Horses are motivated by food and rightfully so (given the thousands of miles of intestines it has to maintain by continually eating anything with fiber). I believe horses are acutely aware that if things aren’t going in, things will plug up, clog up and result in a bum trip. The way I see it, horses have no hang ups regarding food. But humans do.
For some reason we tend to think of food as leverage. How many times have you heard, You cannot leave the table until you eat your peas. Or, If you don’t eat your peas, you don’t get dessert.
Then we have the issues of good foods, bad foods, skinny foods, fat foods. Food is a big deal to humans. It’s a big deal to horses as well but not in the same way. I think all they care about is that the food somehow ends up in their mouth.
Horses know full well that at liberty, some action of theirs brings them something they really want. And usually that’s food.
Grass does not magically detatch and fly into their open mouths. There is work involved. The horse has to walk over the grass clump, lower his head, open his mouth, close his teeth, pull, then shake off the excess sand. In order to eat his prize, there was walking, head lowering, opening of the mouth, grasping, pulling then shaking. Only after all those actions did he get to eat.
Horses work for food. Plain and simple. That’s how they’re wired.
Even as a foal, he had to run to catch up with mama for a drink. Later he had to learn to use his handy little hooves as a built-in shovel to dig up juicy roots.
I think food is important in a horses’ mind, even more important than air (probably because they have no concept of what air is). Although air is essential to their survival, it doesn’t matter. Their main focus will always be food.