No poop, no horse! We've all heard this at some point in our lives with our four-hooved friends and it's quite true, I can assure you. Many people (myself included) who gag at the thought of changing a dirty diaper or hold your breath and shudder each time you stoop to pick up doggie-doodle don't think twice about slinging horse poo. In fact, we enjoy it...I know I do. Who needs a gym membership? Just give me a manure fork and 20 stalls to clean and I will show you one buff chica!
Many horse professionals "break-in" to the horse business slinging poo. Spending hours bent over a fork (one with a full set of tines if you're lucky), cleaning up after our favorite friends is considered a blessing -- "They're actually paying me to hang out with horses! I am so lucky!"
I spent many years "paying dues" in the horse business, cleaning stalls for the opportunity to work with horses and develop my skills. In the late 1990s I was working two jobs, seven days a week to make ends meet and support my horse habit. Part of my job was (of course) mucking stalls.
On a particulary hot day in early summer I was working away in a stall, sweat rolling off of me from every pore (not that you asked, but yes, it is possible to soak your underwear with sweat). It could have been the long hours, the serious sleep deprivation or the extreme heat...I wasn't sure but one thing I was quite certain of is that one of the pieces of manure had lept from the pile I was working on and landed near the door. I stared in disbelief at the little brown turd trying to decide if I was finally losing my mind. I leaned the fork against the stall wall and wiped my face with my shirt. Just as I was turning back to the fork I caught that turd out of the corner of my eye...it moved again!
Now I was positively disturbed. Seriously, jumping poo? I squatted down closer to the magical turd, trying to get a better look in the dim light of the stall. I moved my finger toward it and then, suddenly realizing I was about to touch poo with my bare hand I opted for a nearby piece of hay. I slowly moved the long hay stem toward the poo. Just as I was about to make contact the turd lept again, and again! Right out of the stall and into the barn aisle!
I staggered backward in suprise but then quickly followed the jumping poo. I stepped from the stall into the barn aisle. In the brighter light of the aisle I could see the poo was in fact a turd-colored toad which apparantly enjoyed the warmth and moisture of a somewhat fresh pile of manure. "Ha! I knew it! I'm not crazy at all" I said to the turd-colored toad as it hoped down the aisle.
I took a swig of cold water and returned to the stall. I looked at the various poo piles, daring them to move, gently prodding them with my fork. They stayed completely still; as all well-behaved manure piles do. I took another drink of water and returned to my work, quite relieved knowing no one had been there to hear me conversing with the "magic poo."
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Cheryl L. Eriksen, MSW, Equine Enthusiast, EAGALA groupie and writer of interesting, educational and entertaining blog posts!