"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Stable’s Place in History

Before the automobile displaced horses for anything but pleasure, people depended on these noble creatures for both work and transportation. Their lives, and their livelihoods literally depended on the horse, so a wise man, or woman, took extremely good care of these precious animals. Horses that were used daily were kept in barns, or stables so they could be well fed and groomed daily. These structures could be simple or very elaborate, depending on the wealth of the owner. The main criteria was that they were functional, well ventilated, and afforded protection from the elements.

Buildings materials could be everything from rough lumber to buildings made of brick and mortar and decorated with paneled ceilings and fancy lamps. Most owners agreed that the best floors were clay or lumber. Concrete or asphalt was not chosen because it was too hard on the horses’ legs and feet. Straw or sawdust was used on the floors to absorb the urine and manure, then easily shoveled or forked out daily into wheelbarrows to be hauled away.

A lot of work went into taking care of the horses, so oftentimes men were hired specifically for the job. Sometimes a crew was needed to do the feeding and watering, grooming, as well as to keep the stables cleaned out daily. Harnesses had to be cleaned, oiled, repaired, and organized. Sometimes each horse’s harness was placed on hooks next to the horse’s stall; other owners preferred to keep the tack in a separate room. Saddles almost always went into a separate room and were placed on saddle racks. Equipment such as shovels, pails, brooms, pitchforks, clippers, hoof picks, soap, brushes and currycombs had to be kept clean and organized.

Stalls were built according to the size of the horse. They were designed to fit either big draft horses or the lighter weight saddle horses. Each stall had a manger at its head for oats and hay. Individual stalls could have gates, if they were larger and the owner chose to turn their horse loose inside, but if there were many horses, the stalls were narrow, not gated, and the horses’ were tied inside the stall near the manger.

Well-bred, well-kept horses and stables were not only a source of pride, and a symbol of affluence, but they were also a reflection of the man himself. For if a man mistreated his horses, he not only lost a good animal to serve him, but he lost respect among his peers as well. 

8 comments:

Will Edwinson said...

Interesting post, Linda, and very informative. I didn't know my paternal Grandad all that well--he was quite old and was retired when I was born. What little I did know him, though, I gained the insight that he was a good horseman, and knew his horses, and knew, also, that they were a precious commodity that needed good care.

Farming had entered the tractor era when I was old enough to start work on the farm, so Dad didn't have but one team that he used in the hay field.

Dad's youngest brother was quite a horseman, though, and knew the value of treating horses right.

LadyMac said...

This post made me think of my grandfather. His family and another settled the Swan Valley where Palisades Lake is now. Years back, my grandfather was known for his horses. They were beautiful, well cared for, and his pride and joy. Back in those days, neighbors helped each other get their crops in each harvest time. One of Grandpa's neighbors didn't give his own horses good care and they spread disease to Grandpa's. Wiped all of them out. Very sad. I've met people and asked if they knew Leslie Jacobson and if they knew him, they always answered, "Now there was a horseman." I miss him.

Eunice Boeve said...

I love barns and horses, but have neither, just memories of by-gone days. Sound like Mrs. Methuselah, don't I? :-)(Wonder how long she lived.) My dad loved his horses. He always worked ranches and never walked any farther than his nearest horse. :-) When he moved to Montana he worked for the Forest Service, packing his own horses into lookouts, fires, trail crews, etc.
One of his horses named Red fell off a mountain trail and broke his leg. Dad had to shoot him. When he told about it, his anguish was such that, I then a very small child, thought Red was a man and Dad's very best friend.

Linda Sandifer said...

To Eunice, LadyMac, and Will: I enjoy hearing your experiences and stories about relatives. They add so much to the narrative.

Anonymous said...

After devouring The Black Stallion, I wanted a horse more than anything. I'd ask for one every year for Christmas, my birthday, any holiday that involved gifts. Being a city girl, I decided I could keep this marvelous beast in my backyard. It wasn't until years later after my children were raised that I realized my dream.
I loved Misty the moment I saw her. A great horse that I boarded a mile from my house and rode whenever I could find time. I loved cleaning her stall, brushing her, picking her hoofs, all that horsey stuff.
Here comes the bittersweet ending. My father-in-law died a month after I bought her and I soon was saddled with cleaning all 65 apartments.
So with a heavy heart I sold Misty to a family that could give her the time and attention she needed.
I still love horses. Glad to learn that a man's character was judged by how he treated his horse.
Sue Anne

Linda Sandifer said...

Sue Anne, I'm glad you got your horse, even though it wasn't for as long as you wanted. It sounds like a happy memory!

bazza said...

Horses are so romantic aren't they? I am always fascinated to learn facts such as that the verb 'to drive' pre-dates the motor car!
Are your books anything like those of E. Annie Proulx, one of my favourite authors.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Linda Sandifer said...

Bazza, I don't know if my books would be compared to Annie Proulx. I haven't read her work, although I have heard of it. Perhaps my historical fiction, or my contemporary, "The Last Rodeo."