Rider Wellness: Shoveling Manure Adds Up

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Horse Chores Burn Calories but You Still Need to Watch Your Diet

I always think I’m not very fit and don’t exercise enough. I try to squeeze more exercise into my day, but I’m basically lazy. I like walking, at a slow casual speed (much like my Fjord horse), or quiet trail riding. I enjoy caring for my horse though, and a lot of the hobby-farm work counts as exercise—like manure shoveling.

A horse produces about 50 pounds of manure a day, or seven to nine tons of manure per year. I shovel manure most days. My horses live in paddocks or sacrifice areas most of the time. My chunky-monkey horses only graze for an hour or two a day in the pasture. I don’t shovel the manure out of the large pasture, so, if we assume I clean up only two thirds of the manure production from two horses times eight tons (as I reach for the calculator…) the work output results in about 10.6 tons of manure shoveled per year. That’s a lot of weight-bearing and calorie-consuming activity for my late-life body!

One warm summer day I determined that I should calculate the calories burned from manure shoveling and then treat myself to ice cream, simply because I’d been craving ice cream. I found a website with a blog by Claire Dyett where she determined 10 minutes of stall mucking burned 76 calories, 30 minutes was 228, and hard mucking for an hour was 460 calories. Then I needed to figure out how many calories were in a hot-fudge sundae. A quick Google search showed a two-scoop sundae at Baskin Robins equals 530 calories. Hmm. The math wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear. I would need to add some effort to my typical half-hour shoveling scenario (228 calories) to earn that delicious treat.

The same article explained that a slow trail ride burns 100 calories an hour, a fast-galloping ride is 240 calories per hour, and an energetic schooling session in the arena could burn 360 calories. Neither I nor my horse are overly energetic, so I calculated the slow trail ride rate. A 2-hour ride (200 calories) plus a half hour manure mucking session gives me 428 calories. Hmm. I looked for some other sources to see if I could find better numbers to support my goal to earn that ice cream sundae and found similar calorie counts for horse activities. By the time I haul my horse to the trailhead, saddle, ride, and return home, plus some manure shoveling, we’re getting into some pretty substantial time invested and I still haven’t quite earned my hot-fudge sundae.

Okay, what if I added a walk? One source says I can burn 100 to 200 calories with 30 minutes of brisk walking. Now we’re talking. So, I would need to do a slow 2-hour trail ride, a half hour of shoveling manure, and a half hour brisk walk (100 calories) for 528 total calories burned to mostly cancel out my 530-calorie treat. Of course, my walks often start out brisk and get slower as I go. And if I am dragging one of my mellow Fjord horses along with me, we are definitely not brisk. By the time I do all those activities, I won’t have time or energy to drive to the store for ice cream and chocolate sauce. I wonder if the whipped cream and cherry-on-top were included in the calorie count.

So, unfortunately, my newfound health plan of shoveling for exercise with a hot fudge sundae reward isn’t quite penciling out. It makes me tired just thinking about it. Instead of increasing the exercise time and effort, perhaps I need to decrease my caloric reward instead. Now I wonder how many calories are in a glass of wine. Red wine = 125 calories. Okay, the math works on that one! Excuse me while I dump a wheelbarrow load of manure and go find a corkscrew.

See this article in the May 2024 online edition:

May 2024

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