People often go to extraordinary lengths to feed their companion animals.

We buy rotisserie chickens at the grocery store, open cans of tuna and jars of baby food. We cook lamb and rice into a casserole of sorts for ailing animals. We fret when our beloved animal friends aren’t eating and vow to do “whatever it takes” to get them back on the road to health.

I’m no exception.

We have a fairly elaborate process of food prep for Bud and Pepper.

Some days I feel as if I’m on the Food Channel for Horses! A scoop of this, a pinch of that, a dollop of the other; add medicine and stir well.

Enticing our two old sweeties to eat has become my daily goal.

Keeping weight on aging horses is a constant challenge. Old teeth, old digestive systems and simply being “set in their ways” complicate things.

When horses lose too much weight, they don’t fare well. Especially in winter, they need every pound they can create to keep warm and healthy.

We had our veterinarian out to check Bud and Pepper this week. She was concerned that both had lost weight. Even with my efforts to supplement their hay with delicious, medicine-laced recipes.

And treats.

We can’t forget the pounds and pounds of hay cubes and horse candy we’ve gone through.

But the truth is this: winter is hard on our sweet old things. The pasture is bare and they have to wait for the hay truck to deliver their food. And once it comes, the oldsters are at the end of the chain. Because they are old and vulnerable, they don’t fight for their fair share of hay. When a younger, stronger horse wants their food, Bud and Pepper just move away. We’re not sure how much hay they are actually getting. This is where living with your horses would help so much.

Our vet suggested that we supplement their grain with oil – good old fat is what they need. “Pour a couple of glugs of corn oil or soybean oil on their grain,” she suggested.

If only it were that simple.

We did use soybean oil last winter. I remember how long it took Miss P. to accept it. I had to start with one tablespoon at a time, gradually increasing to a glug, and then a couple of glugs.

For those of you who don’t cook, glug is not an official cooking term!

Just being perfectly transparent here.

Well yesterday I blew it.

Totally.

I ignored the gradual reintroduction method and poured the tiniest possible glug of oil on both pans of grain.

Mixed well and served it up.

Pepper was the first to react. She took one sniff and walked away. Then she returned and sniffed again as if she couldn’t believe what she’d just smelled. But she was right. As far as she was concerned, I’d added poison to her food. She looked at me with those big brown eyes. “What were you thinking?”

She was incredulous.

Incensed.

Even huffy.

She kept nosing the pan until she finally spilled it.

“If you think I’m eating this, you are sorely mistaken,” she said in horse-speak.

She took a few nibbles of Bud’s grain, certain that he had fared better.

But of course he hadn’t.

He wasn’t eating much of his grain either.

I’d committed the cardinal sin of introducing a new food too quickly.

Too much oil.

Simple as that.

Eventually Bud dumped the rest of his grain too.

I guess he felt he had to make the same statement as Pepper.

I reluctantly returned them to the pasture, picked up the empty grain pans and headed for home.

Discouraged.

Disappointed in myself.

Worried that they hadn’t had anything to eat.

First thing I did when I got home was to find a tablespoon and set it beside the jugs of oil.

Tomorrow’s another day.

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