Barn Buddies: Motion Stable Gets A New Species In Residence

by | 12.09.2016 | 12:25pm
Chicharron snoozes alongside one of the Motion cats
Chicharron snoozes alongside one of the Motion cats

The Graham Motion stable at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., has long been known as a safe haven for more than just horses. Besides the usual barn cats, goats, and occasional visiting dog, followers of Herringswell Stable on social media know the operation includes a sizable wild turkey named Tom. In recent weeks, the stable has also taken on a miniature pot bellied pig named Chicharron.

Chicharron, named by popular vote of stable employees after a pork rind dish, is three months old. Anita Motion, key Herringswell team member and wife of Graham Motion, said full-sized pigs can be up to 1,000 pounds, but “Chich” is a miniature pot-bellied pig and should top off at around 200 pounds.

So far, Chich seems to think of himself as one of the barn dogs. He wears Santa Claus costumes. He naps next to the barn cats (when they allow him to do so). He even does tricks.

“I personally haven't taught him any tricks, but pigs are very trainable. I believe most animals that are very food-driven are more trainable,” said Anita Motion. “The girls at the barn are teaching him to ‘sit' now.”

We don't just train race horses #dancingpigs🐽 @cat_fp_mcgee

A video posted by Anita Motion (@anitamotion) on

So far, Chich is fitting right in with the menagerie, and Motion said the horses haven't demonstrated a particular dislike of him.

“I think the barn are used to strange animals being around,” she said. “'Chich' is extremely friendly and wants to make friends with everyone.  The cats are often swatting him when he gets too cozy.”

Chicharron wishing everyone a very Happy Holidays #EatMorChikin #H2

A photo posted by Anita Motion (@anitamotion) on

Despite being the resident nice guy, Chich will have a hard time usurping the authority of Tom the Turkey. As Motion understands it, Tom was seized by authorities from a residence in town and released at Fair Hill by the Department of Natural Resources sometime in 2014.

“[He] obviously didn't appreciate that,” she said. “He arrived at our barn in May 2014. He sat in a tree and made a terrible noise for a couple of days. Bernadette, our foreman and resident wildlife expert, climbed up the tree and got him down. He's been with us ever since.”

For reasons still not quite clear to everyone, Tom appointed himself head of workouts and cooldowns at Herringswell, and took to following horses around the shedrow as they walked after exercise. Eventually, he also began accompanying sets to the racetrack. Motion's horses paid little attention to their new assistant trainer, having grown used to him around the barn.

Anyone know a good bird psychologist? He's been walking since 6:30am.. #Tomtheturkey #nowTesstoo

A video posted by Anita Motion (@anitamotion) on

“We don't encourage him,” said Motion. “Our horses are used to him but some of the other trainers' horses aren't, so it causes chaos.”

Tom had a girlfriend named Tess for a period of time, but Motion said the two have since broken up. Tess was less friendly toward people than Tom and more difficult to wrangle, and she worried the turkey would eventually cause an accident with one of the horses. She has since moved on to a new home and presumably, a new relationship. Tom remains single and is focusing on his work.

Um, Gwent – did you know you had a turkey on your head?

A photo posted by Anita Motion (@anitamotion) on

Tom cheerfully greets media and visiting owners, and is fond of perching in barn rafters. As if he isn't already helpful enough, Tom cleans up dropped sweet feed from horses' stalls and has been known to particularly enjoy discarded peaches. He also takes strolls out to the Fair Hill paddocks, where he checks on Motion trainees enjoying turnout time. Although his presence around the barn is fun for humans, it's doubtlessly a good desensitization experience for horses who may move on to riding careers, too.

#tomtheturkey always willing to lend a hand with clean up duties. Thanks @valettecamille for video

A video posted by Anita Motion (@anitamotion) on

  • Ida Lee

    What a zoo !!!!! They’re all so cute especially Chich …. hope he doesn’t know his name translates into “pork rind” in Spanish …

  • slvrblltday

    I have had a few friends taken in by the myth of the “mini” pot belly that stays 200 lbs (according to unscrupulous breeders who sell for $800+) …if you’re willing to feed “special feed” that is mostly sawdust :( I’m sure the Motions will look after him well in any case.

  • Manefan

    So funny. That Mr. turkey looks like he will never again miss an opportunity to ride that cart. And any Ms. Turkey will have to take a back seat to this thrill! And Chich has it all over me in the dancing department. No wonder nobody gives me food when I dance. Fun videos.

  • Genellen

    LOL Totally adorable! Love these stories….thanks!

  • Audrey Gulla

    Too funny: Tess has moved to a new home & new relationship……while Tom is single again! And Chich!? Just the cutest little guy ever!

  • GloriaU

    This has to be my favorite Barn Buddies story yet! Santa piggie and Tom. Those pictures and videos are priceless!

  • Hamish

    Gotta love all the barn animals!

  • OopsyDaisy3

    Takes special people to take in God’s creatures and give them a home and a place in which they feel safe and wanted. Love it. And thanks Motion’s and company. Chich looks very happy in his red Santa suit. But the turkey takes my vote for uniqueness with his ability to acclimate to something totally out of his ‘normal’ surroundings. Linda in Texas

    • Rosemary Homeister

      Very well put

      • OopsyDaisy3

        Thank you Rosemary, takes one to know one. And i have an inborne
        trait that i cannot shake. Brought home 2 young cats yesterday during a freezing cold windy day, they were sitting in a field no doubt let out to fend for themselves, probably about 4 months old. They are both asleep in my lap as i write this. So much for the falacy stated by many that feral cats cannot be people-ized. Linda

        • Rosemary Homeister

          I’m the same exact way we had a lot of cats left behind when Churchill kicked us out of the backside (Calder) and many trainers went to Gulf Stream. I feed as Manny As I can

  • Imim Tnua

    Wonderful story! Thank you for making me smile, Natalie.

  • Sher Kirk

    Motion. Stable is like a trip to a petting zoo , no wonder he’s so successfully trains it relieves tension and gives horses a great home base

  • Sher Kirk

    I love Chich winner circle prance.

  • whirlaway

    I have always liked Graham Motion but this is quite a little family and a dancing pig no less a very versatile training center.

  • Sandy

    They are truly great people taking in these animals! They have compassion for animals of all kinds! So great to see! Top notch operation there with horses as well!!

  • Delrene

    What great fun it must be at the Motion barn. Love these stories of barnyard antics.

  • Larry Sterne

    Love to c see it.Good for horses to. The learn that life is not living in a hothouse.

  • ctgreyhound

    I guess the motto of the Motion barn should be “the more, the merrier”. Didn’t know that pigs were so trainable. Personally I’m not too fond of turkeys. Had a job up in the mountains & had to battle with them every day to get to my office. They’re messy & noisy.

    • Noelle

      Think of the famous Churchill quote: “Always remember, a cat looks down on man, a dog looks up to man, but a pig will look man right in the eye and see his equal.” Churchill knew that pigs are highly intelligent.

      Loved the story!

  • OopsyDaisy3

    The ‘wild’ turkey riding shotgun in the seat of the cart absolutely blew me away!
    But for sure, rather be blown away myself than the turkey. They need to put him
    up at night so no hunter gets close. That happened in my little city, passing thru a
    fella saw a turkey on some property from the highway and got out and shot it, climbed
    a fence and picked it up, put it in his car and headed on down the highway. A Texas Highway Patrol Officer was apprised of the deed and called ahead to another district and they took the shooter to jail and he had to bond out of jail for killing the pet turkey. Fined him $2,000
    and luckily the guy was not ushered out of the Army. Linda

  • ziggypop

    Love, love, love this story!

    Thank you!

  • Mimi Hunter

    I really like these stories. The Pot Bellied Pig – if a true miniature – should only hit about 75#. At 3 months my regular pigs ran about 175# and would be headed to market around 4 1/2 months at a weight between 235 and 250#. Pigs are very clean and will housebreak themselves. And then there is the turkey. I am terrified of birds though I do have it a little more under control lately. The sound they make when they fluff up their feathers to intimidate strangers [or rivals for their chosen mate in the wild], sounds like about 50 baby’s rattles. And when they fluff the appear about twice their size, and they have been known to charge at you. However I’m glad to hear it’s working.

  • Virginia Lawler

    Wonderful story & pix! Brought back a great memory from 70+ yrs. ago when I was 6 & had my 1st horse–a big, black stallion who was also old. He’d stand like a rock while I got him tacked up & when I put an orange crate on end to stand on to get up on him. But he’d run “like the wind” (!) when I thought we were out of my Dad’s sight (we weren’t). Colonel was not a Thoroughbred, but my Dad, raised & raced Illinois-breds for decades, also raised some hogs & also was a Big Tease and unorthodox teacher. One day as we were looking out at a pig pasture, he said, “Any hog out there is smarter than your horse.” I was so shocked–then started to cry. ” Is not”, I wailed.” “Is so,” he said. “You’ll never find a hog that will overeat & kill himself. Go look up the word “founder.” So I did learn something, but it still took a week before I spoke to him again.

  • Elle D

    It’s hard not to love these warm, fuzzy stories!

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