For my non-equestrian readers, a horse stall is a horse’s home. It is comprised of four walls, a bucket for their water and wood shavings on the ground to absorb liquids and give comfort to an otherwise sparse and hard ground. Some stalls have a horse feeder for grain or hay as well.  It’s pretty basic, but does its job to house the horse in a safe environment. 

The horse will live in this stall and urinate and defecate on top of the shavings and the owner needs to sift thru the shavings with a manure rake, much like one would clean a cat’s litter box. The horse owner does this at least once per day to keep it clean and dry for the horse. Sounds like a simple task, but it actually is much more involved than that. 

Cleaning a horse’s stall is so much more than just removing manure and wet shavings and replacing it with dry. It’s more about the journey than the activity itself.  It actually becomes a pathway to good mental health if you let it. 

When one is cleaning a stall, the mind can wander.  The rhythmic movements of moving a rake back and forth can be very “Zen like.” It reminds me of the “Zen Garden” sand boxes that some people keep on their desk to relax and to focus on the moment.  There just is something innately comforting in making something new and clean again and again. 

Some of my biggest decisions in my life were made in stalls. My silent thoughts became well thought out plans and sometimes even heard out loud by the horses around me. 

As I cleaned stalls, I appreciated the serenity of quiet. Hearing nothing but the horse next to me and the rhythmic moving of the rake, I broke down problems and created solutions. The mindfulness of the “here and now” became obvious. The ability to process life’s problems, at a slower pace, is a true blessing of stall cleaning. 

Your mind can wander and relax. If you’ve had a bad day or experience you can even cry without judgment 

Cleaning a stall gives a sense of accomplishment. Just the mere task of making order out of disorder can help a person’s mind and emotions stabilize.  Good mental health is a priority, especially now during COVID-19, where we are searching for a new normal. 

The endorphin release caused by the physical activity of moving the manure, shavings and hay is better than a gym membership! In addition to helping your mental state, you can help your physical one by becoming more physically fit. Yes, it can be hard work, but the benefits of learning that you can move around a 1,200- lb. animal and care for something, other than yourself, is humbling and empowering. 

Stall cleaning can give you so much more than what it first appears to be. The best of these are peace of mind and soul. So, why not volunteer today to help clean some stalls at a local stable, for your own good mental health? Happy Trails.

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