Saturday, November 15, 2008


Saturday November 15 2008

So, with a herd of (uh... how many horses do we have here?) 10 horses or so, it's a brainteaser trying to figure out who can go together, who can stay behind by themselves for a while, who can be the babysitter, who goes in which pens on what diets, who gets more hay time in the big hay pens, how to keep the others occupied while the Three Musketeers get their grain...

Dudley is kept separate from my horse until he gets his deadly back shoes removed - I'm sure he was the one who kicked Stormy in the front leg, which, by the way, is steadily, but slowly, healing. The two lardbutts both get locked up anyway for their morning and evening meals. Four horses are on various states of diets.

I won't turn all 10 out together (especially with Dudley shod behind), so I'll turn them out in various groups, where the free ones can roam up and down the canyon - and they do get their exercise in, running back down to the house several time a day, and then wandering back up-canyon.

In addition to having LOADS of personality, Dudley is an Escape Artist Extraordinaire - he can get out of anything if he puts his mind to it. I have seen him studying how I snap or chain his gates shut. Fortunately he's been amenable to being locked up in his pen for his meals. I tell him it's a Special Treat Pen and so far he's believed me. Although, this is where he escaped from when he was little, by climbing up onto the cattle chute and walking up and jumping off it. I've got it roped off now, but I know that won't stop him if he really wants to get out. That wouldn't be so horrible, except that I don't think it will support his weight anymore if he does get up there.

Last winter, when I was gone for 5 days, and the neighbors had to watch the place, Dudley showed up at Carol's house in the middle of the night with the whole herd, looking in her window. I think he wondered why everybody had left them, and he wanted some human companionship. Once Carol saw him stick his head through a swinging gate, and lift it up, unhinging it, letting it go, and leading everybody out. I saw him get out of a pen by sort of bulling his way through the gate till it was halfway hanging off its hinges, then he very carefully stepped through the rungs and got out, leaving the gate still half hanging. He's very methodical, and very careful. (It makes me think - imagine how my horse would panic and kill himself doing any of those things!)

This morning as we went off on a ride, I left one mare in the big hay pen, and Dudley in the nearby round pen for company for her. The rest of the herd was free to wander around. There was hay to clean up in the round pen, and I told Dudley he was getting another Big Treat, since he's forever on a diet. He was happily munching away when we left.

As we returned from our ride, we passed the herd grazing on the upper 200. As we got closer to the house, I was gazing at the distant round pen... "Hmm, I don't see Dudley."

"Me neither. Wait - I saw Dudley with the herd!"

"Wait! I did too! Geez - he must have let himself out of the round pen." Which wouldn't have been that hard to do because the sliding gate latch isn't very secure. But wait, I thought... I am pretty sure I tied it shut with the lead rope also...

As we got closer: "Holy moly - look at the round pen!" "Oh My God!"

This is not something you want to see when you return from a ride: "round pen" is now a triangle pen, horse is gone. No panels are separated, none are laying down.

Do you know how much ONE five-foot tall panel of the round pen weighs? About 25 lbs. Dudley moved 12 of the 15 panels, drug one side of the round pen about 10 feet inward. The panel that contains the gate is not tied or chained at the bottom, and there is a gap - if the pen is half collapsed. Did he move the panels with his teeth? (I've seen him use his teeth to try to lift gates.) Did he observe this small gap (very likely) and try to use it to his advantage - like shove his neck under there and use his muscle to lift and drag the pen? There was a deep hoofprint at this 'corner' he made so he was using some muscle there.

"S***!" I said, jumping off Jose and leaving Connie to unsaddle him. I was afraid Dudley was hurt up there with the herd. I grabbed a halter and ran for the 4-wheeler. "If I scream, that means I need help!"

I raced out there on the ATV, having swimming visions of the worst: big bad Dudley, smart thinking Dudley, hopping along on 3 legs. And as I held my breath, here came the herd trotting toward me, among them a big chunky bay, a running, bucking, farting Dudley. I checked him all over later - not one scratch, not one line marking his coat, no bumps or bruises - only one little smidge of dirt on his left knee. Dudley wasn't divulging any of his secrets - was only wearing his most innocent expression... with a little worry that he was going to get in trouble again (he got hugs).

We did find the rope that I'd tied around the gate undone, and the sliding panel of the gate actually open - his dragging and lifting must have loosened it. So he either crawled out underneath the whole thing, or he walked right out the gate after he loosened it with his jimmying and lifting (and the gate fell back shut, since all the panels on that side are leaning inward).

I've always said Dudley should be in Cavalia - he's extraordinarily clever (and very sensitive), and look at all he can do with no training! He would put all those other horses to shame. And he's very handsome, and he's got a great personality, and great expressions.

He's better than any magician: Dudley the Unbe***lievable!

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