After reading Bear's "Food Matters" blog post, I thought of The Squirt and how well he has trained me to prepare things just the way that he likes (demands, actually).
I think that our horses are glad that we humans are so trainable. I have learned to prepare The Squirt's food EXACTLY as he likes it... I know that if I don't, he will not simply reject the offending meal, he will fire it at me. Instead of just ignoring undesirable foods or dropping a mouthful, he will take one single morsel and spit it with great flourish (then avoid the rest), as if to say: "How dare you try to feed me this slop - are you trying to poison me?!" I didn't even realise that horses could spit... especially with such force and accuracy!
I have learned that The Squirt does NOT like 'muffinish' treats: I was pummeled with rejected muffins of a variety of flavours, as well as muffin type horse treats that I thought smelled absolutely delicious. He is ho hum about stud muffins and he despises apple sauce - he will turn down a bucket full of grain if apple sauce has dared to touch it. He loves nice unadulterated, crispy (and unblemished) apples only. Similarly, a nice crunchy carrot is to die for, but don't process them in any way... he takes his carrots 'straight up', thank you very much.
There is one 'finishing touch' that he does want - he prefers that his apples and carrots be cut into bite-sized pieces. He thankfully has stopped throwing them around the stall (and burying them in his bed) if they aren't cut up... but he gives you 'the look' and then he plays with them awhile before eating them (kind of like a kid rolling veggies around his plate before grudgingly eating them). However, if these treats are prepared correctly, he excitedly gobbles them up!
He also prefers his yummies for dessert (no dessert before dinner for this boy). His former stall had a ledge near his feed bucket, and he would extract any carrots or apples and lay them on the ledge to eat after he finished his grain. He no longer has a ledge, but he will still roll apples and carrots aside to eat after he finishes his dinner.
The Squirt has also taught me to make his bed 'just so'. It does not simply have to be extremely clean (get ALL of that urine outta there, human!), it also must be the right depth, and in all the right places, with a clear area all the way around it so that there is a specific place for him to go and place his manure mounds. He also wants his hay in just the right (clean) places: "a pile at the front of the stall and one under the window, please... so that I can munch and look at all of the barn's happenings".
He is kind enough to reward me for my hard work though - he keeps his stall very clean if it is prepared properly: he piles two or three mounds of manure beside the wall (he makes a pile and will return to it, starting another once the first gets big, and so on). He also has one specific spot for urine, he will clean up every leaf of hay, and his bed (where he lays) is nice and clean. It is an easy stall to maintain.
However, if he does NOT feel that his stall has been prepared properly, what a mess! Manure, urine and hay are everywhere because he will 'go' where-ever and then paw it through his bedding, and he will push the soiled bedding around the stall. I think that he is saying: "If you are going to leave my room messy, I'll show you a REAL mess!" I have learned - a happy horse = far less work (and less bedding because he keeps everything cleaner).
I admit it - my horse has me well trained! I do think that I have him well trained too, though... but don't tell HIM that! ;)