MIDLAND, Mich. — A horse with a knack for opening stall doors at a Michigan farm is getting attention after a video of her escape-artist antics was posted online.
Mariska, a 9-year-old Friesian has learned to pick just about every lock her owners put in place to keep her in. A home movie that shows Mariska’s antics has gone viral, with more than 700,000 views on YouTube.
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Sandy and Don Bonem, owners of Misty Meadow Farms in Midland, have been breeding Friesians, a rare breed of horses, for 10 years. They have never seen anything like their lock-picking horse, which they nicknamed “Houdini Horse.”
“She would always play with things with her mouth as a baby, and she just kind of progressed from that,” said owner Sandy Bonem. “She doesn’t like to be locked in, so she would play with each new lock until she figured it out.”
Bonem recently posted a video online of Mariska opening numerous locks on the farm, as well as unlocking the stalls for other horses, as she made her way to a freezer, where she thought she would find grain. The video went viral, with more than 700,000 views.
Her goal is to get into the grain, but the couple has moved it to a new stall and chained it shut.
“We filmed this about a year ago and sent it to America’s Funniest Home videos, but when we didn’t hear from them, we decided to post it on YouTube for our friends to see, and it went kind of crazy,” she said.
Bonem said they bought Mariska’s mother — Trienke — from a farmer in Grand Rapids, who had her shipped from the Netherlands. Trienke was pregnant with Mariska when she arrived in the United States, and she delivered on the Bonems’ farm.
“We’ve raised Mariska from a foal,” Bonem said.
Bonem said they did not teach Mariska how to pick locks.
“People think we did, but that would be something foolish for a horse breeder to do,” she said.
Bonem and her husband have put safeguards in place to keep Mariska safe on the farm’s grounds.
“When we leave the barn, she will go around and check to see if any of our safeguards are missing, and if she finds one, she gets out,” she said.
On a recent day, Mariska made an escape after she was locked in her stall before visitors. Mariska walked out of her extra-secured stall onto the paddock and entered the stall next to hers. The stall was not safeguarded, and Mariska emerged.
Bonem said it is not unusual for horses to figure out how to unlock their stalls.
“But what amazed us about her was the way she continues to figure out each lock it takes to get to her target. She is a thinker. She keeps us very busy,” Bonem said.
However, the Bonems have one sure way to keep Mariska contained.
“Whenever we are not at home, we close the bars on her window, and that prevents her from getting out. That’s our 100-percent way to keep her from getting out,” Bonem said.