I’ve come to believe that height of weeds on a horse property is directly proportional to the amount of time the property owner has recently spent in the saddle. In fact, I’ve personally tested this theory and the results are, well, conclusive:

While my dressage horse, Marathon, has a show-ready counter-canter and my trail horse, Jack, is now bravely heading into the desert while leaving his notorious spook-and-spin at home, the tumbleweeds and cheat grass have firmly taken root and, it feels, over my life.

Keeping horses at home is a balancing act of happiness and hard work. I love stepping outside to give my boys pats when I need a little break from my desk; I always know exactly what they’re eating and when; and I never have to worry about whether or not they’re wearing the right blanket for the weather—I just go out and check.

On the other hand, managing a horse property, even just our 2.25 acres, takes a lot of time and attention. The necessities of feeding, mucking, scrubbing water troughs, and fixing fences are no brainers on the priority checklist. We have to do those chores to keep our animals healthy and safe. The tradeoff means my flower beds and areas of disturbed ground (not paddocks—those weeds get pulled immediately) are … let’s just say overgrown.

However, the recent wildfires in Colorado came as a big reminder to me about the importance of maintaining a tidy place and keeping noxious weeds in check. These weeds, now drying to a crisp in our high-desert climate, create the perfect fuel for dangerous and fast-moving fires. And putting work in now before weeds seed means fewer weeds next year.

When I talked to her about my problem, TheHorse.com’s own horsekeeping expert blogger, Alayne Blickle, suggested a goat to help keep the weeds down. And, while that seemed like a cute solution at first (yum, fresh goat cheese!), I suspect a goat would create more work than it would alleviate (daily milking?!). Another friend suggested finding “stable hand” or “farm” worker, and although tempting, hiring help isn’t in the budget.

Then, last week, Marathon chipped and bruised his foot last week while running scared during July 4th fireworks (Can we say “fire hazard” in the desert? Yikes!), so I decide to take his minor injury as a blessing in disguise. With my riding lessons canceled and temperatures too hot for a comfortable trail ride, the weekend opened up for some serious maintenance around the house.

My husband and I try to avoid herbicides, partly because we suspect they’re unhealthy for our free-range chickens as well as wildlife. That leaves me with little choice other than applying some good old elbow grease. I spent the weekend pulling and wacking mustard weed, newly germinated tumbleweeds, and cheat grass, and I have the sunburn to prove it. The place isn’t perfect, but I made decent progress.

I know I’m not the only one with this ride-versus-take-care-of-your property dilemma. How do you find a balance between riding and caring for your horses?