Monday, May 24, 2010


Spider put a hole in the wall of my barn. A big one. How did that happen, you ask? Well, would you believe me if I said it took skill, talent and extensive planning? Of course not. It took about 30 seconds of stupidity on my part.

It went down like this: I got Spider out and tied him to the ring just outside the tack room door. Then I went in the tack room to grab a brush. I wish I could tell you what happened next, but I was in the tack room. I heard a scuffle, then a pop...then a very loud "crack!". By the time I got out of the tack room, Spider was standing, wide-eyed and trembling, about three feet from where I had left him. The lead line trailed beside him, still attached to the ring and a two foot long section of my barn wall.

I suppose at this point in the story I should give a little bit of history: When I first bought Spider, he had a rather bad habit of breaking the crossties (and many other things as well). In fact, in the first six months I owned him he broke a bridle, a pair of side reins, two halters, and too many sets of crossties to count. It always happened the same way. He would startle at something, jump and hit the end of the ties. As soon as he felt the pressure from hitting the end of his line, he would panic and go into full fight or flight mode. And as soon as the pressure was gone (as soon as the ties, halter or whatever had broken), he would stop and stand trembling until someone collected him. He never tried to run away and he would walk right up and stand quietly to be tied again. It was pretty obvious that it was just a panicked response to hitting the end of the line. He feels trapped, and his gut reaction is to get free. Being more than a bit claustrophobic myself, I can sympathize. Unfortunately, since we were boarding at the time, my barn mates were not quite as sympathetic. I suppose it does get annoying when the cross ties are always broken because of someone else's crazy claustrophobic horse. So, I started grooming and tacking him up in his stall. At first he would fidget a bit, since he was unrestrained, but he soon learned that if he fidgeted he would get a smack and told to stand still. Pretty soon he would stand quietly in his stall, just as if he were tied, while I tacked up. From there it wasn't exactly a leap of faith to move on to ground tying.

So, I taught him to ground tie by just expounding on what he had already learned in the stall. I would take him out, ask him to stand, then drop the rope and move away from him. If he moved, I would correct him, ask him to stand still again and move on. He caught on quickly and soon I could groom and tack him up anywhere and he would stand quietly. Granted, I wouldn't just let him go and then leave him unattended for a half hour, I wouldn't trust any horse to do that. But he stands quietly enough that I can pop into the tack room for a second or two without worrying about him. That's all I'm really asking for. If he does get startled while ground tied (and he has) he just jumps a bit, looks around for me and then it's over. Since he isn't tied to anything, he never feels that he's trapped, thus eliminating the panicked "I need to escape" response and broken halters and ties. It's worked great for years.

So why on earth did I tie him to the wall of my barn yesterday? I have no idea. I'm going to just write it off as temporary insanity and let this be a lesson to myself: Don't tie 1200 lb animals with a known history of claustrophobia to anything. EVER. Or you will end up having to paste the wall of your barn back together with construction adhesive. Like this:


  1. Silly little Spider. Glad he wasn't hurt though!

  2. That is kinda funny. Sorry about your barn. ;-)

  3. I've known several TB's that broke crossties like that. Just strange behavior.

    Glad Spider didn't get hurt. The barn can be repaired.

  4. UGH thoroughbreds breaking things. I can sympathize. Miles broke his brand new padded bridle 2 weeks after using it because the reins caught on this faucet thing while I was turning off a radio...of COURSE the minute the reins are a little sloppy is when he decides to step back, and feels pressure, and then SNAP! goes the bridle in, like, four different places. Really, of course, it's my fault, but thoroughbreds honestly always seem to be breaking things attached to them!


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