On the Farm: Old MacDonald had a… nervous breakdown

Because running a horse farm isn’t hard enough, Rachael Walker also manages a menagerie of hogs, chickens, goats, dogs, cats and other assorted critters. If you think your to-do is is long…

From Rachael:

Up here in the near-Canada states, we are in the throes of spring. Warm, sunny, green-grass-and-budding-trees, lovely, BUSY spring. When mother nature gives you such a drastic change in seasons, you adapt your lifestyle accordingly. It would be ridiculous to dig post holes for fencing in the middle of winter (although I know people who have done just this), so these kinds of projects hang about during the winter until the weather warms up and the ground thaws.

I will admit, I always have a feeling of relief in late autumn when the ground freezes and the snow falls and I think, ‘Thank GOD I don’t have to do (insert project here) until spring.’ Life gets so hectic in the spring and summer that the beginning of winter seems like a welcome break. And, like any good northerner, I am also overjoyed when spring makes its arrival and I do silly things like run five miles down the road (oh shin splints, how I tape thee) or roll around in the grass with my dogs.

Until reality hits. The omibus arrived a week or two ago, and my weekends from now until October are fully booked. Between grooming, braiding, eventing, taking students to shows, taking
client horses to shows, attending clinics as a rider or auditor, and getting the horses out to school on different cross country courses, there are no free weekends. Add to that riding my two eventers enough to keep them fit and doing fantastic respectable dressage, teaching lessons, coaching, and working with this little project horse I just took on for the Trainer’s Challenge through a local rescue, and the week days are starting to look a little jammed as well.

But WAIT! I’m pretty sure somebody is running a boarding stable around here, and it might be me (and my wonderful husband, too!). The fencing looks a little peaked after winter, the grass needs mowing, pastures and paddocks need cleaning, and all the rotational fences have to be put back into place. The water troughs already need scrubbing, the arena has to be dragged, and we both keep putting off siding the last lean-to.

We also run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), producing our own grass-raised pork, chicken, lamb, and eggs from free-range chickens. So the ewes need shearing before they start lambing in a week or two, lambing pens need to be put back in place, the baby chicks arrived yesterday and there are eggs all over the place needing to be collected. Add in more fencing duties, pen cleaning, tank scrubbing, and potential bottle feeding. Good thing we have no children – I’m afraid they would either get lost in the fray or put in some animal pen on purpose accidentally.

But, even with all the running around and the last-minute incidents that rearrange my day, I would never trade this life for an office job. I am very much like my father, in that I thrive on variety and love nothing more than to be able to do ten different projects in a day, working with my hands and creating something tangible and real at the end. My true friends realize why my house leans (quite sharply) towards the chaos end of the scale, and occasionally there is some creature inhabiting my bathroom / kitchen sink / entry way in a cardboard box. They understand what an emergency vet call means, and when I say I’ve been fencing they don’t think of white suits and funny strainer facemasks.

The ‘office window’ I get to look out every day encompasses everything; from the sky to the grass to the trees and dirt and birds and field mice, I’m in the middle of it all, day in and day out. It’s wonderful. I may be driven like a mad bee sometimes, but the grass and the sun is always there when I need to lay down for a minute and enjoy the day… until a dog or a goat climbs in my lap.

About Rachel:

My name is Rachael Walker, and I am an eventer in the frozen northern land of Wisconsin. I have been riding since I was a small child, and bought my first horse in my early teens. I fell in love with english riding early, despite belonging to a 4-H club that was big on western gaming. After high school I went on to attain a college degree in Equine Science and a minor in Creative Writing. My husband and I now own and operate a boarding and lesson stable, where I teach dressage and jumping to people and horses alike. My husband is a farrier. We do our farm work with two teams of Belgian mares, and no longer even own a tractor (no, we are not Amish–I do love my running water and electric lights!).

I compete in Novice level eventing at the moment with my older horse, but have a lovely youngster (she is 5 this year) who I am very excited to bring along through the levels. Both of my competition horses are rescues, as are a few of my lesson horses. Between training, teaching, competing, and tagging along on farrier escapades with the hubby, I see many sides of this crazy equine world in which we exist. To keep it interesting, we also raise sheep, chickens and hogs, have a small herd of laying hens and their male escort roosters (trust me, this thing is not a flock of chickens, it is a herd), the requisite small army of barn cats, two useless but very cute goats, and a pair of Corgis who are convinced they run the show.

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