When Horses Remodel their Paddocks…






Do you know what I mean?

We’ve all been there.  You setup the pasture or paddock one way only to discover an hour later that precious horsey wishes to eat in THAT corner…  Or, you mistakenly place the waterer in exactly the best spot for rolling.  I’m sure you’ve gone out there and noticed your favorite bush all bent up and barren on one side as it becomes a scratching post.  Or, my favorite, your trusty steed creates bends in the gate that allow her leg/head/hoof to reach all the way through mo’ betta.

I guess I’m used to those kinds of everyday equine remodels.  When I see these types of upgrades, I just smile or shrug.  I know there is nothing I can do to stop it short of policing them 24/7.  Besides, I can relate.  I remember moving into new apartments when I was in college.   You always want to paint or move stuff around so that you can make it your own.  I understand this.  Go ahead, my faithful companion, make the living quarters work for you.

But today, Remi didn’t just remodel, she got her contractor’s license.

REMI

Remi is my BLM mustang rescue.  She is 10 years old and smart as a whip.  I’m sure that surviving in the wild honed her skills, but I never knew she was so ingenious.

Here’s what I think precipitated her remodel.

Remi hates to have anything above her head (helicopter flashbacks?).  I’ve noticed that when I throw the hay over the fence, she flinches and pins her ears.  She didn’t flinch or pin her ears when I put the hay through the rails, but she does if I throw the flakes over the fence.

Unfortunately, I now have to throw the flakes over the fence because Remi lives with ‘Bodhi the Bulldozer’ and he thinks he is an apparition.  As apparitions have certain qualities, he thinks that he too can just walk through solid objects, like fences.  Actually, he can… hence the newly triple strand hot-wire fenceline.

And, since the fence is now hot-wired, I don’t want to get near it.  So, I no longer place the flakes between the rails, I throw them over.

Remi has been upset about this for a while now.

Pre-Remodel... that is Remi in the background pondering.

THE REMODEL

I didn’t actually understand the process.  Yes, I was watching her slow and methodical deconstruction of these two small wooden rails; but I thought she just needed more snacks during the day…  My solution was to feed her a little bit all day long.  So, I did.

Yet, the deconstruction continued.  First she would nibble one side, then the middle, then the other side.  Then, back to the beginning – like an equine electric typewriter.  Chink, chinkitychink, chink and Return!

I thought maybe she had an ulcer so I gave her some remedies.  Nope.  No ulcer.

Chink.  Rippity rip, chink, chew, pull and spit.

Little by little, my furry hammer-swinger attacked these short rails with the tenacity of a pitbull.  Gnaw.  Gnawgnaw.  Never give up.  Never give up.

I continued to scratch my head.  Why was she doing this?  And, it was only her.  Bodhi had  no interest in apprenticing under her.

And, it was only in this one spot.  The entire right side of the fence has only one strand of wire.  She could have created her new construction anywhere.  But, she chose right there and only there.

Why?

There is only single strand hot wire all the way down the line on this side... but no chew marks anywhere.

THE BLUEPRINT

The spot she chose was directly under their favorite large tree which provides shade and a high spot in the ground.  They like to eat there because it is sheltered and not muddy.

Perhaps she picked this spot because she likes it there and why not chew while in your favorite spot…  This seemed logical.  But, in my experience, chewers chew continuously and they chew indiscriminately.  Remi was chewing here and only here.

And then she was done.  Voila!  She had created a fence window.  The top rail was in place, but the bottom two rails were gone.  Poof!  Instant viewing.  But, this was odd.  She couldn’t escape through it.  She couldn’t see anything better since the tree was in the way.  It didn’t provide any shelter or comfort… Why did she create this hole in the fence?

Remi standing in front of her handywork

AH HA!

When her design recreation was finished, I stood there and pondered its existence.  I had no idea.  She seemed very pleased with her work and would run over every time I was near her fence window.  I started to think that she was a bit excited about it.  Odd.  This was eerily weird to me.

After a while, it was feeding time so I left the hole and wandered off to the barn, still cocking my head in that Scooby-Doo way.

I went about my feeding chores as I always do.  Part of me is on auto-pilot as I mechanically feed while looking for any equine abnormalities or bleeding spots on my horses.  As I was in front of Remi and Bodhi, instead of chucking the hay over the fence, without thinking, I used the newly created fence window to gently place the hay in front of the two eager faces who presented exactly there.

Wha?  Slowly I noticed what had just happened.  Slowly it was becoming clear…

“Hmmmmmm.  This is actually a very convenient way to feed here.  I don’t have to throw anything overboards while the wind blow back half of the flakes.  This window is right at my arm level and this is totally easier for me to place the flakes in front of Remi and Bodhi.  It is like a hay window.  It is as if she created a… hay window.  Hey, waitaminute!…”

I instantly but unwittingly used it as a feeding window

As I stood there, admiring her work and watching them eat, it occurred to me that Remi had not backed up or flinched or pinned her ears when I placed the hay.  She was calm and eating comfortably.  I looked at her and the light was finally fully illuminated in my head.  OMG.

It was her idea, I think, to create a food chute for the stoopid human to use in order to quit throwing the hay over her head.

Her remodeling solution was so simple and so obvious.  Why didn’t I think of that?…

And, she trained me to use her hay window immediately.

Smart girl.  I wonder what she can do for my kitchen…

Smarty pants...

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2 comments have been posted...

  1. Robyn Mullhausen

    These are two really great horse stories showing once again that one of my favorite sayings is true. “A man once said to his horse, “If you were smarter you could talk.”. The horse thought, “Yeah, and if YOU were smarter I wouldn’t have to.”.

  2. Linda Horn

    Thanks for giving me a laugh to start my day!

    Sadly, I’ve never been “owned by a horse”, but I have cared for and ridden other people’s horses. My favorite was Billy – a sweet, smart little paint gelding who began my education on horse priorities.

    Normally I would enter his pen and try my best to catch him. Even with my arms spread wide, he often got past me. Not in a mean way, but he obviously was not happy with my performance. Once caught he accepted being tied to the hitching post, groomed, and tacked up, but first there was a heavy sigh. His way of saying, “Stupid human, you just don’t get it!”

    It finally dawned on this “stupid human” maybe I didn’t have my head on straight. So one day I walked through the gate to the center of the pen and quietly stood there, hoping he’d get curious and come to me. No dice.

    Previously I rode first and cleaned his stall and pen afterward, but that day Billy took the reins and my “course in horse” began. First he moved to his stall, looked at the gate, and shook his head as if to say, “My house is smelly. Do something about it … now!”

    After I had accomplished my first task, he lead me to every pile of poop in his pen. He stopped, sniffed, nodded, and watched from a respectful distance until all the “road apples” were in the wheelbarrow … where they belonged.

    Then, to my utter amazement, there was no chase and no “blowing by”. My professor simply walked to the hitching post, relaxed, and stood patiently while I prepped and tacked him up … without being tied! Finally, he turned his head, looked me straight in the eye, and communicated in no uncertain terms, “Good human! You’ve learned something at last. What took you so long?”.

    From that day on, even after I thought I had graduated, Billy still lead the way through our routine. I realized it had become a kind of game we both agreed to play. The result was a true partnership of happy horse and happy human … bonded and ready for whatever challenges and adventures might come our way.

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