This post is about safety at the barn. I do many things around the barn to ensure that my boys are safe. Unlocked gates is a particular phobia of mine, so I make sure that every gate I use has a chain latch. I use a fairly heavy grade chain and a quick snap clip. Click photo for larger view.
Speedy G will eat anything. He might eat it only once, and he might spit it out, but he will literally try to eat anything. I was hand walking him once while I collected small rocks for a classroom project. When he heard the rocks begin to rattle around in the bucket, he lunged for the contents before I could stop him. I actually heard him crunching on the rocks before he realized that what he was eating was inedible. I have since learned that if it is not attached, he will try and eat it.
Several years ago, I showed up at the barn and discovered that my gate chain and quick snap were missing. I am methodical about checking the gate before I leave so I was 99% sure that I had latched it closed the previous day. I searched all around Speedy’s stall for the missing chain and snap. They’re actually quite heavy so I knew they hadn’t blown away. When I couldn’t find the chain in the dirt, I started gently raking his stall. It was not there. I looked outside of his stall. I looked in the neighboring stall. Nothing. I finally asked the barn’s caretaker if he had seen it. Not only had he noticed that it was missing, but he had also raked the stall looking for it. It was simply gone.
The barn I was boarding at was a friendly place with fewer than 30 horses, and many of the boarders owned two or more horses. We were a small group and most everyone knew everyone else. Things were seldom borrowed. I started to worry.
Knowing Speedy G’s proclivity for eating weird and inedible things, I began to suspect that he might actually have eaten the thing like a spaghetti noodle. In fact, the more I searched for it, the more certain I became that that was what had happened. It actually seemed more likely that he had eaten it than someone had taken it. Why would someone take a twelve inch chain and quick snap?
I don’t panic. I am calm in an emergency and very methodical in my actions. I looked at Speedy and narrowed my vision so that it rested right on his belly. I knew that if I stared hard enough, I would see the outline of a chain resting at the bottom of his belly much like how a baby’s foot will leave an outline on a pregnant woman’s belly. I even placed my ear, and then a stethoscope, to his belly. Was that a clinking sound I heard?
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back that freight train up there, sister. Horses don’t eat chains, right? This is just silly. But it wasn’t. I was genuinely certain that Speedy had started to play with the unlatched chain. He had somehow managed to get most of it in his mouth. With a little help from gravity, the chain must have started to slide down his throat, and right at this moment there was a chain making it’s way through his digestive system.
Kids swallow coins all the time. Drug mules swallow packets of cocaine. How much harm could a twelve inch length of chain do? I couldn’t stand it any longer. I dialed Bakersfield Vet Hospital’s emergency number. When the dispatcher asked what was the nature of the emergency, I sheepishly told her that my horse might have eaten a ... chain. Oh my God. Did I just tell the dispatcher that my horse ate a CHAIN? To her credit, she didn’t laugh.
Several minutes later, Dr. Comeau called me back. Hey, Karen. What’s up? And he did laugh! I knew this was going to be one of those things that vets all tell their colleagues about. Can you believe the idiotic calls we get? Really? A chain? Boy, was she stupid. I couldn’t help it, though. I knew Speedy G well enough to know that it was distinctly possible that he had actually eaten the damn thing.
I politely and articulately explained the thing to Dr. Comeau. What should I do? He laughed, but he did take me seriously. He doubted that Speedy had eaten it, but he admitted that it was a possibility, although very unlikely. He suggested I place a big magnet under his belly. WHAT?!?!? To this day, I am not sure whether or not he was kidding. His final recommendation was to simply wait. If he had eaten it, it should pass in a day or so. Call him back if I noticed it in his road apples. Thank you very much, and goodbye.
Holy crap. What could I do but wait? And so I waited. Several days later, the chain reappeared in Speedy G’s stall, but not in a poop pile.
Several stalls down from Speedy G lived a pinto horse with a freakishly weird owner. She would show up, ride, groom, and maybe turn the boy out. It might be several weeks, or more before she’d show up again. One afternoon as I was finishing up a ride on Montoya, I caught her cleaning her bridle in my water trough. Ew! I politely asked her to STOP DOING THAT as it was an excellent way to spread germs and besides that, it was just plain gross. One summer she decided that it would keep her horse cooler if she kept him covered with a nylon sheet 24 hours a day. Idiot! Each morning I would remove the sheet, which would be crusted with salt, and hang it beside her stall. When she kept putting it back on, I finally washed the damn sheet, folded it neatly, and stored it in her tack room. The next day the sheet was back on her horse. It’s regularly over a 100 degrees here in the summer with lows in the 80s. Poor horse.
The day the chain went missing, Weird Lady had been at the barn. The next time Weird Lady was at the barn? The chain reappeared. I never asked her, but I know she took it for some weird and creepy purpose. Mystery solved.
Conclusion? All my chains are now zip-tied to the rail, and the quick snaps are zip-tied to the chain. No one takes the chains, and I don’t have to worry about Speedy G eating them!