Teach Me: Horse barn duties

Working with horses brings new meaning to muckraking for this reporter.


What do Leonardo Da Vinci, Juana Inés de la Cruz, Zhang Heng, Donald Glover, and Emma Watson all have in common? They’re polymaths — or renaissance men and women. Talented in fields across several disciplines such as astronomy, engineering, music, and literature. “Teach Me” is a Local series about one reporter’s quest for knowledge, skills, and truth on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.

The first time I rode a horse was in Spain during a college semester abroad. The journey across the Meseta Central taught me that horses are magnificent animals and that they require quite a bit of care.

Fast forward a few years and my admiration for horses and the people who ride them led me to my colleague Nicole Jackson, who works part-time at White Stone Equestrian in West Tisbury.

White Stone Equestrian was formed back in 2018 after several investors bought the Red Pony Farm property. The full-board equine training facility includes a 24-stall barn, outdoor rings, a cross-country course, large grassy fields and offers professional trainers and staff, along with riding lessons for beginners.

On a sunny Monday morning, I met Nicole out at the farm to learn what it takes to take care of a barn full of horses.

I arrived at a leisurely 9:45 am, but Nicole is usually at the farm around 7 am so she had the horses out in their paddocks before their full day of riding and lessons — akin to us humans drinking our morning coffee and catching up on the news before the day begins.

I was surprised — and have always been surprised — by the sheer size of horses. White Stone is home to several horses with affectionate names like Tiger Lily, Fargo, Popcorn, My Irish Mick, and Pepper to name a few. Before I headed to clean and prep the stalls, I walked outside to meet some of the horses. An important part of horse care is grooming. Horses love to be groomed not only to keep them clean, but also to create bonds between horses and their riders. This involves using a brush to remove excess hair and dirt from the horse’s body and a hoof pick to remove dirt, debris, and other items lodged in the horse’s hooves.

My job was to help out with the chores while the horses trotted around outside. We began by mucking out the soiled bedding in the horses’ stalls to give them a nice clean bedding of sawdust, which is a nice cushion for their hooves as they tend to sleep standing up. One of my tools was a rounded stall fork, which luckily for me was bright pink with custom pink-and-green duct tape around the handle courtesy of Nicole.

Next up was scrubbing out the feed and water buckets to later fill up with grain and water.

The most exciting part of my duties was to go to the barn loft and throw bales of hay and sawdust down to the ground. If you ever find yourself in that same position, make sure to yell “Bale!” before doing so to make sure any bystanders move out of the way.

After stocking more hay and spreading shavings in a stall my lesson was about finished, but horse care goes far beyond cleaning out stalls.

Aside from being such awesome creatures White Stone owner Missy Brigham told me that horses have personalities that fit their size.

“They’re big animals, but they’re sensitive,” she said.

Along with knowledgeable staff, White Stone offers horse boarding, lessons, and clinics. Check out a full list of their offerings at whitestonemv.com.