As the snow begins to melt and the grass in my field (which I’ve considered inferior all winter) finally starts growing again, it’s time for me to begin my annual spring cleaning. Encouraging your Human to ditch the old and bring in the new is something I’ve touched on before and it can get to be kind of a drag.
Don’t get me wrong—I do feel a certain sense of accomplishment when my Human’s screeches reach octaves only heard by dogs when she discovers the latest piece of cheap finery I’ve marked for the dumpster—but eventually the ringing in my ears wears off and I need to find a new sense of joy in spring cleaning.
Fortunately, my stablemates and I have come up with a game to make this dreaded process more amusing. Our Humans have spent a lot of time recently discussing March Madness, which has something to do with a game called basketball. While I’d be a lot more interested if the game involved shooting apples into my feed tub, I guess I can pretend to understand the appeal.
Know the rules
The first step in establishing a game of your own is to agree on a point system for the players. The goal here is to destroy inferior items enough that our cheapo Humans will finally throw them away. In my version of the game, points are assigned for 1) expense of the item (rather than quality–it’s not my fault if she can’t spot a knock-off) and 2) degree of destruction.
For example, the $5 nylon feed bag my Human bought me (“to slow down my hay consumption,” pffft!) only earned me 10 points despite the fact I chewed it into pieces after ripping the seams, because it was cheap to begin with. I can’t believe she thought I wouldn’t notice an eBay find. The $80, ultra cushy, 300-gram blanket liner however, scored me 45 points because it took me all day to rip it off, tear a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in it, and use the cotton fill for confetti. I suspected that despite the name brand, the lining was not goose down. I was correct.
The chest straps were the hardest part to remove, but you can bet my Human still hasn’t found those. Every good player keeps the trophies.
Remember that while I’m all for pooping on items to register your dissatisfaction with them, this isn’t Little League. Complete and utter obliteration of objectionable items is required to score points.
Here’s a sample scoring system. Creativity points can be assigned by your barn’s scoring committee:
50 + points: Blankets with 1200 Denier and higher, saddle trees, metal items more than ½ inch thick, critical elements of trailers or fencing. See also: items costing more than $100 to fix or replace.
40 – 50 points: Nylon, blankets with less than 1200 Denier (eww), items costing more than $50, overworn hand-stitched leather halters. Anything custom.
30 – 40 points: Bridles or leather pieces, those surprisingly costly but flimsy breakaway straps on halters, boring stall toys
20 – 30 points: Leg straps on blankets, door latches, lead ropes of uncomplimentary color or length
20 points and lower: Crossties and stall guards. Extra points are assigned if you break more than the snap or baling twine, however.
0 points: Whining about the judges’ decisions on point assignments. This isn’t the Olympics.
Remember that the ultimate goal of the game is to revamp your clothes, accessories, and stalls for spring. Leave no feed tub unturned! The best way to manage a really thorough cleaning, and to score points with your friends, is to look at your environment with new eyes—have you always hated the bars on your window? Does the stain on your stall’s walls not match your coat? That lead rope/chew toy looking a little worn?
In this spirit, I have successfully warped and snapped a too-plain iron salt block holder. I also cracked and deconstructed the clear plastic of my stall window over three days.
I’m currently leading our barn’s bracket.
Scope your opportunities
The easiest way to score points is waiting until your Human is either gone for the day, hopefully earning money for that new Rambo, or temporarily distracted. Most of my friends enjoy ripping up blankets and halters in the field, but I find this approach uninspired.
I have no idea what my Human spends so much time doing in the tack room. It sure isn’t getting me any food, so I admit there may be a sense of revenge when I break cross-ties and stall guards and do a victory lap around the barn for all to see—5 points, everyone!
There are no losers
In the end, your barn bracket may show winners and losers, but a dumpster full of worn-out items just in time for spring reminds us all that after the fun and games, this purging process is a learning experience for our Humans. That, and the sound of ripping, over-priced nylon is the greatest prize of them all.
|Jitterbug is a Michigan-bred Professional Draft Cross who skillfully avoided saddles until age 5. Since then, she has been lauded for her talent in successfully managing humans while training herself to one day achieve eventing greatness. Jitter and her human live in central Kentucky.
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Photo by Dark Horse Photography.