Having a huge pet pig sparks plenty of questions, but we find she is helpful to the young horses we train. Plus, I kind of like having her friendly face around.
We’ve always got people visiting, swinging in, and coming and going around our place. When someone new shows up at our little spot, it seems there’s always a stream of similar questions that are asked.
“How long have you lived at this place?”
“Uh … exactly how many horses do you have here?”
“Where did you get that big pipe for your entrance?”
And “What on earth IS that?”
I don’t mind questions, and most of the answers are relatively simple.
“That number changes, but always too many.”
And, “It’s a pet pig.”
And that last answer is almost always followed by 1) token pictures of our friendly pig for said visitor’s Snapchat accounts and 2) the question “Now, why do you have a pig?”
To be honest, I don’t really know why I have a pet pig. Her name is Ribs. I ended up with her as a partial trade for a miniature bull calf I raised (another story for another time), and she was terrier-sized, portable and quick when she arrived. My horses were scared of her and I thought she was charming, but she continued to grow and my horses got to where they sort of liked her.
Ribs is a KuneKune pig, which is a hairy, low odor, naturally wattled, colorful breed that stems from New Zealand. By nature, they are friendly, amicable and best of all, they strictly graze—they don’t root. And besides sheer entertainment value (and the fact that in a dire worldwide shutdown, I’m covered in the pork chop and bacon department), I’ve found her to be an asset in another way: she is just great to have around for our horses.
I know many folks who have a horror story about their horses and a pig encounter. Some horses see them, hear them or even just smell them and will react fearfully and blindly, tied up, loose in a pen and under saddle. I know horses who have run through fences and people who have been really hurt because of their mount’s reaction to pigs.
Now, realize I have no illusion that Ribs is the same thing to a horse as riding across a herd of wild sows and boars, but I do believe she does great things for helping to desensitize the colts that we have come and go from our place. Many need to be introduced softly, as the way that she grumbles and saunters around can strike terror in their hearts in the beginning. And if someone comes to ride for the day, I often shut her up as to not scare the horses they brought unknowingly. But with almost every group of horses, she becomes a part of the crew. A couple of colts we started have even fallen in love with Ribs, heartbroken daily when she left their side and got penned up in the evenings.
But for all the horses we raise, own and ride around here, our pig has proven to be nothing but helpful for getting everything more gentle. Shoot, she’s even helped me sell a horse or two, as a pig-broke gelding is viewed as a good thing to most people.
As far as entertainment value goes, she’s less than impressive. Mostly, she waddles around, naps and eats. But she’s always nearby to offer a friendly face, she doesn’t mind her photo being taken and certainly appreciates a good ear scratch if someone’s there to offer it.
Yep, people swing by, say hello and come and go through our big ol’ scrapyard pipe entrance, but as long as we’re riding colts, it looks like Ribs is here to stay.