When I worked for Ralph Hill, one of the laws of the groom position was that you kept the shedrow cooler full of Mountain Dew and carrots. As far as I know he never drank anything but Mountain Dew. And not having a carrot waiting for his horse when he came in from a ride was sheer blasphemy. I adopted the get the bit out, get a carrot in, strategy for a few years.
Later, working at a stable belonging to a big Orlando resort, I decided that treats were something tourists gave to horses so that after they were safely back in Brazil or Canada or Texas, they could rest easily knowing they’d left behind a legacy of horses that bit off that blonde manager’s fingers whenever she tried to get a halter on any of them. I stopped giving horses treats and preached against it.
Then of course along came Final Call, the Horse That Changed Everything, and I started shamelessly buying plastic tubs of Gallop Girls horse treats, and advised everyone else within earshot to do the same.
Somehow many of the OTTBs I’ve dealt with, including several of my broodmares, were astonished and a little insulted by any of the treats I ever offered of them, from carrots to Doritos to horse cookies. What was the problem? They weren’t getting treats at the track? I guessed not.
Clearly none of them ever came from our barn, where the horses are treated like boy emperors in ancient Egypt. Oh, let me peel you another grape, Prince Chestnut Colt. Oh, let me scrape another baby carrot, Princess Bay Filly. Did that fall on the ground? I’ll just run to the deli and buy you another. Don’t you worry about a thing, Your Highness.
I mean, this is the scene that greeted me the first time I walked into the feed room:
And that’s just for feeding time. Weekly, a new bag of peppermints is opened and left on the office desk. A bag so big that its contents would last in a jar on a secretary’s desk for about three years. Those are for treats and general spoiling.
And of course there’s all the other things that are fun to feed horses. Like today, when I shared a cherry Pixie Stick with The Bad Apple. The Bad Apple was most pleased with it – until he started to taste the sour flavor. Then we laughed at him flipping his lip up. Like we were a pair of ten-year-old girls playing with the lesson pony, instead of tacking up a colt to take to the racetrack. Especially when I just had to kiss him on his silly, sugary, pony’s nose.