By Tara ChristiansenThe American Quarter Horse JournalJune 14, 2012
"Nikki" leads a stressful life – it's not easy when you're called on to solve the world's problems and work cattle. (Journal photo)
It’s not easy being one of my horses; the world’s problems fall on my girls – “Bunny” and “Nikki” – and those are some heavy problems to solve.
Well, first, there’s world hunger – that one’s a doozie. Fighting terrorists – check. The collapse of the U.S. economy – always on the forefront of their minds. And lowering the cost of a barrel of oil – that’s a cause especially near and dear to their hearts.
But what’s a horse to do when she’s stuck in such a tough spot and needs a stress reliever?
Alas, horse-y yoga or long walks on the beach are not their cups of tea. No, they get their fix (*gasp*) chewing on fence boards.
And, of course, with the direct correlation between those heavy world issues and fence board chewing, their stalls have suffered. For all of their beaver-like ways, these horses should’ve gone to Oregon State University – they would’ve fit right in.
However, going to college was not in the cards for my girls: They are reined cow horses. Well, that’s more of their hobby, since solving the world’s problems is their day job.
But imagine the stress from being a cow horse; they must always ask themselves, “What kind of cow will I draw today? Will it be fast? Is it going to outrun me? Oh no! Or is it going to be slow and give me no chance to show off my skills? Darn cows,” they might mumble.
And for Bunny, there are always the questions of, “Does this saddle pad make my butt look big? Does my mane look purposely messy today, or just messy? How shiny is my coat?” At the end of the day, the question remains (for both of them), “Will Tara give me a treat?” That one always throws them for a loop.
So you can see, these horses need something, like chewing fence boards, to get them through the day.
It’s not exactly like this “fix” manifested itself out of thin air. Truth be told, I think it resulted from part of a cult initiation rite. In all honesty, we have other fence chewers in our family.
But who knows, maybe it’s genetic (although Nikki and Bunny only share a third cousin twice removed) or maybe it’s one of those bonding things (“I’ll meet you at 10 for a carrot … Oh wait, you’re getting your hooves trimmed? OK, let’s make it 2 for a good fence post – I’ll buy this time.”).
However they came about this habit, I’m not a fan. Not one bit. And I’ve tried my darnedest to curb this abhorrent behavior. I’ve bought sprays and paints and pretty much every horse-suited product that promises to repel horses-turned-termite. We’ve tried all kinds of stuff: Balancing their diets and vitamin intakes, cayenne pepper, Irish Spring soap, having a priest bless the fence to ward off their evil mouths. OK, not really on that last one, but you get the picture. Here’s a secret: I think my horses actually like that disgusting stuff. It doesn’t seem to slow their gnawing, but perhaps turns that wood into one big ol’ lollipop.
The one thing that has worked came from the mind of my genius fiancé: inner tubes. We slummed some truck-sized inner tubes off of a trailer company that was fixin’ to throw these beauties away, and we sliced-and-diced those tubes until we had something nice to wrap around the fence boards. Voila!
Now, I feel a little bad about taking this favorite past-time away from my mares, but it seems that they’ve since found more productive ways to unwind than making their own pine chips. They seem to chat a bit more, scratch each other’s necks, catch a few Z’s; it’s been good.
That was until we had one hail of a hail storm the other night. Bang, crash, boom – they’ve gotten used to that (we do live in the Texas Panhandle now, after all). But this hail storm was a whole ’nother can of beans for these Washington State natives.
As the pea-sized hail (just wait until we get golf ball-sized hail!) crashed down on the horses’ tin roof, the mares made quick work of some exposed 2-by-4’s. Now, since those boards were actually strategically placed around the support post by us smarty-pants horse owners for an occasion such as this, we weren’t too torn up that the mares reduced them to toothpicks.
I’m not sure what the moral of this whole story is – maybe it’s that I need to get them equine psychiatrists, let them talk about their issues, that sort of thing. Or maybe they just need an old milk jug hanging by a string to dink around with.
But since my insurance doesn’t cover equine shrinks, and I don’t think the “greats minds” that are Nikki and Bunny would be much-impressed with a milk jug, I’m thinking that I’ll just put a patch on this problem just like any good American would do. And that patch just might involve a tacky ol’ inner tube.
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