At one time or another in the parenting journey every one of us goes through the dreaded struggle to get our child to eat. How do you handle it when all your little darling wants to put in her mouth is chocolate?

Or cheese?

Or crackers?

We’ve all been there.

We hover around the high chair like a waiter in an upscale restaurant, offering up our menu. “How about a green bean?” We slip the slender green wisp of vegetable onto the tray, hope etched across our face. And then the offending bean takes a leap from the high chair tray. “Okay then, take one bite of your egg,” we suggest, trying to get at least one little morsel of protein into our reluctant eater.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Probably played it out many times in your career as a parent.

And if you aren’t a parent, count your blessings that you missed out on this uber-frustrating power struggle.

Grain and dollars on the ground.

Grain and dollars on the ground.

So Miss Pepper has found a new game, the equine version of the food power struggle.

It’s called “Dump the Feed Pan,” and boy is she having fun with it.

She’ll eat for a while and then the moment I turn my back, down goes the pan, grain (and medicine) scattered on the ground. I try to scoop it up and return it to the pan, but by then she’s so over it. “Why do you think I dumped it in the first place?” she says with her eyes. I expect she finds my antics really amusing.

She’s off her feed right now and I guess this is her version of flinging the green bean. What she really wants is alfalfa cubes. I think when she starts to eat her grain, she sees visions of cubes dancing in her head and all she wants to do is find the bucket where we keep the cubes.

Pepper on a walkabout.

Pepper on a walkabout.

Yesterday she ate a bit of her grain, dumped the pan, and then made her way to the dessert bar for cubes. When I put them away, she responded by going on a walkabout.

She wandered around the area by the car, headed toward the hay barn and then thought better of it. She came back to the car, nibbled one or two bites of grain and then looked straight at me.

She had that sparkle in her eye – the one all parents of children and animals know by heart. “I know I’m not doing what you want me to do.”

Can horses say “nanner, nanner nanner?”

You bet they can.

Now I knew I had to regain control. 

I couldn’t allow this really bad behavior to continue. We are after all talking about a twelve hundred pound animal and not a thirty-pound child. I slipped the halter over her head and led her through the gate into the pasture.

Easy as pie.

I think messing with me was her plan all along.

We worry about keeping weight on Pepper, since she usually gets pretty skinny in the winter. But we also have to let her decide when or if she’s going to eat. Power struggles are no fun and honestly they never work.

How does that old saying go? “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make her drink.”

Amen to that!

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