Only One Of My Favorite Things

By Laura Miller | December 20, 2022
Image by Irina Orlova
by Laura Miller
December 20, 2022

What is my favorite thing to do outside besides gardening? As a garden writer, I’m obviously very invested in the two acres of property that surround my house. Growing a vegetable garden, tending to the lawn, trimming trees and planting flowers take up much of my spare time. Yet, sometimes I’m so busy gardening that I forget to savor the beauty I’ve created. Sound familiar?

Stop and Smell the Roses

For me, taking a break from gardening means I can spend time with my horses. I learned to ride as a teenager and have been a horseowner ever since. Now, one might think my two hobbies are quite different, but there are surprising similarities between gardening and owning horses:

  • Spending time outdoors – Caring for my garden and my horses gives me an excuse to be outside. The only difference is my horses require year-round daily care and I get a break from gardening in the winter.
  • Muscle-building exercise – There is no doubt chores like weeding, hoeing and pushing a lawn mower make us physically fit. But owning horses is more than riding. Pushing wheelbarrows of manure, grooming caked mud off horses and carrying bales of hay is hard work.
  • Enjoying nature – From bunnies hopping around the yard to deer nibbling on the roses, gardening puts us front and center to an array of interesting wildlife. The same can be said for horseback riding. And since the horse does the navigating, I have more time to enjoy the native flora and fauna.

Horses and Gardening Go Hand-In-Hand

In addition to their similarities, I find my two hobbies are also quite complementary. For starters, horses produce copious amount of stall waste – about ten tons per horse annually! The combination of manure and the wood shavings I use for bedding create the perfect composting balance of greens and browns.

While cleaning stalls is not my favorite outdoor activity, I have to say that I’m impressed by how the horse manure compost has transformed the clay-based soil in my vegetable garden. It’s now a rich, fertile growing medium. The soil is loose and workable. It drains well and I no longer need to use commercial fertilizers.

In return, my garden’s fertility allows me to harvest more than enough produce for my family. This leaves garden space to grow treats, like carrots, for my horses. I also use well-composted horse manure to fertilize the pasture. The grass grows thicker and greener, which reduces feeding costs for the horses.

Yet, the interconnection between my hobbies is more than the benefits they provide one another. It’s about how the combination of these two hobbies work together to relieve stress and boost my mood.

I gain an added sense of happiness whenever I look up from my gardening to see my horses peacefully grazing. Likewise, viewing my garden from the back of my horse gives me a different perspective on the health of my plants. In the end, I find that enjoying the great outdoors and the beauty I’ve created is enhanced by having a hobby in addition to gardening.

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