The 12 Gates of Christmas

Gates: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em…

I’m sure there are well-maintained and constantly-manicured equestrian facilities complete with hinge-tightened never-bent always-chained gates offering access to picture-perfect pastures. But for the rest of us who actually live in the real world, gates are one of those things that we take for granted — until they fall off their hinges, get run into by the tractor or slip out of our hands on a rainy day when we’re trying to keep the other horses back… you get my point. For all of my fellow horse people who just want a nice, well-working gate for Christmas, this one’s for you.

ANNUAL DISCLAIMER: these photos were taken around the beef cattle operation where my horses also live; the horses live in an equine-friendly pasture. The horses do not live in barbed wire fencing, but I thank all of the readers who annually express their concern!

All photos by Kristen Kovatch.

1. The Simple Gate: one chain, one block to rest the hinges, easy access. If only they were all like this.


2. The Of-Course-There’s-a-Giant-Puddle-Here Gate: have fun convincing your horse to walk through this, especially if you’re trying to hold the gate in one hand, lead the horse with the other and somehow be expected to keep all of the other horses from following you through.


3. The I-Hope-No-One-Turned-On-the-Electric-While-I-Was-Out-Riding Gate: every farm has one — whether it’s a crossed wire, a dangling chain or just a weird practical joke from your farm help, touch this one while the electric fence is still on and you’ll be in for a lovely surprise.


4. The Lazy Gate: I have no idea why this gate is called a “lazy gate” other than maybe someone was too lazy to install a real gate. Inevitably, no matter how many times I go through this thing, my horse will always be terrified of the loose wires the minute I try to take it down to go through.


5. The Bane of My Existence Gate: seriously, I hate this thing. Sure, it looks innocuous enough, maybe even pretty there at the top of the hill framed between the brush and the trees. But it’s ancient, sagging and positioned terribly into a slope that means you need to use all of your strength to drag the thing open and closed.


6. The Cattle-DIY’ed-Their-Own-Gate Non-Gate: okay, this isn’t actually a gate, but an access point that cattle (and potentially really wily horses) created into a totally-otherwise-inaccessible section on the farm. Meaning that to get the cattle back out, someone needs to schlep in there on foot and encourage the cattle to go back through a fence… defeating the purpose of fencing in the first place.


7. The A-Draft-Horse-Tried-To-Jump-This Gate: no further explanation needed.


8. The Just-Kidding-I’m-Not-Really-a-Gate-Anymore Gate: it looks like a gate, sounds like a gate, looks like it should provide access into the field behind like a gate…but wait! That’s fencing wire stretched across it. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go the long way around. (Don’t worry–this death-trap-of-a-gate is in a hay field, not a livestock field!)


9. The For-the-Love-of-God-Never-Leave-This-Gate-Open Gate: because those cows there on the other side will be all over the county by the time you remember you left it open.


10. The Worst Gate in the History of Gates: “Well, we don’t have a gate wide enough for this opening…let’s just chain two narrower gates together.” REALLY IS THIS THE BEST WE COULD DO? (To be fair, we don’t use this gate very often…but when we do, boy golly is it a pain in the rear.) [Editor’s note, 2016: since the original publication of this article in 2014, I’m pleased to say that these panels have been replaced by a REAL GATE!]


11. The I-Wish-There-Was-a-Gate-Here: see that little trail through the fence? I like to ride down that trail at the end of my ride, cross the creek, and then ideally meander back to the barn…oh but wait, there’s no gate here, so I actually need to ride another half mile, cross the creek two more times, and then go through another lazy gate (see #4.)


12. The Perfect Gate: it’s never been hit by a tractor. Its hinges are tightened. It’s chained neatly. It’s even posted. How long will this pristine example of gate-ness remain so pure? Well, it’s a working farm, so probably another week or so…


Go riding!

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