I recently moved my horse to a new farm, which, for all intents and purposes, seemed like (and in many ways is) a safe, well-organized, clean and positive new environment for my horse and I. The issue I’m confronting reared its head soon after arrival – my horse has been a life-long cribber and stall chewer. He typically only cribs in his stall and has recently figured out a way to crib despite any and all cribbing straps. At this new barn, he is turned out 24 hours a day, weather permitting, which I thought would be a great way to keep him from chomping on stall doors/wood. His paddock has electric tape around the top rail of a three-rail plastic fencing. The only part not covered with electric tape is the gate area and the two rails below the top fencing. After a week or so, he realized his only opportunity to crib in his day would be on his paddock gate, and began doing so, much to the chagrin of both me and the barn manager/owner (same person). She promptly suggested that I buy him a muzzle to wear while turned out as well as in his stall. I had never considered using a muzzle on him before, and especially did not like the idea because he would be wearing it 24 hours a day, including while eating his hay. Before getting on board with the muzzle, I asked if they could put electric tape along the paddock gate—which I’ve seen done at other barns in the past. The BO/BM said it would not be possible, because they thought he would just try to crib on the lower rails. I relented, and bought my horse a muzzle which he has been wearing 24 hours a day over the last few weeks. His attitude has changed immensely—he is sulky while out in his paddock, and much nippier and “grouchy” while handling him without his muzzle on. The last straw broke when the woman that I lease him a few days a week called me in a panic, saying that he turned on her and tried to kick her in the paddock while trying to put his muzzle back on him after a ride. My horse has never been aggressive—always a very sweet boy with no behavioral flaws besides his cribbing. I immediately called the BM/BO and offered to pay for the entire three rails of the paddock, as well as the gate, to be lined in electric tape so that he would have absolutely nowhere to crib, no paddock fencing to destroy, and thus no need for the muzzle. She considered this, but ultimately said they did not have time to do this despite my willingness to pay for it. I know that the job of a BO/BM is a hard one, and that they cannot satisfy ever boarder’s wishes, but this situation is escalating to one in which it is unsafe for those handling my horse. In addition, he seems miserable, and I of course want him to be happy and healthy as well. There are many dimensions here…I don’t want to overstep my bounds with the barn, but I also put safety first—I don’t want anyone to be hurt while handling him, and the muzzle is bringing out dangerous behavioral issues when others handle him (he's fine for me).
My question to the Forum is: what would you do? Would you move to a new farm with better fencing/more cooperative management? What are the negotiation points that you think exist with the BO/BM? Should I push my request further, or respect the barn’s wishes?