My second week of volunteering at the barn involved mucking and sweeping stalls, and more sweeping, and more sweeping! It’s pretty windy at the facility so the hay, shavings, leaves, grass and all kinds of assorted bits fly around all the time. It’s an ongoing chore to keep things looking nice, but it’s also a great workout. :-) Right now there’s a lot of horsehair flying around because all of the horses are shedding their winter coats and they all need grooming. I found out that horse hair is magnetic!
eWell, maybe not really, but I find that when I’m grooming, the hair seems to stick to my hands…my clothes…the brush…you get the idea. A vacuum is a great way to deal with the hair, though, and we vacuum the hair off the brushes and other grooming tools before putting them away. That way, the next person to pick up that brush doesn’t have to deal with hair right away. :-)
This week I was introduced to Nikki, Wrangler and Amigo (The Seniors), who all needed grooming. Nikki was really sweet and calm, but Amigo kept coming over and getting in between us and drooling on her. I found out later that Nikki is at the end of being in season, so Amigo was just showing her some love. Since I don’t have a lot of horse experience, I got out of the pen when Amigo and Wrangler got a bit fiesty for a few minutes.
I also started getting to know the donkeys. Nate and Francis are in a pen together and are BLM (Bureau of Land Management) auction donkeys so they haven’t had a lot of human interaction. I’ve mucked their stall a few times and I just go slow and let them see what I’m doing, then move slowly down to their end while they skirt past me to the end I just cleaned. That way I can clean the whole pen without startling them or upsetting them. I give them treats when I’m done to say thanks for letting me be in their pen. They are getting less shy about taking a treat from my hand. I also gave treats to the donkeys and mini-horses in the “mini pen.” Now they make noise when they see me coming!
On April 3rd we had a volunteer work day where all the volunteers come and do bigger projects. It was really nice to meet the others and we kept busy working on the stalls and painting rails. There are a lot of rails, and as soon as you finish all of them you start again at the beginning because it takes a long time to get one coat on everything. It’s kind of like the Golden Gate bridge - by the time they get to one end it’s time to start over at the other end. We use old motor oil to paint the rails, which is a great recycling plan. The oil soaks into the dry wood to keep it from aging too quickly and the smell of it keeps the horses from chewing on the fences (hopefully). It was a nice, sunny day and the staff cooked up a hot dog feast for lunch for the hardworking volunteers. :-)
The other fun thing I did this week was use the leaf blower to clean out the main isle of the barn. I never knew it was so much fun! It does take some skill, though, so that you don’t turn the blower the wrong way and blow everything back behind you. It took me a little while to get the hang of it, but what a great tool!
Laura Weise is a Wings volunteer who lives in Stevensville and will be bringing you stories of life at the barn.