Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Equine Germaphobia

Truck owners lament that they get a lot of people asking for their help when moving. As a trainer and instructor, I get people asking to use my tack.

I'm an equine germaphobe. On my horse's behalf, I do not share saddle pads, girths, bridles, bits, buckets, brushes, or any other items of that nature with any other person in the barn. To me, these items are as personal as my underwear. Too often, these items are carelessly passed through the barn, causing transmission of disease and bacterial/fungal infections.

Sure, I've cleaned my fair share of stalls and enjoyed a delicious cookie without washing my hands, but I will never share something as intimate as my horse's girth with another rider. I often shrug and accept my dusty, dirty hands and face, but I use baby wipes to clean my horse's brown spots in between baths. I often disinfect Shorty's feeder, waterer, brushes, buckets, and bits with diluted Listerine.

That doesn't mean that I don't get throngs of people asking to use my stuff. The purpose of this blog entry is not to engage in a penile listing of all of my stuff, but to illustrate. For example, my Matha Josey barrel racing saddle is one of the best saddles for the sport, and I have a rare collector's edition model. Do people want to use it all the time? Yes. I have an Albion dressage saddle with leather so soft and cushiony I feel like I'm riding on a pillow. Do people want to sit in my delicious dressage saddle? Absolutely. Do they want to borrow my Supra Cor pad or try out my Tom Thumb bit? Do they marvel at Shorty's awesome new splint boots or ask to borrow my Back on Track wraps in lieu of using poultice? All the time!

Do I let them? I let a student of mine borrow my western saddle on the condition that she acquire (borrow) a different girth and pad. I'll never let someone use my dressage saddle on another horse because it is flocked specifically for Shorty and the seat is padded specifically for me and my balance issues (the right side has a tad more padding due to an irreversable issue in my hip that causes it to sink unless propped up). I don't, as a rule, share brushes, buckets, scrubbies, sponges, girths, saddle pads or similar items. I will allow someone lacking in first aid supplies (I have two huge trunks of first aid stuff for one horse!) to use a dab of novalssan or some guaze, particularly in emergency situations. One of my students used my bute, 2 grams a day, for ten days. The horse needed the bute, and she didn't have the money to purchase her own (which baffles me- 100 grams is $40!), and I ended up giving her the drugs.

A purchased a pony pad by mistake. Yes, A is the another RIDING INSTRUCTOR at the farm and should be able to pick up a pad and say, "This looks like a pony pad; I should get a bigger one." Nope. The pad didn't even completely fit under her saddle, so she asked me if I would lend her one of my "many saddle pads." Yes, I do have four English pads and two western ones. That way, if one gets sweaty or hairy (usually both), I can fold it up, stick it in my laundry basket, and take the basket home when the thing is full. I usually get one, maybe two, rides from a saddle pad before I decide it needs to be washed. Shorty's back is so sensitive that a dirty, hairy, itchy pad will do us no favors, so I'm somewhat anal in that regard. I routinely switch out polo wraps and splint boots for the same reason, as well as the fuzzy thingies on Shorty's cribbing collar.

I felt greedy for sticking to my usual germaphobia when A asked for a pad, but I did decline to lend her one. Her horse has rain rot because she doesn't brush the mud off of it routinely, and I don't care to expose my horse to it. I straight out told her, in no uncertain terms, was she allowed to use any of my horse's equipment for herself or her horse. I felt bad for turning her down, but there are plenty of extra pads in the school horse tack room that she could use, or she could simply go out and buy a larger pad. Even a cheap baby pad would work.

Yes, I am a germaphobe when it comes to Shorty's tack. I feel like an asshole for it, but I also feel I have to protect my horse's health in every way that I can. I want to help others, but I won't sacrifice the frgaile well being of my special guy. Am I a bad person? Probably. Were we taught in grade school to always share? Yes. I'd straight out open my wallet and fork over all of my cash to a needy person (and usually end up doing so when I see a collection can for Last Chance Corral), but I still can't bring myself to share my tack.

Is anyone else in my wonderful readership also an equine germaphobe? Speak up! I'd love to hear about your ideosyncracies and minor lunacies when it comes to your horse's health.


  1. With the economy where it is today is it very important to purchase something that you can count on and won’t let you down. The slightest equipment set back right now could be the difference between in business or the other. The machinery field always has its ups and downs and is always changing but progress will never stop in boom trucks. Even in a questionable economy there is always room for growth and expansion. The will and strength of the people is what makes us all able to move forward and accomplish great feats together and construction has always been the backbone of this country no matter the economic status.

  2. I'm pretty careful about lending my stuff too - and I'm a stickler about clean tack (particularly the bit and girth) and clean saddle pads. Our barn is very small, and there is only one lady who ever asks to borrow my stuff and she's even more of a stickler for cleanliness than I am!

  3. I completely understand you. If I had a horse of my own, I wouldn't be lending anything unless there was an emergency situation like you do. I took a Microbiology class which taught us about the little bacteria and how disease spreads etc. That made me a complete germophobic lol. I don't have a horse of my own so I have to use what I can on the horses and sadly they don't have their own tack/brushes/etc per horse. My main problem is that I'm a nice person and sometimes people take advantage of me for it. I've allowed people to barrow my things before (not always horse related) and half the time the person who barrowed it doesn't take care of it or I have to constantly asked for it back. Most of all, I don't like being dependent on others and I hate it when people start to depend on me unless they truly need help. I don't consider you mean, you're just being a smart horse owner who appreciates your horse and your belongings - I'll be the same way when I have my own horse someday.

  4. I keep all of my tack in a locker that is away from the main hitching post/grain room. It's convenient because the lazy people who borrow without asking don't want to walk that far and the conscientious people who would already have stuff and don't need to borrow. My objection to lending has less to do with germs and more to do with things not being returned or being returned in poor condition.

  5. Good lord totally. I can't believe that poor horse's butt. If a boarder's horse comes in here from turnout with some dust on it I am all but expected to bathe it promptly. As a result we have a barn full of the shiniest, slickest, cleanest horses I have ever seen. Where did this chick come from, Equine Grooming School Dropouts R' Us?

  6. Huh. I can honestly say that I've never thought twice about sharing bridles, saddle pads, brushes, buckets, etc. with other people's horses. I don't generally share saddles/girths, but only because everyone else has their own.

    If both the horses the sharing is between are healthy, such as if you're sharing a water bucket, what's the harm?

    I definitely understand you not wanting to share saddlepads between your horse, who you said is sensitive to dirty pads, and the other horse, who had rain rot, but what would be the problem with sharing between two horses with perfectly "healthy" backs?

    Just trying to understand the germaphobia! :)