Valentine has a very strange habit. Back when we first got him, we noticed that he had a tendency to dump all his food on the ground. He dropped any treats you tried to feed him, he dropped his hay on the ground and he swished his oats out of the feeder onto the dirt. Now that we’ve had him a while, we understand some of these tendencies. He hardly ever drops treats on the ground now; we think it was because he was still getting to know us so he was a bit hesitant taking food from us. Not so now – watch the fingers, or they’ll get sucked in too! The hay ends up on the ground mostly because the flakes stick together. He tries to pull some out, he gets more than he expected and shakes it, so the excess falls onto the floor. (Sometimes it ends up on the wrong side of the stall door, because the hay feeder is right next to the door. We’ll come out in the morning to find a veritable haystack outside his door – poor thing!)
But the funniest thing is the oats. When he first came to us, every time we fed him, he would violently swish the oats sideways out of the feeder. The first time we fed him we put on-feed dewormer on the oats, so that was alarming – half the oats with the medication went swishing onto the floor (ahh, the good old days!). There were never any oats on the ground when we came up to the barn the next morning, though, so either he’s half anteater and sucked every last grain up, or the mice took care of it. I always hoped it was mice, because horses can colic if they ingest sand (or dirt, in our case) with their food.
As it turns out though, Valentine doesn’t really like to eat his oats off the ground. After a while, we finally figured out that he only swishes his food out if we are bothering him while he eats. Don’t pet him; don’t groom him; don’t stand near him; don’t even talk to him from outside the stall. So now we know – just leave him alone, and he’ll eat like a normal horse.