Episode 58: Christmas morning in the barn

[00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

[00:00:46] Welcome to the Christmas edition of the podcast, because this episode releases on Christmas Day this year, I thought I would share one of my favorite Christmas memories with you.

Or maybe it’s a lesson you get to decide. 

What you’re hearing in the background is a clue to my favorite memory.

Are you ready?

My favorite memory is actually feeding the horses on Christmas Day. It’s probably not what you’re expected, right?

The horses get fed twice a day, every day, year round around here. So why would feeding on Christmas Day rank so high? When I listen to people talk about the routine of feeding horses at their houses every day, it often falls into one of two extremes. They either say something like the best part of having horses at home is… 

or sometimes you hear people say the worst part of having horses at home is….

And both opinions are valid. There isn’t really a right or wrong. 

And I’ll admit that I have felt the wear and tear of the everydayness of feeding and cleaning. And I admit that sometimes that makes it feel like a chore. And maybe that’s why feeding on Christmas Day feels different. Maybe it’s because that feeling of celebration is in the air.

Or maybe it’s because the time leading up to Christmas is anything but routine. And so the routine of feeding is welcome.

Maybe it’s the quietness and the barn that morning or the horses smell.

Or the horsey sounds.

I’m sure of one thing, though. What I’m sure of is that my mom influenced me in this area.

When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money, owning horses was a struggle at times, so it was very easy to remember not to take them for granted. And while I was growing up on Christmas Day for as long as I can remember, our routine was to get up. My brother and I would be so excited. That could be pretty early. And the first thing we would do was open our stockings and then we would all stop and go feed the horses. I remember as a child begging to open presents before we fed. And I remember my mom explaining and never getting angry that the horses were in our care and that they depended on us and that we had made this commitment to them. And we would put on so many layers of clothing and we would trek through the snow,

(remember, I grew up in Maine) and we would feed the horses. And looking back, this also gave Christmas morning feeding a special feeling, the anticipation of the presents that were about to be open, hung in the air. And you might think that this made me rush through the feeding, but the horses were always so funny because we would bring them special treats. So instead of Christmas feeding being a speed event, something to rush through to get back to the presents, it began with giving presents to the horses, carrots, apples and other treats and always extra hay.

And maybe it’s my memory or the weather or maybe they picked up on our energy level, but they always seemed extra perky on those cold mornings. And when I became a mother, we continued the tradition. Whatever time the kids got us up on Christmas morning, we would open the stockings first and then we would head to the barn to feed.

And then it was my turn to explain that the horses dependent on us. And it was my turn to hope that the boys could see the simple joy. And to hope that they would enjoy the anticipation instead of resenting the interference. But in the end, I knew that is each individual person’s choice, whether they view it…s the joy or the interference.

Is the everydayness of horses. The best thing or the worst thing? I guess it’s all in how you look at it. 

Merry Christmas.



  1. Marilyn Boyd on January 4, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    I remembet Christmas Eve at the barn where my horse boarded. The boss and a couple of boarders would make a special warm mash for all 70 of them that included carrots, apples and peppermints (sugar free). The horses would start nickering as soon as they smeeled the mash and would dance around their stalls in anticipation. It didn’t matter thst it was 15 degrees out, we all felt like Santa.

  2. Janie on January 4, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    Love this! Feeding our horses is also the best part of my day (even cleaning stalls gives me peace)! I think it’s because when I open the barn door and they all start talking to me, it makes my heart happy and makes me smile!

  3. Susan on January 4, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    Four years ago, at the age of 57, I finally got my farm. I love having my horses at home, and consider my morning chore time the best part of the day. In the mornings I feed, put out hay for the next 24 hours, clean stalls, and pick up the dry lot and often the pastures as well. If the weather is nasty I will admit that it can be painful stepping out the door, but once outside I am literally never sorry to be out there.

    I often have people comment to me about what a drag it must be to do horse chores. When I tell them it is the best part of my day they look at me like I have horns sprouting out of my head. I guess horse people really are different.

  4. Annette Marshall on January 4, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    I spent my whole life wishing and dreaming of owning a horse so when in 2011 I had my first opportunity to experience the daily time spent caring for horses it has been an extremely special time for me. I look forward to it everyday. Christmas eve is an extra special day for me and I have incorporated that into my horse life. I go late in the evening, spend extra time playing and grooming and hiding treats. I believe there is a magical time on this night where we are connected with animals as spiritually as we can be. On christmas morning I always have a happy content horse who let’s me ride first thing. He follows me around as I clean and prepare feed and make his day special. We goof off and play as any two connected beings would do based on our relationship built on time together.

  5. Ginny Mayfield on December 31, 2019 at 11:15 am

    My horses always get special Christmas Eve alfalfa… Then that small bale is fed throughout the week until gone. Here in Texas they don’t “need” that alfalfa… But the love a bit of greenness..this time of year.

    • Liz on January 4, 2020 at 2:47 pm

      A great lesson your mom gave you and tour brother,and a great tradition to hand down to the next generation of equestrians.

  6. Jackie on December 28, 2019 at 8:31 am

    The best, thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas ??

  7. Drewry Voshefski on December 27, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    The best thing! One of my favorite book quotes is from “The Dirty Life” by Kristen Kimball. I cried in the truth of it the first few times I read it, and it it captures the strong ties our soul can have to our job of caretaker so well. “ The word chore connotes tedium, but that was not how I felt about them. I had missed my chores. Chores were the first taste of the weather, the first effort of limbs, a dance to which I knew all the steps with certainty.“

  8. Kathy Stoker on December 26, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    It’s the best time. Having my horses is truly a gift I do not take for granted. They anticipate their feed and seeing me every morning so it doesn’t really matter that I wait to open a material gift … after the spiritual pick up from time with the horses…. no matter the weather. I find one of the most peaceful things on earth is, when all is quiet, listening to the horses eat. 🙂

  9. Celia Simon on December 25, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Thank goodness for the chores that owning horses generates. Interaction with each horse and checking on their health and providing special treats which makes them nicker when I show up with granola bars and bedtime hay at 9 pm every night. (And cleaning stalls is good exercise)

Leave a Comment


Free PDF Download "Why is my horse...20 things your horse is saying with his behavior"

PDF will be delivered to the email address you enter as will weekly tips from Stacy. Totally free. Unsubscribe anytime.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.