Horses love to play. They have their regular “horse games” like chasing, pretend fighting, bucking, nipping, and squealing. Sometimes I’ll sit in my car after I’ve finished feeding my two old sweeties and just watch the antics. It’s pretty entertaining.

Horses also have a keen sense of curiosity and are interested in most everything that goes on in their world. Some people might go so far as to suggest that horses are busybodies. We do have our share of horse snoops in the pasture.

One day while we were feeding Bud and Pepper, my husband picked up one of the alfalfa cubes (the ones Pepper loves beyond all that is good and holy), and tossed it into the pasture, landing it right in front of shy little Hanger.

She pricked up her ears, looked around as if to see if anyone else saw this amazing event, and then gobbled up the hay cube.

Now instead of lazing in the sun, half watching what we were doing with our horses, Hanger was interested. I mean really interested. She had the look of a horse on full alert. She was sending laser beams with her eyes toward Rick:

“Toss me another one. I’m ready for more, big boy.”

So what did Rick do?

He tossed a hay cube to Macie.

And she became interested in the game. She snarfed down the cube and sent her own laser beams toward Rick.

“Yoo hoo!” Her eyes were bright, her ears up.

Maybe I even saw a drip of saliva running down her jaw.

These two mares often get the last of the treats because they’re the lowest in the herd pecking order. Everyone chases them off. But now, Rick found a way to even the playing field.

At first I wasn’t sure this was a good idea. Being the “rule follower” that I am, I asked, “Should we be throwing things at the horses? Doesn’t it scare them?”

Rick rolled his eyes. “Do they look scared?”

Two eager, alert horses watched every move Rick now made.

“No, I guess not.” I answered.

He was using what the psychologists call intermittent reinforcement. Sometimes Hanger would get a cube; sometimes it would be Macie. Both were glued to Rick’s movements.

“Is he going to throw it?  To me? Oh, I hope, I hope, I hope.”

I was warming to the idea. It was fun for the horses and I had to admit, fun for us.

I decided to give it a try. I must warn you that I have a terrible arm. Couldn’t hit the side of a barn if I was trying. So I felt a little nervous about throwing toward the horses. I relaxed my shoulder, took a deep breath, picked up a cube and tossed it into the pasture. I was aiming at the spot in front of Hanger.

Instead, I hit Amigo. The cube bounced off his back and then to the ground. It was a little tap.


But I felt terrible.

God love him, he looked at me as if saying, “What the heck just happened?”

And then he bent down and ate the alfalfa cube. Amigo is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.

So we had a third horse interested in the game.

I apologized to Amigo, gave him a few extra treats to reinforce my apology, and we moved on.

Horses are so forgiving.

As for me, I’m practicing my throw. A lot.

It was Amigo’s suggestion.