding takes on a life of its own, sweeping up is no fun at all.

    7. Tack cleaning

    This one is a bit of a Marmite job — while some take real pride in keeping their leatherwork gleaming and supple, for others tack cleaning is only rendered bearable by copious cups of coffee (other beverages are available…) and one eye on the TV. Just don’t forget to cover the kitchen table in newspaper to avoid complaints about saddle soap patches from non-horsey members of the family.

    8. Treating thrush

    If there’s one thing you really don’t want to get on your hands, it’s the pungent and long-lasting stink of thrush from your horse’s hooves. Once the farrier has pared back the horn to healthy tissue, it’s down to you to treat the problem — which can mean iodine washes and hands that look like you smoke at least 40 a day.

    9. Lifting stinking rubber mats

    If your hands hadn’t already suffered enough dealing with most of the above, pulling out stinking rubber mats will render them beyond the help of all but the most skilled manicurist. Heavy and unwieldy, rubber mats are the devil’s work in bedding form — the only upside is you usually need two of you to drag them out, so at least you’re not the only one who’s going to smell like a blocked drain! We recommend donning a pair of waterproof gloves.

    10. Doing studs

    We all have the best of intentions when it comes to stud holes, popping in those neat little foam plugs the moment the farrier has finished. Which is why it is all the more mysterious that, once at the show and dealing with a horse hopping about with excitement, the stud holes appear to have filled themselves with a concrete-like material that no amount of digging will shift. Anyone have a small screwdriver to hand?

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