HP Science Project: Horseback Butter Churning

Recently I attended Transition Charlottesville‘s butter churning skillshare, where Cheenius and Butter Boy taught me that it is possible to make butter by pouring cream into a jar and shaking it. Magical!

But it gets better! They next said you can put the cream jar into a backpack and take it for a hike and it will slosh itself into butter! I immediately thought of horseback riding as an potential jar agitator, and over the weekend I conducted a little experiment. I am happy to report that it was a delicious success! Read on for the details of my science project (please imagine you are viewing a science fair display board) and to learn how you, too, can churn butter on horseback.


Is it possible to shake a jar of cream into butter during a session of horseback riding?


If I put jars of cream into a pack on my back and ride my horse, then at the end of the session I will have jars of butter.



: supplies

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Jar
  • Backpack
  • Bowl, spoon, fresh water (not pictured, for rinsing the butter)
  • Bread (vehicle for finished product)
  • Horse
my unwitting accomplice

my unwitting accomplice


1. Let the cream sit on the counter for a couple hours to come to room temperature. Fill the jar(s) about halfway with cream. 

jars of cream

2. Put the jars in a backpack. I used a lumbar pack and started with the jars in the main pocket, moving them later to the water bottle holders to keep them from knocking together.


3. Ride your horse. Do not fall off your horse with jars on your back. Do not freak out your horse with the strange jar noises coming from an unknown (to horse) location.

horseback butter churning!

 4. Halfway through your ride, check the jars. You should see a thick sludge of whipped cream. If you have to remove your pack in the middle of your ride because your horse didn’t appreciate the clatter and threatened to unload you, you may have to do some shaking by hand afterward to reach the solid butter stage.

halfway there, and had to remove pack due to irritated pony

halfway there; had to remove pack due to irritated pony

all the way there, after a bit of hand shaking

all the way there, after a bit of hand shaking

5. Once you have a solid ball of butter sloshing in buttermilk, scoop the butter into a bowl and rinse it a few times, mashing it around to get all the buttermilk out. Buttermilk left in the butter will mold and turn the butter rancid quickly.


6. Eat the butter!




I noticed when we started trotting that the jars were a bit noisy, and my horse was acting up a little. My horse is normally sassy, so it’s hard to say if she was reacting to the scary sounds or just being her usual self, but when we started doing more serious work I decided to take the pack off to avoid upsetting her. After about 20 minutes of bouncy riding, the jar contents were a heavy sludge of whipped cream and a friend (hi Josh!) and I finished shaking the jars by hand after we rode. It took less than 5 minutes of shaking to get to the butter stage. I did not expect the jars to make so much noise in the pack (even when separated) and next time will wrap them in cloth to muffle the sounds to spare my poor, sensitive princess pony.

While horseback butter churning may take longer than shaking a jar by hand, it requires less effort. Next time I will give the cream more time to completely warm to room temperature before beginning, to shorten the time required to reach the butter stage, as warmer molecules move faster than cooler molecules. I could also try adding an agitator like a marble or wine cork to the jar to speed up the process.

The type of riding, and the intensity of your session, will affect the time required to reach the butter stage: mellower types of riding, like Western pleasure, where there’s no posting and gaits are smooth, or trail riding at slow speeds, are less bouncy than typical English hunter/jumper riding; and a casual stroll will agitate the cream less than a vigorous training session.

Time to reach butter stage (in minutes):

time to butter graph

Perceived effort required to reach butter stage, on a scale of zero to ten:

effort required

The effects of smoothness and intensity of the ride (rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most roughest/most intense) on the total time required:

effect of types of riding chart

Level of annoyance felt by horse, as a percentage of maximum possible annoyance:

level of horse's annoyance

(Note: these graphs are not based on real data)


Is it possible to sufficiently shake a jar of cream into butter during a session of horseback riding?

Yes! While my jars didn’t quite reach butter stage before I removed my pack, I am confident that they would have if I had kept the pack on until the end of my riding session, based on the short length of hand-shaking time required to finish the butter.

Additional findings:

  • The reason this works is because heavy cream is an emulsion of fat and water, and the shaking causes the fat molecules to stick to each other, building up clumps of butter. See a better science-y explanation here.
  • Two (half) jars of cream turns into A LOT of butter. Bring more bread next time.
  • People at your barn will think you are strange if you attempt this.

Taste testing homemade horse treats

My sister visited from North Carolina last weekend, and she brought a couple bags of homemade horse treats from her friend at Carolina Pet Treats-N-Toys to undergo some rigorous scientific testing.

Seven horses and one dog analyzed and compared the horse crumbles and the horse cubes, and the result was: both were a hit!

The treats are all natural, with ingredients like oatmeal, carrot, sugar, molasses, and Cheerios. There was not a clear winner between the two types of treat; when offered both a cube and a crumble at the same time, one in each hand, the horses did not exhibit a distinct preference.

The horses paid close attention to the flavors, and carefully analyzed each treat. They all requested multiple samples to ensure they could give a complete report.

I rounded out my research with a dog’s point of view: two paws up!

Summary: all the horses (and the dog) loved these treats, and I was happier feeding these natural, homemade treats than the processed, commercial treats from the feed store.

For more information on the horse treats, or treats for your non-equine pets, contact Jamie Baldwin of Carolina Pet Treats-N-Toys, at 336-338-3186, or buttonrabbit4@yahoo.com.

Random news from the interwebs

Some tabs I’ve had open in my browser for a week or so, but haven’t finished reading. Hopefully these are interesting!

  • EatKind.net: some news blurbs, and some directories for organic/vegetarian/local/pasture-raised options in the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, and New Zealand (not all directories exist for all countries). I found this when looking for happy food options in Japan
  • Smithfield Foods To Stop Using Gestation Crates For Pigs By 2017
    • I did not realize Smithfield is the world’s largest pork producer
    • I did not realize Smithfield is based in VA
    • Smithfield’s explanation for their decision was that their customers want it–so voting with your dollars can make a difference!
  • Article on the return of US horse slaughterhouses. Man, this is controversial. PETA is for, HSUS is against. I haven’t completely formed an opinion on the issue, other than:
    • It’s more humane to put a horse down than to let it suffer from neglect–if there are no other options for adoption/shelter/assistance
    • It’s more humane to send a horse to a slaughterhouse in the US where (presumably) treatment regulations would be stricter than in other countries where horses are currently shipped for slaughter–and shorter transport distances are easier on the poor beasties
    • Yay: “Churchill Downs says it won’t assign stalls at any of its tracks to any trainer or owner found to have sold a horse for slaughter.”
    • Not sure how legit this one is, but it could be a contributor: “Hancock said that she’s worried that the potential availability of slaughter ‘makes it easy for some people to continue to overbreed or overproduce because they have an out at the end.'”
  • Biosolid use as fertilizer: gross. Fertilizing farmland, that is then used for grazing or crops, with human waste? The waste is treated, but not all pathogens are killed, and chemicals, steroids, hormones, pharmaceuticals, and heavy metals are among the pollutants found in the sludge. This seems like a bad idea to me.

Happy reading!

Mare’s milk for skin care

HP was recently in Belgium, where we noticed a line of skin care products called New Forest, made from horse milk. We love ponies, and we love natural skin care products, but we were a little taken aback at the combination of the two. Why should we be surprised? How is horse milk different from goat milk, which we have used as part of soaps and lotions before without a second thought? Perhaps it’s because we have a personal attachment to horses on an emotional level, which is different from how we feel about other livestock. (We hadn’t even considered horse milk as a beverage, but after researching we’ve learned that it’s lower in fat and calories than cow’s milk, and can be used to treat metabolic, gastrointestinal, and liver problems.)

Upon returning to the States, we were curious to learn more about the company and their herd of milk mares. Googling didn’t locate the company whose products we had seen in Belgium, but it did lead us to Spa Creek Ranch, located in Canada. Their horse milk production is a byproduct of their sport pony breeding operation: the family breeds New Forest ponies, which are hardy and gentle. The herds live naturally in pastures, on a diet of grass and pesticide-free home-grown hay. When babies are born, the foals get all the dam’s milk for the first 6 weeks, after which some of the milk is redirected for the skin care products. Mares produce enough milk to support two foals, and after the foals start eating grass they require less milk, so there’s plenty to go around. The mares are milked until the foals are weaned at 8 months; it’s an enjoyable process for them as they get attention and are rewarded with treats.

A small farm earns a little extra money by selling a natural product using a substance that was humanely obtained from happy animals: seems like a winning business model!