Picture this: it’s 7:00 AM and you’ve just arrived at the farm for morning chores. It was a cold night, so all of the doors are shut at the ends of each wing of the barn. The run-ins are shut, and so are the windows. The lights are on, but they’re on a timer anyway so it isn’t out of the ordinary. As you and the other girl pull the big aisle doors open, you’re greeted with a very haphazard scene.

The stall doors are mostly open. Some are only halfway pulled back, others were obviously blown back quickly. The latch on some of the doors is pulled up, as if someone was opening the stall door but decided to stop halfway through.

And where are the horses?

No friendly nickers greeted you when you drew the big doors back. No happy faces popped out (okay, some of them did but not a majority) to welcome you and demand food. What in the world?

It becomes apparent pretty quickly that the horses have vacated the confines of their stalls. There isn’t any commotion, so you’re not worried about what they’re doing yet. You shut the big doors to the aisle, and walk-rush towards the indoor arena which is connected to the barn aisle, where you just saw the flash of a tail.

The group of escape artists are leisurely walking around the far end of the arena. When you arrive in the doorway, they stop. Every single one of them pricks their ears forward, and looks at you like you’re late to the party. They’re each happy to accompany you back to their stalls where they’ll surely be served a prompt breakfast.

This is not a strange concept for so many of us. Escape artists are usually latched into their stalls at night. The bully isn’t allowed to be turned out with too many other horses. As if the barn and paddocks were the playground at recess, horses have their games too.

Have you ever wondered why your horse’s halter is always torn on the left side? Always on the left and directly on the cheek piece. Halter tag, of course! When he’s out with his friends during turnout, they’ll reach for each others halters, and “tag” one another by nipping it.

Before, I’ll bet you bought new ones hoping that they’d be the last. And now? You’ll probably get the cheapest halter you can find with a leather breakaway piece so he can have all the fun at recess he wants.

Dogs like to play. You can even convince a cat to play if it’s the right cycle of the moon. Are our horses any different?

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