There are stories that stick with us from our time working. We don’t even have to experience the tales ourselves, as simply hearing them returns us to the setting of the story. The following is one of those tales – and it still makes me laugh all these years later.

The client was a retiree in his 80s and he kept a retired mare in her late 20s that he rode for years while working on various ranches in the valley. The mare shared a pasture with a sweet Shetland pony, which was the center of attention when the grandchildren would visit.

Upon arriving, after the greetings were over, one of the first things the grandkids would request was for Grandpa to do the “carrot trick.” The “trick” involved going out to groom the horses with two carrots, one in his hand and one partially exposed, sticking out of his back pocket. While grooming the mare, the ole man would break off pieces of carrot in his hand and let the grandkids feed her the pieces. Once the first carrot was consumed, he would turn around, pretending to shift his attention to the pony. This left the carrot sticking out of his back pocket exposed to the mare’s inspection. She would sniff around and eventually find the desired carrot and proceed to “pick his pocket.” The grandpa would whirl around, acting surprised, and remind the mare that that carrot was meant for the pony to the laughter and applause of the grandkids.

On this particular day, the whole scene had been acted out as usual to the delight of all. But on this day, after the pickpocket trick, they decided to saddle the pony for a ride around the pasture. They forgot about the mare while engaged in the saddling process, but the mare hadn’t forgotten about the carrots. After all, there was always a carrot in that pocket on the back of his pants.

Horses have a keen sense of smell, a robust memory and incredibly strong teeth and jaws. These attributes all came into play when the ole gal sniffed around the seat of his pants, remembered there was always another carrot to be had, took hold of what she was certain was the carrot-concealing pocket and gave a mighty yank.

“Son,” he told me at our next appointment, “it’s a mighty good thing I wear a hat, ’cause that’s the only thing that covered my tail end all the way back to the house!” 

The mare never did find that extra carrot.