Photo Challenge & Poem: Sanity & Sanitary

Fingers in the worn glove curve to meet
the shape of the wooden handle in my palm.
Muck boots shuffle, pulling the cart while
a group of resting horses follow me with
soft eyes. Not an intruder or visitor, as
ordinary as a barn cat. I work the gate,

announcing myself, "Housekeeping." Come
to clean, check legs, make things right.
Cool my thoughts. A gelding may wander
over to share a breath but more likely,
to contribute to the wealth of spent-hay
piled on the ground. I rake the droppings,

leaving tine marks in the soil, topping it
with bits of my own emotion. My fork slides
under the pile, lobs it the distance. The
horses continue napping, nibbling hay
remnants, swishing flies. More tine marks
collecting manure, doubt, and fresh grudges

ready to become fertilizer. Another fork
load tossed in an arc through the air, so
grains of dirt can separate, before it 
lands, mostly in the cart. No urgency, just
a rhythm to slow my own beating. Compost
the hurt evenly. Using the fork to arrange

thoughts between parallel tine marks,
fresh inspiration rises from night soil.
Tugging the load out the gate, looking
back with gratitude for the meditation of
tine trails and hoofprints and imperfect
lines in the sand of a dry-lot Zen garden.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning summer clinics in Scotland and the UK.
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49 thoughts on “Photo Challenge & Poem: Sanity & Sanitary

  1. Dianne

    You put my feelings into words perfectly. I love cleaning the run-in, letting the horses amble around me as I work. They calm me like nothing else can. Thank you for the right words.

  2. you’ve got it perfectly.

    My favorite line?


    though I’ve always thought of it as “Barnkeeping”, I like housekeeping better.

    1. Lynell Abbott

      We call it “Rrrooooom Service!” Got to roll that “r.” And for a fresh deposit whilst actively engaged with the wheel barrow, “Towel Boy!” a borrowed phrase from the Night Shift movie, starring Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton.

  3. Perfect poem about what taking care of horses means to me. The therapy, meditation, and satisfaction in the daily poop patrol is magical! Thank you for expressing it with so much clarity!

  4. Leslie

    I generally manage to clean up something everyday – just to get it away from the feed areas. Very therapeutic work – unless something hurts as Susan mentioned.

  5. Frances

    I love ‘fluffing’ up the horses duvets (straw) when I’ve mucked our their stalls and always call ‘room service!’ Glad I’m not alone in my love for the poop !! 😂

  6. Jean McCormick

    Who else could write such an engaging poem about mucking? Love “Housekeeping”.
    I never really thought about the steps involved and what they could mean to me. Every line is so visual.
    You made me smile. 🙂

  7. Patricia Spencer

    Happy New Year, Anna Love the entire piece, and especially “sand of a dry-lot Zen garden”. Indeed, despite “formal” sitting and walking meditation times, my favorites occur when I walk through the gate or the barn door!! Metta Patricia (Spencer)


  8. drpenny

    You are burning so bright Ms Anna, such an inspiration to all of us! And a sign of what this year holds for us. Can you feel it (doing the happy poop dance, you know the one, when your horse has quit passing, and then lays down a big pile and we take a deep breath, ha or was it the other way around) We are becoming the fireworks, DrP 

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    1. Thanks, Dr Penny. You crack me up, it might be that other way around. thanks for the kind words, writing is really interesting these days. It’s like horses; it goes better when I don’t try too hard. Best to you in the New Year.

  9. These are amazing, Anna. So glad you’ve added poetry to your blog posts. I don’t know that I’ll ever meet you but your insights have changed my horsey-outlook. For the better. Thanks–

    1. Thanks, Dawn. Your horse is probably telling you thanks, too. And thanks for liking the poems. I’m publishing a collection of them this year, tentative title: Horse Prayers, Poems from the Prairie.

  10. Sherry Walter

    You forgot the part where you almost impale your midsection on the handle when you hit a pile frozen to the ground! A solid ‘ooof’, that. No wonder people look at me strangely when I say taking care of my critters is a bright spot in my day – beats in-house work by a mile.

    1. We’ve had a dry fall and I haven’t broken any forks yet, or I’d remember the ‘ooof’! Thanks Sherry. (Housework is for saps. And my house backs me up on that.)

  11. Ellen A.

    Yes to everything everyone else said so well too!

    And we have “Housekeeping!” and “Room Service” too 🙂

    Love and best wishes for a Happy New Year to you Anna, and all of the blog followers who contribute as well.

      1. MaxieJane

        I saw him on the 30th. I’m pretty sure he’s 17+ hands! He is a sweet man … He seems to be starting to mature.

  12. Laurie

    Really! What is that causes our darling equines to let go of breakfast, right next to the cart after we’ve finished morning chores? Perhaps some deep seated stimulus response. Anna, I would like some poetry or pros on the challenges of chipping poopcicles off the barn floor in 2 degree weather. Can you tell I have my winter mood on?

    1. Heheh. Never thought I’d say this, but I envy you. We are dry and worried about next years hay. It’ll be more expensive when they poop on it, I fear.

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