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What lies beneath - The Horse Owner's Resource

What lies beneath

With a powerful magnet, I unearthed fascinating artifacts and debris that hint at the history of my property. What’s underneath the land you ride on?
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Many years ago, the place now known as Stagecoach, Nevada, was wild and empty, home mainly to sagebrush and mustangs. The first sign of Western civilization was a stagecoach stop along the Pony Express route for those heading toward the newly discovered gold fields in western Nevada and beyond. In the years since, the town has grown and, more recently, it has become popular for people who want to live among the wide-open spaces while commuting to Reno and other nearby cities.

When my wife and I decided to move to Nevada, we gravitated to Stagecoach. Soon we bought horses. We also built corrals and barns. And we began to discover that the dirt under our feet was thick with nails, bits of wire and other metal debris, even in areas where we hadn’t done any construction. A few times, we had a horse step on a nail, and I don’t need to tell you about the worry and pain that resulted.

So for our horses’ sake as well as our own, we try to keep our barnyard and riding areas free of hidden debris. Easier said than done. I have gone over our small spread with a metal detector many times over the years, and I am still amazed at the nails, wire and various pieces of hardware I always find. You might think I would have gotten all of the metal off of the place after so many tries, but not so far.

When I dug out the debris that my metal detector found, however, it was difficult to avoid leaving behind little potholes, so one Christmas my wife gave me a rolling magnet. It’s an 18-inch-wide magnetic bar on wheels, and it’s so strong it draws metal out of the ground and onto the bar---no excavation necessary.

Recently, I was getting ready to clean stalls when I spied my magnet on wheels and decided a stroll around the yard sounded like a better option just then. I’d been over the area recently with a metal detector, so I didn’t expect to find much, but of course, it’s always a good idea to see if there might be something more.

Boy was there. I made a few passes along the riding paths, and before long I had a small pile of metal fragments, including a collection of nails, screws, metal washers, wire, a safety pin and other bits of Stagecoach history. I couldn’t believe it. All of this was lying right under where we ride our horses---in ground I had covered with the metal detector many times before and not too long ago at that.

I just shook my head in disbelief. It was a real blessing that none of our horses had ever picked up one of those wicked nails in a hoof.

How did all this metal trash get here? I don’t know. It seems like more than just careless builders from when our house was built. Perhaps it’s just a reminder that the land we ride on has a history, and artifacts and debris from centuries past still lie underfoot. Weather and other forces can bring this stuff to the surface at any time, so we need to be vigilant about protecting our horses.

And, if you ever find mysterious metal debris on your farm, I highly recommend this little magnet on wheels. It’s a right handy tool.

This article was originally published in EQUUS 487, April 2018

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