“A horse starts by hearing with his ears, then the eyes, eventually by moving his feet in response, and finally hearing with his heart!” Lew Sterrett, Author and Horse Trainer
After a ride I usually let Sportie graze beside the stables. He is on the bottom of the pecking order so he enjoys being able to eat wherever he wants without being muscled out of the way by the other horses. A friend asked why I wasn’t clinging to his lead rope and I said, “With all this green grass, he isn’t going anywhere.” He has excellent ground manners so if he did spook from a loud noise, he would head straight to his stall for safety and a drink of water.
I’ve been with Sportie for 2 ½ years but the way to his heart is definitely through his stomach, overruled by any attachment to me or his stall mates. Sometimes I will interrupt his grass lunch with a back rub or a butt scratch or a handful of sweet feed. He enjoys all three but once it’s over his head goes back down.
Sportie usually will graze for as long as I let him, without a sideways glance. However, last week we had an exceptionally good ride during which both of us listened closely to each other without protests. Afterwards, I gave him an extra long scratch and then walked over to the mounting block to sit with a handful of sweet feed. He can smell it within fifty feet so he immediately left his chosen patch of grass to have a snack with me. Once the feed was gone, instead of continuing his grazing as usual, he gazed at me with his big soft eyes and continued to lick my hand, long after any taste of sweet feed could have remained. It reminded me of one of my favorite homemade Mother’s Day cards from years ago, when my middle son who is a complete foodie like his mom wrote, "I love you more than cheeseburgers." It still brings tears to my eyes!
He was a tough old guy to win over, but finally, Sportie told me, “I love you more than the green grass.”