How can a small barn helper make horse chores easier?

Question: Hello April, I’m a horse girl and I always love being at the barn. I am working at my barn doing everything from helping the kids, dealing with the horses and doing all those fun barn chores :) I am hoping you could give me a few tips on the areas I would like to improve on.

I am 14 and I have been riding for about 5 yrs now. I have been told I have a riders body, which does make me proud, but I don’t have what you might call farmers muscles. I am very slim and about 5’3, so when I have to bring in the stronger more difficult horses or do hard barn chores, it can get a little difficult for my little arms.

I usually hay the horses, so I have to pull off the flakes and get them into the wheelbarrows. My huge problem is trying to rip the hay if the horses on need a half flake. I try folding the hay this way and that and putting all my weight on it but I still end up getting more hay on the floor and myself than in the stall. Do you know any techniques of tearing the hay or anything that might help ?

Also do you have any tips on keeping control over the larger more spirited horses? I am usually pretty confident while bringing in, but if I have the big ones and they are being difficult or they don’t want to stop, I’m pretty sure they will drag me with them.

Thank you for your time! I hope I can have less days of hay problems! :)

Answer from April Reeves: While you may not feel like this right now, the toughest girls are your size. It’s just a matter of time and more hay lifting and you’ll be the fittest, strongest girl in your area! The other really great thing about being strong when you’re young – muscle has memory, and when you get older you can get it back fairly quickly. Once you have it you don’t lose it.

As for splitting hay, I have the same problem and it’s annoying as I hate wasting feed. I don’t have an answer for you, but it makes me think we should put our heads together and create something we can patent and sell. I’m always thankful when I get a bale that splits naturally, but it’s rare. You might try splitting the flakes in the wheelbarrow, that way you keep most of it off the floor. I always gather the loose hay every day and pass it on to one of the horses. Feeding can be such a chore! But you also get to be every horse’s best friend!

As far as bringing in horses, this is always a problem if they are not yours. I always ask the owners if I can handle them the way I need to if they are pushy or dangerous. One trick I use to keep a horse back is to lead them in with a longer lead line, and take a good length of it in your left hand, and twirl it in front of their nose in a circle as you walk. If they run into it, they will only do it a few times or get hit in the face. Don’t’ try to hit the horse, but don’t’ move out of the way either. Let the horse move into the rope; this way the horse takes responsibility for the lesson and teaches himself to stay back. Soon all you have to do is flip the rope end around and they will slow down, without you pulling or getting hurt. The first time you try it, if the horse runs into it and bolts back, allow the horse to go back, staying put where you are. Ask him to come back up beside you and start walking again. If he gets in front too far, bring the rope up again. It’s important that you let the horse bolt back as he needs to. The lesson was to move back, and if you get in the way or micro-manage it you will lose the lesson.

I’m going to give you links to a few articles from my blog that will help you. The blog is full of information, all free, and some of it is a long read, but worth the time.

Groundwork and saddle work: this article has good general techniques for handling rough horses:

Moving a horse’s shoulder: this article has good detail about how horses react to your body language:

Hope this helps!

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