It’s 6AM on a beautiful fall morning and Hershey’s King Buck – aka Big King – is still relaxing in his pasture. The Hershberger family and staff members have been working since about 3:30 this morning when the first batch of bread went in the ovens, but King was still sleeping then. As the farm comes alive this morning, King and the other horses still have a couple hours to graze until they start the day.
By 9:00 AM King is ready for his “workday” to start. He comes in from the pasture to be fed and watered. He eats about _____quarts of grain for breakfast. It rained overnight and like most horses, King rolled in the wet grass leaving him covered in mud so he will get a bath today. After a thorough scrub and a shake that you can feel when standing next to him, King gets brushed from head to toe. Each of his feet are checked to make sure his shoes are tight and there are no stones that could make his feet sore.
Between 9:30 and 10AM, King will be led to his custom stall in the petting area, and it’s show time. There are usually people waiting for him. Some take pictures, some offer carrots, some shriek or giggle and many just stare. But King doesn’t mind. In fact, this is what he loves.
How do we know? Well, we know because during the off-season, when the petting area is closed, King gets sad. King will stand at the gates of his pasture with his head hung and will even stop interacting with the other horses. To keep King happy, we take him into the petting area and to his stall a couple days each week which seems to keep his spirits up until his visitors are back in the spring.
Throughout the day, King may nicker, or kick at his stall, or toss his head – don’t worry, he is just trying to get your attention. He has learned that his visitors have treats and making noise oftentimes gets him a treat that may have otherwise gone to one of his neighbors – a pig, goat, alpaca, cow, or goat.
By the time 5PM rolls around, King has a belly full of carrots and is turned back out to pasture with the other horses from the petting area, buggy rides, pony rides, and farming. Most nights this is an actual horse race as the different horses all sprint to get the first bite of pasture grass or to be the first to roll in the dirt. King and the other horses run and play for 10 to 15 minutes before settling down to relax, graze, and sleep for the next 17 hours.