EDITOR'S NOTE: Grime Pays is a semimonthly series focusing on area workers whose jobs are hot, strenuous or just plain dirty. If you think your job is tough enough to profile, call Rainier Ehrhardt at (706) 828-3853.
Being a cowboy, even a part-time one, is not always guts and glory.
Just ask Al Larsen: He can tell you about the downside while mucking out a stable.
"See, this stall was just cleaned, and there's already stuff in there," he said, pointing to a basketball-size pile of manure.
It's the stallions, he says, that require the most attention.
"They mark their territory," he said.
The 52-year-old Denver resident was among the thousands who came to town for the Augusta Futurity. Like most of the folks who turned out for the biggest cutting horse competition east of the Mississippi, he's not afraid of getting his hands dirty.
Back home, the amateur rider and owner of two horses is the resident of an orthopedic device distributor, but in the stalls, he's just another hand putting in his fair share of work.
"If they're working, I'm helping," said Mr. Larsen, whose friends include pro riders and trainers who have helped teach him the ropes.
"I've been around horses in one way or another for 10 years," he said. "I'm here to learn about being around horses and be a better showman."
At the Futurity, his day can start before 3 a.m. When he's not shoveling you-know-what, he's helping feed and saddle the horses before they are "loped" - horseman talk for warming up the steed for competition.
Keeping the animals clean is his least favorite job.
"The worst part is the wash rack," he said. "You get your feet wet, and then they get cold. That's no fun."
For Mr. Larsen, the occasional cold feet just come with the territory.
"It's a culture," he said. "You either love it or you don't."