You Know You`re Horse Mad When …

… you can have a half hour conversation with someone else on the yard about wheelbarrows.

Embarrassingly enough, this happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

It was a late Wednesday evening and upon finishing work I found that the local feed merchant had delivered my Christmas supply of feed that afternoon. Now they drop off all orders at the car park end of the stable block, so individuals have to find their order (sometimes easy, sometimes not so, depending on the number of orders delivered) and move it to their feed shed. Easily enough, my feed bags were the last there, so I went to the back of the stables where all the sheds and tools are kept, almost tripped over a brand spanking new wheelbarrow of a friends and decided I`d borrow it to shift my feed.

I was amazed at how easily it manoeuvred, even with the dead weight of pony nuts and alf-alfa. It was a large wheelbarrow, but the handles were bent which meant it was much easier to push.

Thus I was led to commenting on it`s ease of use when I passed it`s owner the following morning, and then we proceeded to discuss the pros and cons of various barrows.

To surmise, here are a few barrows available and why you should or should not use them.

 An excellent wheelbarrow for the one-stable owner. One or two trips to the muckheap and you don`t strain your back. Unfortunately, it`s small capacity means it`s a pain in the bum when mucking out a row of stables. Plus it`s quite easy to lose a bit en route to the muck heap.
 This wheelbarrow has a low centre of gravity, is very heavy duty, and drives like a barge. However, six stables mucked out and one trip to the muckheap … just make sure there`s a strong bloke to help you push it! Preferably tall and handsome too … It also helps to have a bit of height when emptying the wheelbarrow so you can comfortably get your fork into the barrow without impaling yourself or taking out your back teeth!
 Our favourite wheelbarrow at my old yard. We used to fight over who got to use it. Big enough for two stables, small enough to still push easily, nice deep sides mean you can`t stack it without risking spillage … the only down side is you can`t store it easily because the boat like prow means it falls over if stood up on it’s wheel.
Perhaps one of the worst designed wheelbarrows: it`s very shallow and you need three trips to the muckheap to muck out one stable. And that doesn`t include what you have to sweep up with spillage afterwards!
This is the wheelbarrow we were talking about! Notice the bent handles, so you end up pushing rather than lifting and pulling, meaning you can fill it to your hearts desire and not need the tall handsome bloke … unless it`s absolutely necessary of course 😉
At work we also have some similar to the last photo but with straight handles, which works OK, but you have to be careful loading it as it can get front-heavy and tip over: as seen below. There`s also a low bar between the two handles which, should you choose to drag the barrow behind you can result in heavy bruising to the back of the ankles. But apart from that they`re the better type of barrow to get!
So, you see, there is easily thirty minutes of conversation to be had just on the subject of wheelbarrows! Tomorrow morning I expect it will be the forks.

Tidy Muckheap Tidy Yard …

Yards are always proud of their muckheaps aren`t they? It`s the sign of a tidy yard apparently.

When I was younger “doing the muckheap” was an all day job, and God help you if you forgot to throw that dropping all the way up or sweep the dust against the muckheap wall. We did have rather a spectacular `heap though. It was in a shed, and began at the end of September. Dutifully we forked up everything and built a rectangular pile, with edges you could drop a plumb line down. Once this first layer got to about 8ft, and it was nigh on impossible to put any more up there, and we used a ladder to scramble up in order to level off the top and push back the muck, we were permitted to begin the second layer. And then the third. By about February there were three large layers, with the top one almost touching the roof, and only the smallest helpers could go up there and level it off. The rest of us would be on the other layers forking piles up. Usually a mother would be standing by the gate informing us where we had left lumps, or it wasn`t quite horizontal.
For some reason, I remember in a half term, we decided for some reason that the muckheap needed remodelling. So layer number two was split in half, and the majority of it forked upwards so that layer three reached the roof and we were bent double levelling it off. I think we were obsessed. But we were very fit and strong. And smelly, come to think of it.
Towards the end of March a local farmer, along with his muck spreader, would come and empty the contents of the shed. It would take him a day and a half, at least!

The next yard I went to had very small muckheaps, which required emptying once a fortnight. And there was a reluctance to do anything to them except dump wheelbarrows. Invariably leading to straw piles across the yard until whichever staff member was flavour of the month and had to “sort it out”. Towards the end of my time there a couple of us became quite accomplished at muckheap modelling; photographic evidence even reached Facebook! Our faces used to fall as the next livery owner pushed an overflowing barrow towards us …

Now we have muck trailers, which are actually very useful and get emptied weekly by the tractor. Barrows are wheeled up a ramp (easier said than done), round a corner and into the trailer. Livery owners are usually pretty good at keeping it forked back, right up to the top of the sides. I have seen it being emptied when it`s half full because everyone`s dumped their muck. Today, however, the trailers hadn`t been emptied for about ten days and there was a queue of wheelbarrows down the ramp. We couldn`t muck out because they were all full! The trouble was that the guy who usually takes the trailer away is off this week celebrating his birthday (I mean, how dare he?!) so we called in the reserves. Affectionately known as Bill and Ben, I asked the two middle aged odd-jobbers if they could assist. Willingly they went to get the tractor and proceeded to tow away the first trailer … along with the fence post …
Whilst they were gone we took advantage of the prolonged absence of the trailer to have a good sweep underneath it. Usually it returns in the time it takes to blink so we don`t have time to pick what has missed the trailer. Bill and Ben return, crashing into the gate, and then have a prolonged discussion about how to reverse the trailer back safely, without crashing into the new livery`s shed. They call for back up in the shape of a builder (who built the stables over a decade ago and is still here titivating them). He performs a twenty three point turn and manages to back the trailer in to it`s parking space. “Make sure it`s against the ramp” I say, supervising this manoeuvre whilst holding up my broom. They nod in agreement, unhitch the trailer and disappear off.

One of the grooms starts the mammoth task of emptying the wheelbarrows… only to find that there`s a four inch gap between the ramp and trailer! So we have to ring up the men to come and sort us out before someone puts a leg down it.

Honestly, it was a comedy act. But now the muckheap and yard are tidy!!