A walk in the woods
Spring is sprung
It’s starting to feel Spring-like around here, the grasses are a bright edible green, dandelion leaves are juicy and irrestible, Lesser celandine sets yellow sparks in the undergrowth. Everyone shouting, “Eat me, eat me”. Unfortunately for the horses they are mostly on the other side of the fence. The land the horses live on is in the process of regeneration, most of the grasses were ripped out or crushed in the process of clearing out old tree stumps and they have to search hard for the juicy bits.
Give us a choice!
Now, hardcore, fundamentalist, barefoot horse practitioners would say I am in an enviable position, that horses are not meant to eat grass at all and great that they have to work so hard for their food. In many ways I agree. Horses fed on industrial-grade mono-culture grass (which is what modern farming practices have condemned us to) are getting too much sugar and protein, not enough variety and no choice. All of which leads to laminitis, metabolic syndrome and a host of other ‘normal’ equine illnesses. But is all grass bad?
In a natural environment a horse’s diet changes throughout the year, they can choose which plants they want to eat, and counteract toxins by eating clay or charcoal, or a neutralising plant. Given a choice (which our horse are) horses do not necessarily choose the greenest grass, in fact, will usually avoid the greenest grass in favour of longer, more fibrous grasses. Our horses also like to eat oak leaves, heather and gorse.
Watch and learn
I often sit and watch what the herd is eating when I let them out on to the lusher areas of the property. They go through the mass of greenery, noses twitching, carefully selecting exactly the blades of grass and leaves they want. It reminds me of the way I load up a fork from my plate, a little of this, a little of that, a mixture of all the good things, ‘just so’, to please my palate.
I have noticed that as we move into Spring, the time when Chinese medicine says we should eat green things to support the liver, the horses seek out the bright green stuff more avidly.
A walk in the woods
So on days like today, when the sun is warm and the birdsong provocative, the Call of the Green gets too much for us and we have to go for a walk. It would be impossible to leave anyone behind on such an outing, so we take them all. We put a couple of key characters on a halter so we don’t have any unfortunate incidents with the neighbour’s hay field (it has been known!) and off we go, down to the woods for a picnic. There are few pleasures greater in life than this sort of walk together. To catch a glimpse of it click here.