Gym? Pfft. Farm Life Is a Next-Level Workout

Who did THAT? Photo by Holly Covey.

They go to a gym. They work out. They run. I laugh.

Today, as I was deadweight lifting a 100-lb. track drag, and walking backwards 50 feet with it to get it out of the way of the mower, I wondered what those people who go to gyms think. I mean, why? Sure, I read all the latest research and white papers about exercise, and how barn work doesn’t relate to “real” physical activity supervised in the latest power gym by expert trainers.

Yeah, right. So how we gonna get anything done around here?

I’ll do your workout, and you get to come and pick up 400 bales of hay off the ground, throw them on a wagon, stack it, then pull it off the wagon and restack it in the barn.

I only have so many track drag deadlifts in me in a day. I don’t dare go “work out” in the morning, for fear I’d get home after work and find some sort of massive physical contest with a broken something-or-other, or have to move half the barn to get to some important part or piece of equipment, and I’d have no strength left.

Like this weekend. I decided I’d make a cross country course this weekend. Yep. Pulled out some posts, took down some fence, mowed some grass. Moved some drags and implements. Dug out some weeds on a dirtpile, worked on a tractor pushing it up to a rideable mound. Built a couple jumps. Dragged a log out of the woods to use for a jump. Cleared some brush. Trimmed back some trees. Picked up and dumped the clippings and brush. Dug out a couple of old things that needed to be moved out of the way. Moved about 50 cement blocks, restacked them, weedwacked and trimmed tall grass where they used to be and where they went in their new position.

Took me a couple hours. Working slowly, of course. In pretty much 100 percent humidity at or around 80F. But I will have five or six good cross country questions by Tuesday completed. Just small, just to school over. But it will be done.

And that was after cleaning four stalls, changing water in water tubs, sweeping, cleaning up, washing off deck furniture, and weeding a small flowerbed.

I’m not all kooky about getting stuff done, just the opposite, I leave a lot of chores unfinished and start a ton of projects I can’t seem to get finished. Most horse people with their own farms I know are somewhat the same. There is always something to do.

There’s a lot of hard, physical work involved in keeping a farm up. Not talking about a showplace — just basic mowing and dragging and watering and weed control. In this wet spring, we’ve had our share of grass and weeds running rampant. Some fields are like making an expedition to get in there and do some damage to the overgrowth. The fences are in there, last I saw.

I am always thinking about new stuff to jump or a different way to fix the run-in shed or something requiring Big Construction. For the most part, I get back to reality when I actually go out with hammer in hand and realize it’s beyond what I can do in one hour.

This time of year, it’s easy to get into projects that take time because we have light until late. As the daylight begins to recede, starting today, I will lose a minute or two each day to do my chores and start or finish outdoor projects. Then, gradually, I’m squeezed down to just being able to ride after work. And soon not even that as fall arrives.

And don’t forget the reason we do all this work is the horses, and they have to be ridden, groomed, washed, fed, watered and cared for, too. Oh, and if you live with someone else, all that applies to them, too. And what if you have a full time job?

I have gotten up early mornings to ride more years than I can count. As I approach my fifth decade of doing this stuff, I don’t even think about the various parts of my body that complain every morning. It’s discouraging to take inventory.

Farm work — just work — is often the only and all of the workout that I do each day. While I know that is not ideal, I also know that the physical work I do tires me out enough to make me feel as though a trip to the gym would be a welcome relief.

I wish I was in better shape and I wish the farm would fix itself. Wouldn’t that be great? All this new technology to have “smart homes” with computerized instructions and automation … imagine if we were to have it with the barn, the paddocks, the ring, the pastures, the yard and the flowerbeds. “Alexa, weed the front flowerbed,” or “Alexa, dump and scrub out the back field water tub and refill it.” What luxury. A smart barn.

Just think of it — are you dreaming about a robot that can set jumps for us so we never again have to get off a horse to put up a rail or a weedeating robot? Yes, please. A weedeating robot. Send me some seed money. Any venture capitalists out there? Every farm owner I know would be in sleeping bags in the parking lot lineup at Walmart should such a robot be available. At any cost!

So until that day comes my workouts remain purpose-driven. And exhausting enough. And I’m not moving that drag for a least a week (or until the weeds need cutting down!)