Tonka Visits Turtle Hill

By Terry Golson


Tonka and I both like to get out of the ring, but biting flies and ticks have kept us out of the trails in the woods. We need mowed open fields. We’ve explored the ones at Kim’s house, and we needed a new experience. The only place that I could find that is accessible to horses is a stable forty minutes away. It’s a bit frustrating. Here we are in gorgeous Maine, a state with lots of open space, and we can’t find a place to ride!

Then I thought. What about my own front yard? I’ve mowed walking trails. There’s a marsh to look at. There are hills to help build Tonka’s physique. An added bonus is that there’s a bathroom for me and lemonade in the fridge!

I trailered Tonka thirty minutes to Turtle Hill. (Read here how it got its name.)

First we took a look around. Tonka’s always been wary of bodies of water. He said that this one wasn’t too scary.

 

We went for a walk.

 

The grasses here are different than the ones at his barn. Delicious!

 

Tonka was totally uninterested in the blueberries right under-hoof.

 

Using his whiskers and sensitive lips, he carefully avoided the berries and the leaves, instead finding the sweet grasses growing around them.

 

Horses are primarily grazers. Which means that they take a bite of grass, chew and walk, then stop and tear off more forage, then walk on. In some environments horses are also browsers and feed off of bushy, woody plants. Browsing is a more stationary activity than grazing.

Once in a great while horses have access to something that’s not in the grazing or browsing categories. It’s more a licking and chewing activity. Tonka found this something at Turtle Hill.

Lichen.

 

He put his nose right in it and did a deep whuffle. Tonka deemed it good.

 

He scraped and bit at it and scarfed it down.

 

Interesting! Ethologists who study free-roaming horse herds have recorded instances of horses eating lichen. But there are many types of lichen. Some are nutritious. Some are toxic. Some are mind-altering when consumed. I’d like to think that Tonka innately knows what’s safe, but I’ve had a goat almost die from eating a toxic plant. A horse could, too. I led Tonka away from the lichen and back to the trailer. After a half-hour of a graze/browse/lick and explore, we had other things to do.

 

It was a lovely way to spend the morning.

 

Soon, the deer flies will be out of the woods and we’ll be able to get in. Steve and I are going to clear a swath of tangled plants so that we’ll be able to access a trail system from our property. We’re looking forward to exploring this part of Maine right in our backyard. I look forward to doing it on my horse!

Here’s Tonka after his morning at Turtle Hill. He looks ready for more, doesn’t he?

Where have you gone exploring lately?


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