From: "Mare, Foals and Ferraris:"
"So along comes this horse into our perfect world that really isn’t perfect. Instead of our simply noticing the horse has a few questionable habits, we immediately accuse the poor beggar of having vices. According to federal law, a vice is a Class B felony, normally resolved by the perpetrator doing a five-to ten-year stint at a penitentiary, which is not a real productive way to get a horse to the races. Most racing secretaries don’t write races for fifteen-year old maidens that never won one and are ridden by a jockey and a parole officer. Besides, the prisons are already overcrowded with perfect human beings as it is.
I like to refer to vices as aberrations, minor deviations on the equine path of life. Most are relatively harmless and only irritate people because of that perfection thing. I try to impart that philosophy on Jesse whenever she starts exploring my emotional closet. It’s that chromosomal obsession women have to fix something – usually a man. Why more women don’t go into the remodeling business puzzles me. I guess fixing a patio just doesn’t rank up there with 200,000 years of defective genes and the chance to turn Homo defectus into a Cocker spaniel.
Cribbing is a good example of an equine bad habit. Derived from the Queen’s English, the term attempts to explain how some horses grab the ‘corn crib’ (which is basically a food repository), in their teeth and belch in reverse. A corn crib is nothing more than a feed manger – horses don’t do formal dining, so it’s just a box where you throw in the food and clean up the slobber later. That of course demotes most farm managers to something like a busboy at a pie-eating contest. Blame it on the Brits – they always come up with terms that if pronounced with enough nasal discharge somehow sound terribly important, if not totally inaccurate. Horses don’t eat much corn. In England, oats are called corn, probably because England is too cold to grow corn, which brings up the issue of the Boston Tea Party. You see, the British also couldn’t grow tea either because of the cold, so they traded opium for tea with the Chinese figuring that once the habit got going, negotiations would be a lot more one-sided than they already were, allowing for a more aggressive approach for the third leg of their commerce – kidnapping Africans to sell to white people. England sort of specialized in the import and export of bad habits. Boston had to dump the tea since most kidnapped Africans couldn’t swim and well, Chinese dope fiends were in short supply. We actually preferred the French more than the English because mostly they just shopped for clothes. Of course I’m still not sure what the English call corn. Probably wheat. Maybe Canada. I don’t have a clue. However, once independence was assured, we decided to race our horses in the opposite direction – counter-clockwise. You know, don’t slam the gate on your way home.
Horses normally eat hay, oats (corn), barley and grass. Every so often they go for farm manager’s shirts, small BMWs, a farrier’s favorite baseball cap, dirt, rocks and the careless cat. For special treats, they prefer apples, carrots, bananas, grapes and a pint of Guinness. And as I addressed earlier, the appetizer menu includes fence posts, expensive trees and plywood. They prefer interior plywood – something about the glue. Definitely an eclectic diet. And here I thought Guido was the only culinary school dropout.
I don’t think cribbers get enough credit for thinking up the habit. I have never met a cribber who wasn’t smarter than the average horse. After all, most racehorses sit around all day in a stall waiting for something to happen. Usually, nothing does. Maybe a rat runs by, or somebody stops by to sit on their backs, but otherwise it is pretty dull. Some horses get regular visits by rather attractive grooms (girls) with a manure fetish, or more likely, Manuel from Barcelona who gave up maiming bulls in favor of perforating horses with a pitchfork. So, they lock their teeth on the stall door, make a really obnoxious sound and swallow some air. Compared to compulsive vacuum cleaning or getting arrested in a Reno hotel room with your ‘niece,’ the habit seems pretty harmless. But it definitely isn’t perfect. And there’s always the problem of where all that air ends up."