One summer we were having a BBQ, and had invited several of our neighbors over. We pulled the picnic table over into the shade of our Willow tree, which happened to be just 15 feet or so from the front gate of our pasture. Because of all the activity both of the horses, Naughty and his friend Whisper were glued to the fencing observing our every move. For the most part they observed quietly, and waited to see what all the commotion was about.
We started carrying the dishes of food out, burgers, brats, (If you’re not from an area that has brats…I’m sorry…truly. They are delicious.) and various salads. None of this was particularly enticing to the horses, until…My Papaw came out of the house carrying a giant punch bowl of carrots.
Except, they weren’t carrots. They were Cheetos, the thicker, puffier kind. But try telling Naughty that. He saw that bowl coming and his eyes rounded to the size of rice crackers and he let out such a whinny that the people nearest the picnic table all jumped. He then set to a fast, back and forth pacing (running over poor Whisper) while snorting and whinnying, and bobbing his head up and down in a “yes” motion. (He’s known for that. And also for sneaking up behind people and using his forehead to give them a great big push…usually into the water trough. He’s done this many times. I warn people, but they don’t seem to believe me until they are having their unscheduled bath.)
It took me a minute to figure out why he was so excited, but then I made the connection. To quiet his ruckus I said “Quiet now! They are not carrots!” (Yes, I know he doesn’t understand English. It doesn’t stop me from having conversations with him. Or my dog.) He kept up with the pacing and hollering, so to end the disruption I grabbed a cheeto and took it over to him so he could have a sniff and see for himself that it wasn’t a carrot. By now Whisper had enough of him, and his behavior, and had retreated to the East end of the pasture to graze in peace. As I approached the fence, he stopped pacing and began nodding his head frantically. If he had been a dog he would have had strings of drool hanging from his chin by now. I reached out my hand with the cheeto in it, thinking he’d catch a whiff of it and realize it wasn’t a treat he’d enjoy, but I was wrong.
My naughty horse reached out and snatched that Cheeto like it was the last food on Earth and he was starving. For a moment he had a very satisfied look on his face. Then, the taste hit him. Or maybe it was the texture. Whatever it was, he was clearly not amused.
Naughty opened his mouth and attempted to drop the “carrot” but, to his horror, he found that the carrot wouldn’t fall out of his mouth. The Cheeto had partially dissolved already and was very, very stuck to his tongue. He began shaking his head from side to side and making a noise very much like the noise cats make when they are about to deposit a present from their gastrointestinal track on to your favorite rug.
By this time everyone at the BBQ was staring at my naughty horse, who was putting on quite a show. In addition to his frantic gyrations he began jumping up and down, which eventually evolved into full on bucking. By this time I was collapsed on the ground laughing hysterically, and most of the people at the BBQ had gotten over their shock and were chuckling at Naughty’s antics.
Naughty’s impromptu rodeo lasted easily a full two minutes. The cheeto must have finally disloged or dissolved enough that he was satisfied that the “rotten carrot” was gone. He glared over the fence at the horde of gawking and laughing people, clearly miffed that we found such amusement in his misery. By now I had recovered somewhat and told my horse “I tried to tell you buddy! It wasn’t a carrot!” He responded by producing a lovely flehmens response, and stomping away towards Whisper, no doubt hoping to get some sympathy from her. If you are unfamiliar with the flehmens response, it looks like this:
So Naughty stomped away, looking back at us balefully once or twice. Eventually we were all able to settle down and enjoy our dinner, while Naughty cleansed his palate on some nice grass. It was weeks before he’d let us attempt to hand him anything even vaguely orange. Eventually he was willing to eat carrots again, but only if he took a good long sniff and lipped them for a bit before committing. To this day he is cautious about carrots, especially if they are cut up into smaller pieces.