Variety Is The Spice Of Life

By Terry Golson


After a horse gets joint injections, they’re supposed to remain quiet for four days. No galloping about in a field. No riding. Tonka was restricted to his in/out stall.

He could look out in the aisle, see what was going on, and chat with friends. He could walk into his small attached dry paddock.

Still, life was BORING. Bored horses can get into trouble. Even a calm horse like Tonka can quickly develop bad habits.

It helps that there was hay to eat almost 24/7.

However hay, even the best quality grass hay, gets monotonous. Horses are actually designed to eat a wide variety of forage. (Here’s an interesting video on this topic. I’m not convinced about the value of specific herbs, but I do agree that horses want to eat more than the same monoculture grass.)

So, I took Tonka out to the slope near the turnout paddocks to let him eat.

 

It might look like grass to you, but to Tonka it is a banquet of delectable choices. In the springtime he ate the bright green dandelion leaves. A month later, he gravitated to the clover. Now that it’s mid-summer he’s scarfing down on the tall dandelion stalks and flowers.

 

When we first get out there, he surveys the lawn with his eyes. He takes me over to the patch that looks the most delicious. Most of the time, I expect Tonka to politely walk next to me, on a loose line, with his head up, even when there is food at his feet. But once I give him the graze! cue, he’s allowed to take the lead. Within reason.

 

Once his head is down, Tonka is immersed in what’s on offer. Not only are there a multitude of flavors to savor, but there are aromas to take in. He’s tasting. He’s smelling. But he’s not seeing what he’s eating. Horses have a blind spot right in front of their noses, so he relies on his whiskers. It’s a feast for his senses and for his belly.

Even when Tonka isn’t on stall rest, I like to get him out to taste the scenery. Just a half-hour of this sort of hand-grazing can do wonders to improve the quality of your horse’s mental and physical life, and it can enhance your relationship (he knows you’re the one giving him access, and you’re hanging out companionably.)

What does your horse find tasty in August?

Just for fun – here is Tonka’s Fabio moment! 🙂


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6 thoughts on “Variety Is The Spice Of Life

  • Shaste

    So good of you to make sure Tonka gets mental stimulation while he’s on stall rest!

    I have to ask, isn’t that halter too large? It looks like it’s sitting on the soft tissue of the nose and the throatlatch piece hanging under his jaw. Might just be the photos?

    Good luck with his recovery!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Tonka has a difficult to fit head! He needs a contoured crown piece to fit his wide ears (which this halter has.) Tonka is most sensitive about that piece, and this one is perfect on him. He also doesn’t light heavy halters, and this one, for leather, is comparatively lightweight. He’s bigger than a cob and smaller than a horse. Arab halters don’t fit. That halter is a French leather splurge. The leather did stretch so the entire halter got a tad bigger all around. The noseband has softened and sagged a bit – more noticeable in the head down position. It could be a inch higher, but it doesn’t bother him at all. (He’s turned out naked.) The throat latch doesn’t have to be tighter – the halter would be fully functional without it. Do you have a favorite halter?

      • Shaste

        I’ve had similar experiences with leather halters, they all seem to be developed for those long thoroughbred noses 🙂 For my horses that are hard to fit I’ve switched to homemade rope halters made of climbing rope so I can get the dimensions I want. Not easy by any stretch, they are hard to make! For trailering I use breakaway halters. I’m firmly in the camp of ‘never leave a loose unattended horse with a halter on’, either in the stall or turnout. The only exception is horse camping where it’s a measured risk!