Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dandelions

Horses have discerning palates.  Nature requires this, because they did not inherit the ability to lose their lunch, should they eat something toxic.  A horse's gastrointestinal tract is truly one-way, hence the necessity to make sure that everything which goes in is safe and healthy for the horse.  Their taste buds and olfactory senses are their first line of defense.  Of course, this can be frustrating if the horse refuses something that his owner so carefully chooses and adds to his menu, usually with the intent to make him a healthier, happier fellow.

A simple joy of horse ownership.

Have you ever watched your horse graze?  I am sure that you have.  It is a very enjoyable, peaceful activity.  Nothing makes Harley quite as happy as food and eating, so watching him eat is watching him in complete and contagious happiness.

Just spend a little time watching a horse graze and you will see just how discerning the palate can be.  Certain grasses and "weeds" are gobbled up, while others are passed by untouched.  Sometimes I think that I have found a patch of delicious grass only to find that Harley brushes the green blades with a closed muzzle and walks to a patch that seems less enticing to my human eyes.  A few preferences stand out to me.  He likes long grasses, probably because he can easily rip them free even with his overbite, although it doesn't seem to handicap him as he doesn't lose any time as soon as I give him the "okay" to start grazing.  Maybe the longer grasses are the sweetest, the long blades holding more sugar then their cropped neighbors.  Or maybe he just doesn't like someone else's seconds!  Since he prefers long grasses, this means that he loves to eat along fence lines and gates, under picnic tables, overhangs, and benches.  He will drop to a knee to reach under the picnic bench for grass and always inspects the upper surface of the picnic table.  A boarder feeds her horse carrots on the table top and Harley knows this!  He is usually rewarded for his careful inspection with a few carrot morsels left over or fallen through the cracks of the furniture.

The only "weed" that I can readily identify and observe disappearing into his mouth is the dandelion.  Harley loves dandelions, specifically the flowers.  He will eat the entire plant, but the flower is never left behind.  Sometimes he will stop and nip off the flowers of a couple dandelion plants before abandoning a grazing area for a fresh spot.  Horses cannot see at the end of their noses, so how does he identify the plant?  Do dandelions have a delicious aroma?  Is it the soft, feathery texture?  Whatever it is, Harley loves it and rarely misses the yellow delicacies when I am watching him graze after a nice ride or just because.

There is no where to hide, little dandy!  Harley is hunger.

16 comments:

  1. My horses love the dandelions too. Wonder if they ferment in their stomachs and make dandelion wine? Could explain why they love them- their getting a buzz from the plant...just kidding. Don't care if they eat them all, maybe there will be less weeds to fly around and reseed. I also noticed they love clover and the clover flowers.

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    1. Hehe. I thought about the ways that people use dandelions. The wine did come to mind, although I have never tried it!

      I have noticed that they like clover, too.

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  2. This post made me laugh!

    I fed my boarder Cowboy tonight. His owners had been complaining that he wasn't eating his hay, but yanking it out of the hay bag and spreading it everywhere. It was no wonder - the hay was moldy! (they purchase their own hay) Poor Cowboy.

    I fed Val afterwords, and as I filled his hay bag he did a major inspection of his (not moldy) hay, my hands and my shirt, with a very careful taste test. Who forgot to wash their hands?!

    Val's favorite is a delicate little spring weed that grows in mounds (perfectly bite sized) and has tiny yellow flowers.

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    1. Val is a smart horse. He knows to be careful about what he eats!

      More yellow flowers? Those must be the best tasting. :)

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  3. Our horses love dandelions too. Its interesting because they are so beneficial to the horses. Some people who don't have access to grassy fields here in Southern California go to the grocery store and buy dandelion greens for their horses.

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    1. That is really neat! I did not know you could purchase dandelions for horses. I have seen them in salad mixes for people, though. Variety is the spice of foraging!

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  4. Harley would be in heaven at my next door neighbors yard, it's in full bloom. It is actually quite pretty, soon they will go to seed though, then, not so pretty.

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  5. Dandelions (as long as they aren't sprayed) are SOO great for them. I buy Laz organic leaves and he gobbles them up. They clean out kidneys/liver and work as a cleanser. My Greek yiayia (grandma) ate them and taught me how to make them, yum, and they are totally delish and so healthy! I buy a bunch for Laz and me :)
    It is SO interesting that they know what to eat and want to avoid!!

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    1. Dandelion salad sounds pretty good to me!

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    2. Well, they are BITTER! BUT, if u boil in water for like 10 minutes, and then drain (or drink water as a tea for max benefit)-add a good olive oil and lemon to taste, salt. YUM. For humans, that is :) It's like a bitter spinach.

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    3. Interesting preparation! Might have to give it a try. :)

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  6. Harley is such a sweet horse! :0)

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  7. So I've been watching my horses and they really don't seem to like dandelions. Coriander will actually spit them out, LOL. They must be an acquired taste.

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    1. Funny! I guess they are not all on the same menu after all.

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