In my family, all the animals view me as the food lady. A walking Pez dispenser. In the mornings, our three cats watch me carefully, waiting for the flicker of an eyelid that will give them “permission” to beg for breakfast. They never wake me up; they know better. But once I’m awake they are relentless. The make chirping purry sounds, they gaze at me adoringly and if I don’t get up soon enough, they gently tap me with a soft paw.
When I show up at the barn to feed in the mornings, the horses make the same purry welcoming sounds; throaty nickers that express their sincere delight that I am finally here. They try to look welcoming toward me while at the same time communicating clearly to the other horses that the poaching of food is not to be tolerated.
Zelda is particularly articulate. No one would mistake her evil faces, her stomping feet and her swishing tail for anything except a clear warning. She is a horse that always needs to be separated from other horses while eating. I can see that she would eat everyone’s food if given even half the chance. Even with hay she will take careful inventory. She shares with Curly, but grudgingly.
Freedom makes evil faces at Willow, his pasture mate. She is the sneaky one. She creeps closer and closer to his food bowl. Occasionally she will “accidentally” spill it, then rush to clean up the mess. However, she knows her place and will never challenge him for food. Occasionally he lets her eat from the same bowl and he never hogs the hay.
The herd dynamics are fascinating to watch. As long as they remember that humans are at the top of the food chain and the only ones who can open the feed room door.