Please Do Not Be Fed By The Customers

, | Right | September 5, 2015

(I am a senior barn helper/junior instructor at a riding stable for children on the autism spectrum. One rider’s mother is dropping off her daughter and brings some food for the horses, including a large bag of apricots, which are bad for horses, and gourds, which are also not good for horses.)

Mother: *to daughter* “See, you just give them the apricots like this!”

Me: “Um, I don’t think apricots are really good for horses. Especially the pits.”

Mother: *gesturing to stable owner* “But she said it was okay! They’re just apricots!”

(The stable owner is talking to the senior instructor about the lesson schedule for today at this point.)

Me: *seeing I can’t do anything to stop her, since she’s already fed at least four apricots to one of the horses* “Just take the pit out first. And don’t force the horses to eat them. They’re sensitive to acidic foods.”

Mother: “Oh, okay!”

(She proceeds to take the pits out, but drops them on the floor outside one of the horse’s stalls. We have a dog at the stable, too, so I pick up the pits before he can eat them.)

Me: “Can you also put the pits over in the compost heap so the dog doesn’t get them, please? He could choke on them.”

Mother: “Oh, sure. And what about these gourds? My friend gave them to me and said the horses would love them.”

Me: “Well, horses don’t eat gourds, but maybe the goats will be interested.”

(Our goat appear rather fat from grazing constantly, but are actually quite agile and can get through tight spaces if need be, a fact the mother doesn’t seem to grasp.)

Mother: *trying to whack open a gourd against a wooden tack trunk* “Ugh. This thing won’t open. Do you happen to have a knife somewhere around here?”

Me: “Um, no, we don’t. Try that lemon cucumber. My goats like those.”

Mother: *breaking open lemon cucumber* “Oh, wow! This looks like a cucumber but…” *sniffs* “…it smells like a lemon!”

Me: “That’s why they call it a lemon cucumber. Here, I’ll offer it to the goats and you can just leave your gourd there on the trunk.”

Mother: *not paying attention* “Here, goat! Eat this!”

(She waves the lemon cucumber in the goat’s face. The goat, understandably, backs away, towards a gap you wouldn’t expect it to fit through. The mother goes to the other side of a shed to find the other goat, who also backs away. She comes back to the first goat, which is now gone.)

Mother: *looking around* “Where’d it go? It couldn’t have gone through that gap! Or under the shed! Where is it? Why’d it leave?”

Me: *to my co-volunteer* “Maybe it went through the gap because you’re shoving food it doesn’t want in its face?”

Co-Volunteer: “And maybe she should trust us when we say not to feed something to an animal?”

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