California Riding Magazine • March, 2008

Horsey Humor
The Machiavelli of Mucking

by Bob Goddard

When our daughters were young, Jenny and I would drive them to the boarding barn and help with the chores. We didn’t mind helping. It was either that or watch the girls ride their horses in endless circles. We always liked to look busy.

Jenny’s favorite barn job was mucking. She claimed it was relaxing. By day, Jenny was a hopelessly insane accountant and I guess this is the sort of thing hopelessly insane accountants do for fun.

I think it may have been the simplicity of the task that attracted Jenny to mucking. All you have to do is look at how a muck rake is designed and then look at the piles of round things in the stall. It’s pretty obvious what you’re supposed to do.

I always made it a point to argue with Jenny over who got to muck stalls. The barn had one good muckrake and I knew if I got to it first, a tug-of-war would result. I made sure I had the handle. I figured if I put up a spirited fight and then suddenly submitted, I could go off and do what I wanted. You know, because I was the one making the sacrifice. This is how I got to be known as the Machiavelli of Mucking; and some other names as well.

My favorite job was emptying the wheelbarrow. I had a way of turning this otherwise mundane task into an action-packed spectacle. I did this by pushing the wheelbarrow up the manure pile on a pair of two by fours and then letting it go airborne over the top like a dirt bike on a motocross course. Most of the time it just sort of tipped over on its side. But if the pile was steep enough, I got to see a little end over end action. There was no TV in the barn.

This was hard on the wheelbarrow and it often needed repair. That was okay with me because it gave me something else productive to do. It also gave me an opportunity to complain to Jenny about cheap Chinese imports, even though the wheelbarrow was made in Florida.

It was best for the horses that Jenny did the mucking. Her standards for that sort of thing are much higher than mine. It’s not that I have difficulty establishing standards. I just have trouble keeping them. I generally shift my standards according to the situation and the amount of money on hand.

Whenever I cleaned a stall my goal was to make it less messy than when I found it. You know, make an improvement. Jenny’s goal was to make it clean.

“Bob, Bruiser’s stall is like his living room, bedroom and bathroom all rolled into one. So mucking is like vacuuming, making the bed and cleaning the toilet. That’s why you’re no good at it – you lack experience.”

“You’re talking about a horse’s stall, Jenny. It’s not like he’s human.”

“Sure, Bruiser is ‘just’ a horse, but stalls aren’t about horses. Stalls are about us. Horses really don’t like being put in small wooden rooms with bars on the windows. We put them there because it’s convenient for us. The least we can do is to keep it clean for them.”

On occasion, even hopelessly insane accountants can make sense.