Grass vs. Play

I’ve always found it interesting what it “means” when a horse eats grass in our company. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes not a preferred activity from our point of view. It could mean that your horse feels comfortable enough around you to eat while you both take a moment to relax, but it could also mean that your horse finds you dull and is officially ignoring your presence and what you have to say.

At the moment I am playing with multiple different horses – only since a few months and they are all at different levels. Each one has their own different reasoning for eating grass… The confident, “round” Haflinger just wants to feed his food addiction. The nervous Arabian wants to find an outlet for his anxiety so he eats it frantically when he’s not sure what else to do. The confident Arabian used to chow down out of disinterest but has now decided that I’m worth her time. The rest of the horses is just as much of a mixed batch.

That’s what I love: that point when they switch from having a love affair with grass to looking to you for fun instead. This confident Arabian mare expected me to be another boring, horrible human and tried to avoid even looking at me. Within our first session together, her whole attitude changed. I had kept her busy with so many different things and gave her rewards that were so worth it (scratches, a potential cookie) that she became genuinely interested and never, literally never lunged for grass. This was a horse who barely raised her head to look around while eating.

I developed a signal for her that communicated: You can eat grass now, we’re taking a break. At first she couldn’t wait for me to give that signal. By the end of the session I would offer it, only to leave her looking at me with utter wonderment. She didn’t want to! She wanted to play! I love figuring out what a particular horse’s reasoning is behind eating grass. They’re never just eating grass… there’s always a reason and horses notice everything. Always. But there’s almost no better sound than hearing a horse ripping crisp tips off of a meadow. Sigh.

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