9 February

Rainy Day. The Marmorated Stink Bugs Are After Me For Giving Apples To A Horse Friend.

by Jon Katz

Ever looked into a horse’s eyes? They are dark as night, yet you can see your reflection in them. Those guileless eyes with boundless depths will make you want to plunge into them. Those eyes are reminiscent of past, and a sign of valor, royalty, and endeavor.” – Penlighten.

It’s a gloomy day today, cold and rainy and dark. It was quiet in the farmhouse; I spent the morning writing and researching.

The day was enlivened, as often happens,  by some people who were outraged that I had been giving apples to a horse I’d gotten to know on a farm eight or nine miles from my home without obtaining prior approval from the farmer.

It wasn’t bad enough that they took the circuses away from us and then the ponies and the carriage horses. Now they want to deprive farm horses of an occasional apple. Sometimes I think the Stink Buds want to steal all the magic from the world.

As many of you saw (thanks for the lovely messages), I wrote yesterday about my new, sweet friendship with a farm horse I stopped giving apples to once or twice. I don’t have a name for him. But I can’t get his eyes out of my head.

We have become friends, sort of, I think. I’m fond of him, and he seems to like me, as farm animals often do when presented with apples. I loved looking into his eyes; he loved looking into mine. It was an apple that brought us together, that got him close enough to me to look into his eyes and him to return the favor. It was special.

I could never have imagined that my stopping to feed an apple to a horse would be controversial.

Online, you can get into trouble breathing. Somebody will be offended by it. We are a nation of victims, a joyless and grumpy realm of the aggrieved.

In the farm country where I live, stopping to give a horse an apple is an ingrained and beloved tradition.

Angry people asked me today how I would feel if people stopped to give an apple or carrot to our donkeys or a treat to one of our dogs without knocking on the door, interrupting our work, discussing it, and asking permission. For an apple? For a carrot?

. It happens all the time. I feel pretty good about it.


Farms up here are loaded with apple trees. Horses that need special care are rare here and confined in unique fences and barns.

Real farmers do not spend much money on special diets for horses.

Horses that roam freely on a vast plot of land with trees are not likely to die from an apple.

I called the large animal vet we use to ask him about the messages I was receiving: “Lord,” he said, “don’t these people have anything to do? Are they all rich? Farm horses don’t have specialized and controlled diets. They eat hay, grass, and apples when they can get them. Their big danger is the overeating of anything.”

The outrage was were quite dramatic, emotional, and even poignantly pleading. I am reprinting a couple of the messages, and I deleted about a dozen.

The first one came from Kay.

She sounded very upset: “Oh Jon.. think about what you are doing. You are feeding someone’s horse. This horse probably has a set daily food intake, and maybe the owner may not allow apples in the diet. Suppose someone drove by your house and gave treats to your dogs. You would be first to announce and fret that some stranger was giving your pups an unknown treat. Enjoy this horse from a distance and refrain from feeding.”

I especially liked the “Oh, John! breathless introduction, as if she were pleading with me not to murder a small child or puppy again.

Then there was Genovo, who brought Jesus Christ into it, and even my Boston Terrier Bud.

“Jesus Christ, Jon! Why do you think it’s appropriate to feed someone else’s horse without permission? Would you believe it was OK if someone drove by your property, got out of the car, and decided to feed Bud a chunk of the liver? Sheesh! Boundaries, man!  – Genovo.

When I read Genova’s very anguished message, I thought – since Genovo brought it up –  how Jesus Christ – who wandered Israel giving food and fruit to animals and people he met along the way- would have responded to Genova’s message chastising me for giving someone else’s seemingly lonely and friendly horse an apple.

I thought of the Poet Robert Frost, who wrote beautiful poems about stopping along the road to give apples to cold horses he passed by in  Vermont in the winter.

He would not have lasted a half-hour if the Stink Bugs on social media were around then.

I dug out (thanks, Google) William Wordsworth’s poem about a horse on a farm:

Calm is all nature as a resting wheel.
The kine are couched upon the dewy grass;
The horse alone, seen dimly as I pass,
Is cropping his later meal audibly.

I should add that Bud would be delighted if someone came by – as kids sometimes do- and gave him a treat like a liver.

I would thank them if I could. People always bring carrots to the donkeys, and the donkeys and I are both grateful for them. I see why I love the country so much.

An apple would be better bitten down like the moon to a crunchy nub, scored with greed.”-  Feeding A Poem To A Horse, Alan Michael Parker.

I think this horse was looking for some company and for a friend. I think of those eyes.

He has a friend in me and will continue to have one in me.  He’s had several and looks great.

He isn’t a racing star or a show pony; I will happily give him an apple from time to time when I see him and be grateful for the opportunity.

Thanks, big dark horse, for letting me look into your eyes, dark as a well and yet bright as a full moon.

I don’t want to live in the world of those people.  Stink Bugs eat flower gardens.

I cherish every bit of magic. My horse friend gave me some.

I won’t abandon him or take his apple away.





  1. Oh for goodness sake! I had a dog that was on a very restricted diet. She was never allowed to roam freely where someone could give her something that would make her sick because I am a responsible owner. I always asked people who wanted to give her a treat not to feed her because of her allergies. Pretty much everyone was respectful. As for my other dogs, they get occasional treats from various people and that’s just fine.

  2. I had a neighbor living opposite me who owned a horse and a pony. Almost daily I would go over with either a couple of apples or some carrots. My neighbor did not mind, and actually thanked me for the thought. Please continue to give this beautiful horse an apple – or even a carrot. I feel he really appreciates it as (a) he has made a new friend and (b) I wonder about his owner who does not cover him with the terrible weather you have been having lately.

  3. ROFL Jon! I’m still amazed at the responses you receive at times….(the ones you share) but these made me snicker (no pun intended). We are also quite rural and the neighbors and I always keep random carrots or older apples in our cars just to share them with neighboring ranch pastured horses and donkeys! Never asked permission from anyone, nor felt the need to. It seems to be something the ranchers and pastured horses are all thrilled with, and so are we!
    Susan M

  4. I live in South western NH on a small farm. My neighbors come by and feed my cows all sorts of vegetable matter. We also feed each other’s dogs treats when we meet as well. Just being neighborly. We all love it and so do the animals. I’m with you no harm in a simple apple once in a while!

  5. Jon, bless you for giving that precious horse some apples! I LOVED your horse story and could just visualize it – with joy. I am just blown away that people would write and complain about such things – they obviously have too much time on their hands! Good for you! Good for your vet and his response! I’m GLAD you’re going to keep giving apples to your new friend – I wish this old country girl could join you!

    1. Right on, Charlotte. I couldn’t say it any better! Love you, Jon. This city girl lives vicariously through you.

  6. Hi Jon

    Thanks for being so kind to that gorgeous horse.

    It will do him no harm to have an apple now and then.

    It’s only if he is fed too often then he might learn to expect them and end up bullying you for one.
    Please give him an apple for me the next time you see him 😊

  7. Keep it up Jon!! What a beautiful new friend you have made! Glad you put those pompous know it alls in their place. I wish I had the opportunity to stop by a vast pasture, see a beautiful horse, and stop and feed it an apple. You are lucky and so is the horse!🐴

  8. I suppose it’s just too easy for those who are inclined to preach, to preach at someone online. It’s a symptom of the disease of disconnection. I feel like what you do is to create connections, Jon. You are intentional about making connections, and in a way that is good for both, whether it be a person or an animal.

  9. That horse is smarter than the Stink Bugs realize. We had 2 horses for 20 years. Ginger could eat anything and loved all kinds of apples. Missy loved apples but couldn’t eat sour green apples, they made her sick. People always came by especially in fall and winter with an apple treat for our girls. If the treat was a Granny Smith Missy would just walk away and Ginger would get both apples. Animals that live outside in their natural habitat know what they can eat. At least our two did. I’m so happy you’ve made friends with this horse, he’s just beautiful, and as the old saying goes “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Enjoy your visits with your new friend!

  10. I remember that you’ve said some of your neighbors have never met anyone like you. I think that might have something to do with Apple-gate. Most people in the US nowadays have no experience of farms, farm animals, or country life. You not only give the horse an apple, but you write about it — which nobody else around you tends to do (hence your uniqueness). Maybe your neighbors give a horse an apple from time to time, but your audience only knows about you doing so. Maybe it seems Really Weird to people who live more packed together, and are taught to be wary and protective about things like that. Just an idea; I don’t know anything about country life either!

    1. Pete my neighbbors have no problem with people dropping by to give their animals an apple or carrot, they do it all the time. I can assure you, the people making a fuss are not rural or farm people, they are people who can afford special diets, which no farmer can. It’s another world, horse wise. I don’t go on anyone’s property and I am with farmers all of the time. These are not country people.

  11. Jon, that is a beautiful horse. I love that you have befriended him and are giving him apples as a treat.
    I think you might be insulting stink bugs by calling those who are upset about what you are doing, though.
    “If dogs run free/then why not we.” – Bob Dylan

    One more thing: I Just saw the brand new documentary movie “ALL THAT BREATHE.” I recommended it and would enjoy your movie review, if you get to see it.

    1. Thanks Richard, it’s a pleasure to insult Stink Bugs, that’s how I feel about people who do this..If you want to write openly in America in 2023, you will offend somebody…it never fails.. and I’d rather be honest than inoffensive…

  12. Jon – I’ve been following you for years and supporting your good works as best I can. That support makes me feel darn good! You are a hero to so many of us. I know there’s no reason for me to even write this…..but. never change who you are, what you do, what you believe, and what you write. As Mr. Rogers famously said, “I like you just the way you are.” Or how about “An apple a day (for a horse) keeps the Stink Bugs away.”

  13. What is wrong with people! I had horses for almost 40 years. Apples and carrots were a great treat for them. My favorite horse loved butter rum Lifesavers. Horses are more likely to get into trouble from something in the pasture. My mare actually died from leaves and bark from a red maple where she was boarded. Ignore the trolls and keep feeding the horse. It is enjoyable for both of you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Email SignupFree Email Signup