BY PAMELA N. SAUL
I was doing night check, like I do every night, and noticed some cobwebs up in the aisle light and made a mental note that I needed to clean those. I felt bad that my barn doesn’t look like those magnificent barns seen in magazines. You know the ones, where there are chandeliers and gold inlay everywhere and not a single piece of hay is out of place. It made me feel like I was woefully negligent in my duties. What am I doing at night check that I could skip so I had time to clean cobwebs?
At night check, I water everyone. I know which horses, even though there are two buckets hanging in the stall, will only drink out of one bucket, no matter what. I know which horses dunk their hay in the water bucket. I check to make sure everyone has had water to drink and know which ones will wait until they get turned out tomorrow to drink in the paddock. I look into each bucket to make sure clean, fresh water is the only thing in there, no birds, no mice, no poop. I also make sure the bucket isn’t leaking water out of a crack or smooshed by the horse or has sharp edges that means I need to replace it.
I inspect every inch of each horse to make sure there are no injuries, no swollen eyes, no runny noses, no blown up tendons, and no missing or shifted shoes. I’ll check halters to make sure there are no rubs or a snap hasn’t sprung. They have a talent for getting in trouble in their stall!
I also make sure that dinner was eaten in full including any medications, and that no manure was deposited in the feed trough. I make sure that they are happily eating hay. I check each stall to make sure the correct hay, whether Orchard Grass, Timothy or Alfalfa, was fed at dinner since there are allergies. I scan the stall to make sure nobody has kicked out boards and that stall mats are properly placed. If it’s raining hard, I’ll check every stall to make sure there is no flooding.
While looking in the stall, I also check to see if anyone is pawing in the stall. If I see that, I’m immediately looking for signs of colic. Has the horse rolled, has he eaten, are his nostrils flared, is he looking at his sides, just to name a few things running through my mind. I’ll stay at the stall and watch for a few minutes. I’ll start the emergency procedures, if needed. I’ll do the same thing for signs of a choke, and I can tell the difference between the two. There are times, I’ve “heard” a horse make a sound, and knew it wasn’t right and sure enough, the onset of colic or choke, just by listening. And I do listen to everything because sometimes you hear something better than you see it. I know what it should sound like at night check… peaceful, quiet, and unhurried.
I make sure all stall doors are latched correctly and that everything is where it’s supposed to be. I haven’t ridden a horse in 20 years, but I’ve picked up more tack, brushes, hoof picks, whips, and other equipment left out by kids and adults alike, and I don’t mind. It tells me the barn is alive with activity during the day, and I’m in after all the lessons and baths and hugs are given. Just me and my ponies.
So what should I not do at night check? The cobwebs are still there and I’m just fine with it.