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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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