Yesterday I went to the barn to let the horses out and to my surprise Romeo greeted me with his head through the gate we use for his stall. He’s always the one who has his head through a fence eating grass so it wasn’t unusual but after a few minutes it became apparent that he couldn’t figure out how to get his head out of the gate. It’s funny now but I started worrying about his panicking and me trying to manipulate his head to freedom. Of course I expected he wouldn’t know what I was doing and would fight me. I briefly thought I might even had to get out a saw of some kind.
Now let me say right now that of all the animals I’ve worked with over the years, horses are probably the smartest I’ve come across. You can tell how much more intelligent they are from the way they learn and make decisions. Still, in situations like this I wonder.
Since I always seem to have a camera nearby, I grabbed one and pushed record as I tried an idea. If I could just get Romeo to move to the side a little and then incent him to turn his head sideways to fetch a carrot, maybe I could encourage him to fix this problem himself. And it worked. Below is a short (25 second) video.
So this has taught me a few things:
1) It’s important to check on the horses, even if they’re “safe” in the barn. If there is something to get scratched on or tangled in, they’ll find it. Romeo even scalped an inch square piece of fur from his head the day before on a little rough piece of metal on the fence (you can see it wrapped in twine in the video).
2) Perhaps gates aren’t the best wall substitutes. We intended on building a real wall with a wooden gate like the other stalls but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. This reminds me of the importance to get that project done.
3) Try the simple first. Romeo clearly wasn’t panicked when I found him so it was a good idea to not freak out and look for some complicated solution. A few carrots did the trick in this case.
Have you had anything like this happen with your horse(s)? Please share your story.