Monday, February 11, 2008

Escape Artists

During the winter months, I keep each horse in its own pen during the day in order to prevent them from ripping each other's blankets. Since turnout blankets can cost between $70 and $270, it pays to protect them. I also like to keep the horses separated during feeding time to prevent Miss Piggy from chasing the other horses off and eating their share of feed. One of the pens I use is the Powder Mountain round pen. Each metal panel is quite heavy, and has four joints, one high and one low on each end. There is a peg on a chain that slips through three tunnels. Bombay and Gabbrielle have figured out how to pull on the chain with their lips until the peg comes up.

One day I walked outside to find Bombay and Gabbrielle in the same pen undressing each other. They had been tugging on each other's blankets for so long that they managed to slip halfway out of them. Upon investigating how Gabbrielle managed to escape from the round pen, I saw that one of the panels had three of its joints dismantled, and the panel had been pushed open like a gate. My heart dropped at the thought that had they dismantled the final joint, the heavy metal panel would have fallen on one of the horses, probably seriously injuring him or her. My caring and innovative husband came up with the idea of wrapping chain link ties around the chain, peg and tunnel to lock them into place. So far, neither Bombay nor Gabbrielle have had the patience to bend that metal tie with their lips and teeth. In the past we tried the same technique, but with twist ties -- the kind you use to tie up a trash bag or a bread bag. The horses ripped those out in no time.

They also used to be able to open the gate to the round pen if they worked as a team. The horse on the outside fiddled with the flip latch while the horse on the inside jimmied the handle back and forth. Eventually, the latch flipped up off its peg, and the handle got pushed into the open position. For that reason, I started wrapping a stud chain around the poles.

Another pen has chains that slide through slots on the gates. Lostine is a pro at shaking the chains until they come out of the slots. After an episode when she escaped and got into the haystack, we locked two parts of the chain together around the pole with a double end snap bolt.

Lostine is also a master at pushing stall doors open with her powerful muzzle. I attached a double end snap bolt to each of the stall doors, so that she couldn't get into the stalls during the day and mess them up after I cleaned them.

Just in case someone forgets to double-lock a gate, I have a yet another gate between the horses and the street that is secured with a cable chain and combination lock. If the horses figure out the combination to that, I'll let you know.


Callie said...

I love an escape artist. A little pony that we used to have was really good at it no matter what I did. He'd take the zap to get out through the electric. I often found him in the neighbors yard eating their lawn. The grass is always greener...LOL.

BTW, I've just tagged you for a weird past photo game that the Transylvanian Horseman started, in which you post a past photo of yourself and a story to go with it and then tag three others. It's fun!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...


I've contemplated this weird past photo game, and realized that it would be quite a fiasco for me to participate. I'm the only photographer in my family, so I'm always behind the camera and not in front of the lens. I doubt I would find any photo of myself in my house. I could contact my mother who lives 500 miles away and ask her to dig through old photo albums and mail some pics to me, but that would be a lot of work for her and completely pointless because my scanner is broken. I considered posting pictures borrowed from the Internet and making up funny stories, but that's just plain cheating...

Scary said...

My husband packed a mule, Julie, for a summer, who was a master at untying knots. He would come home saying he'd lost Julie again and I asked him why he wasn't tying decent knots. He said he was tying the most complicated knots he could think of, but that she'd study them and try different bits of the knot until she found the piece that mattered.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That's pretty amazing, Scary. It's also pretty scary, as I can't even get knots out of my own shoes. The thought that a mule is smarter and more coordinated than me worries me.