Freedom Fighter Rising

Take a young horse that needs a job. Take pastures wet from snow melt and rain, and forage that is waterlogged at best. Take boredom at night and a bale of hay within view. Mix this all together and what do you get? Tater, freedom fighter rising, picking at the stall latches until he has mastered the fine art of opening carabiners, and anything else I try. The horse can be down-right irritating!

This nonsense continued on for most of the week. At first, per usual, I thought I have forgotten to clip the carabiner through the stall door latch. Then, I thought Annie must have forgotten. Each morning I would arrive to a barn scattered in hay and poop, stall forks on the ground, chairs tipped over, and the poor lamb recovering in the sheep stall huddled at the back corner. Exactly how much hay, and whose, did Tater think he needed?

By the end of the week, I had determined that neither our daughter nor myself was being negligent about the clip, because I couldn’t even find the clip this last time. Tater had not only opened it, and the stall door, he had gnawed through the rope holding the carabiner onto the latch. There was no sign of the clip anywhere in the loose hay on the floor. Had he eaten it? I hoped not.

Besides the fact that each morning’s clean up was now taking me an added 30-45 minutes, the escape factor was not only annoying but also worrying. How was I going to stop this behavior, and what would happen if Tater learned how to open the gate to the feed stall? I decided to look through the racks of Alsea’s general store to come up with a solution.

I came home with two. The first snap clip was opened in less than an evening and spit onto the floor. The second was a spring clip requiring a strong thumb to bend the bar back and a wrist twist to pull the clip out. At least, that is what I thought. The next morning, it too was lying on the floor. By this time, I had figured I could cut down my clean-up time if I didn’t leave extra hay on the aisle floors. I think this is when Tater started to doubly terrify the lamb by leaning into its stall to reach the hay bucket. So not cool for the big horse!

I finally decided to try an old blanket latch I found in the tack room no longer attached to its blanket. It was smaller than the other clips I had been using and worked in a slightly different fashion. Maybe smaller was better? When I walked into the barn the next morning everything was in its rightful place: the horses were in the loafing shed, the lamb was still huddled in the corner of its stall (I let it out a day later to be with the flock), and nothing was disturbed inside. Glory be! I had a solution for the moment.

I still look out the window of our dining room before heading to the barn in the morning to see if I can catch horses peering over the fence. It’s a good sign if I can see some movement. As I have said before, there is something verging on admiration for a horse that tries so diligently to escape. I mean, who would think that Tater could even conceive of the idea, much less spend hours perfecting the technique of opening clips? I have thought to set up a web cam some evening just to record his antics because I can’t honestly figure out how he accomplishes this feat with his big horse lips, flat teeth, and a nose too long to see past. If I ever catch him, you can be sure I will post on YouTube!

Photo: Tater and me out in the barn field last summer posing for a story

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones


  1. Reply
    aimee 27 February, 2009

    Please forgive me for laughing at your Houdini Horse tales, but I couldn’t help it! Horses are SO smart and they’re definitely one of a kind! Maybe Tater needs a job checking out new locks and latches – he could help with product development and quality assurance issues :)
    Blessings, Aimee

    PS: Hope your new system works out and everyone (and everything) stays safe!

  2. Reply
    Garry 27 February, 2009

    Your horse might need some other diversion–perhaps teach him to paint. Check out the article about a horse that has his own art show.

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