Deb Pavlich-Boaz and her husband Tony Boaz say strangers stop to feed her horses and it’s endangering their health. They care for aging equines and others with special dietary needs at their home off Old Olympic Highway in Agnew. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)

Deb Pavlich-Boaz and her husband Tony Boaz say strangers stop to feed her horses and it’s endangering their health. They care for aging equines and others with special dietary needs at their home off Old Olympic Highway in Agnew. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)

HORSEPLAY: Hey, don’t touch the hay. Don’t feed strangers’ horses

“ONE BAD APPLE don’t spoil the whole bunch girl!” Today’s column is about reminding folks NOT to feed a horse they don’t own. Apples are on my mind because they’re commonly thrown over fences to horses by strangers, so naturally it prompted one of my favorite songs from my early teens to start playing in my mind: “One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds was No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1971.

Distractions aside, this is actually a very big problem for horse owners, especially for those living in high-traffic, walking and cyclist areas, such as Old Olympic Highway and Olympic Discovery Trail, as horses have a very sensitive stomach and digestive tract.

They truly do thrive by eating only good-quality, low-sugar grass hay. Foods a horse can’t digest properly include those with a high-sugar content. The region’s lush grasses are a common source of major health issues, including colic (abdominal pain and gastrointestinal condition that can kill a horse), founder, and the extremely painful laminitis, a very painful disease caused by too much sugar inflaming the lamina over the bone, causing the coffin bone to rotate in the hoof.

Foods that strangers have thrown over fences into horse pastures include boxes of apples, carrots and vegetables — fresh, old or rotten — and sandwiches, cake, chicken with the bones and hot dogs; moldy bread, trash and much more.

The most important takeaway message here is: Do not feed any animal that you don’t own. Tempted to pet on or give it a treat? Restrain yourself and don’t do it.


Sadly, we live in an era of self-entitlement with some people thinking they have the right to feed any horse they want to. The truth is, nobody has the right to feed your horse without the owner’s permission.

Owners who asked me to write about it declined to be quoted for fear of retribution, as did others I asked. Thankfully, Deb Pavlich-Boaz agreed to go on the record. She and her supportive husband Tony Boaz live off Old Olympic Highway between Kitchen-Dick Road and Spring Road. The property has chain-linked fence around the entire perimeter of the property and a solid gate across the driveway — all lined with No Trespassing, Do Not Feed the Animals and Private Property signs every few feet. Plus, they have security cameras. Yet the flow of people ignoring the signs by parking on the grass in front of their home often seems endless.

This normally kind-hearted and animal-loving couple have chosen to donate much of their time in their retirement years to helping local small and large animal rescue organizations, and have even taken in some of the animals themselves. Their little farm has some lame and/or elderly horses and ponies, guineas, chickens, cats, dog, sheep, goats and more.

I knew from a prior interview they were constantly troubled by people in cars and bicyclists stopping to feed her horses and ponies.

“We get people who will bring up boxes of apples or parts of their lunch — like sandwiches and cookies —and will either throw it over the fence to them, or hold it out to try to get the horse to come close enough to pet.”

Which unnerves and aggravates her to no end. “These are not my friends. They are strangers on my property and doing things I don’t want them to do. One time I had an old lady bring a whole box of apples over who stood tossing them over my fence line.”

Deb asked what she was doing.

She replied, “Well, horses eat apples.”

To which she responded, “I don’t know where you’re from, but where I’m from, you don’t bother other people’s pets!”

Even those who stop to take pictures is a nuisance, because each time they have to stop what they’re doing to see if any food is thrown over the fence. Their preventative measures include a hot wire on the fence and planting “a whole bunch of hot poker plants as a barrier in front of the fence. However, we’ve caught people who trampled our plants to get to the fence.”

She said, “It gets really crazy around festival times, especially the Lavender Festival. We have cars stopping in our driveway or on the highway, one right after the other, with people asking, ‘Can we pet your ponies and take a picture?’”

One person ignored her “no trespassing” signs, opened their gate, walked up to the front door to ask if they did “pony birthday parties.” Exasperated, she replied, “No! If I did, then I would have a sign out front. Instead, what do my signs say?”

At night, her horses are kept in enclosed shelters with small adjoining runs. To protect their health during festivals, she’s decided to keep the horses in there or in a back pasture.

She spoke with a deputy about the problem, and they told her, “Well, I’m sorry about that ma’am. But unless they’re doing something that’s illegal, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

She thought trespassing and feeding other people’s animals was illegal, but apparently it’s just considered rude. She asked him, “Can you tell me which of my horses has Cushings? I told him it’s like diabetes for the animals. To me, that would be a concern, because if they’re feeding a horse with Cushings, that could be taking its life.” He couldn’t tell which one, but said he might be able to take action if she could ID the person.


I asked Lisa Hopper, code enforcement and animal control for the City of Sequim, if people could get arrested or fined for feeding your animals. She said within city limits, a trespass could be criminal, especially if served with paperwork.

A trespass with posted signage, such as No Trespassing, could lead to the person getting a ticket and usually charges are then forwarded to the prosecutor to decide if they want to pursue it or not.

For those living outside the city she suggested contacting Clallam or JeffCo county officials to see if a person could face criminal charges. Of course, in order to press charges, you have to know who the trespassers are!

To help combat the problem cameras can be you biggest aid, especially if you want to hold someone liable to harming, or even killing, your horse.

If you see a transgressor grab your cell phone to take a photo of them, their car or bike. If possible, get their name and license plate. And do report it to the police to ensure there is an official record on file of the offense.

Install a motion detecting wild game camera to take photos when you’re not around. And, perhaps, putting up signage such as, “Smile, you’re on camera!” will be a deterrent.

At front gates, attach a wireless video doorbell with a speaker phone that connects with an app on your smart phone. That way you can monitor it and talk to whomever is there 24/7 even when not a home (it will still require electricity to power).

Suggestions from the Facebook group Olympic Peninsula Riders:

Aby Garcia: I do not go to my neighbors and start handing their dogs biscuits, so don’t feed my horse.

Lyn Zoellick: Motion detector sprinklers in front of the horse’s fence. Then they’d get a shower.

Teresa Crossley: Not cheap, but you could add a double fencing spaced 5-feet apart along the public access side. Hot wire on inside to keep horses from leaning forward to reach a treat. Put up signage. She reminds all to never feed grass, plant or weed clippings as they are toxic to horses!

Erika Wilson: Has ‘do not feed’ signs posted along with no trespassing. Yet, over the years she’s seen people bring buckets of apples. She’s caught trespassers trying to feed one horse in a group of seven., causing a scuffle among the herd. “Naturally, I’m feeding them my own apples on any given day and assuming no one else is feeding my horses,” she said. Once she had to place a costly call to a veterinarian to come out for a neighbor’s horse that was colicking. A few days later she saw folks walk into that same neighbor’s yard to gather and feed unripe apples (it was August) to the horse. I wonder if she gave the neighbors that vet bill.

Older horses frequently have worn down teeth which causes them to choke, and they can become more sensitive to eating anything with sugar (fruit, fresh grass, horse feed with molasses, etc.). Never let a horse eat as much fruit off a tree or on the ground as they want.

A word to the wise

Approach any offender in a friendly manner and explain to them the risks of feeding a horse that may have health problems and on a very specific diet. Mention the cost of calling a veterinarian out, too. And then kindly say good-bye and motion to them to walk away. Stand between them and the fence, staring silently, until they are so uncomfortable they leave.

If they persist walk away and call the police.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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