|Rhio in his ugly-but-UV-protective fly mask, coming when he's called despite the acres of lush green grass he's turned out on!|
Next to the horse pastures is a huge field that has been completely untouched this spring. It is normally the cow pasture, but there are no cows this year. It is fenced with 5 strands of barbed wire, so it's not ideal for horses. But, all that beautiful grass is going to waste just sitting there while our horses are still eating hay... so yesterday we began the "Pasture Paradise" program here at Meadowbrook.
My two, Rhio & Cricket, can both use the grass, as well as two other boarders, Levi & Quick. These four horses get hand-walked over to the cow pasture in the mornings to stuff themselves in the knee-deep green goodness all day long. This leaves 2 fields with 1 horse each, so those 2 horses get to spend the day together for company. Then, at the end of the day, everyone is put back into their original fields for the night (with shelter and safe fencing). These four are now getting a pittance of grain in the mornings, and no feed at night except some hay.
|Cricket ready to "go home" at the end of the day|
Day one, yesterday, went pretty well, considering. I had an internal debate regarding my level of comfort with the barbed wire fencing, after walking the fenceline the evening before (in shorts, and without bug spray! not my most brilliant move, I must admit). The fence is intact and in reasonable repair, but it is not perfect. The lushness of the grass and the vastness of the pasture, however, give me some assurance that the boys will have absolutely no reason to even go near the fence. I decided my desire for them to be on good grass far outweighed my concern over the fence, and so I was pleased to watch them behave beautifully all day yesterday and to find them without even a scratch in the evening.
|Quick (grey) & Levi also enjoyed the day on grass|
The other element which could have been an issue was horse dynamics. Rhio & Cricket are buddies, and Levi & Quick are buddies, but the two pairs do not know each other at all. Quick can play pretty rough at times, and is a bit of an "enforcer" in his pasture. I expected that Rhio would protect Cricket, and that is exactly what happened. Rhio & Cricket were turned out first, took a bit of a run about, then settled to munching. Levi was next, and walking him past the goat/alpaca pen was a big challenge. We made it to the gate, and I turned him out, causing quite the stir across the farm. Winston & Tomas were on alert, watching intently from the furthest pasture, while Quick & Duke were trotting the fenceline and whinnying for their missing companion. Rhio & Cricket came over to investigate Levi, and they all trotted off together for a bit, then Levi made a beeline for the fenceline nearest his buddies in the other pasture, and Rhio & Cricket resumed eating. Quick, while also afraid of the goats & alpacas, was very motivated to join his buddy and galloped off as soon as I released him. Now for the scary part! How were the two groups going to interact, and was anyone going to get hurt? (And, why didn't I bring my camera at least, or a video camera, which would have been even better?)
As you might expect, the four horses ran around for a while, with the two greys (Rhio & Quick) herding their two buddies around, and keeping them away from the others. In very little time, each pair seemed to have a declared "territory" and they all settled down to the knee-high buffet. Throughout the day, Quick & Levi remained together along the fenceline closest to their regular pasture and in the front corner, which Rhio & Cricket also remained together and wandered about the middle and back of the pasture, evidently enjoying the wooded area as well. There were zero altercations, and almost no interaction after the initial brief period. All the other horses on the farm are now in pairs as well; I find the symmetry of the pairs of horses very pleasing, somehow.
In the evening, Rhio & Cricket came running when they were called (good boys!), while Levi & Quick refused to walk along the fence near the goats & alpacas to the gate, so had to be fetched. I expect in a few days they'll be completely unconcerned about the scary ruminants and will also (hopefully) come when they are called. Replete with fresh green grass, none of the four minded missing their usual grain supper at all. They did all drink immediately, however, which means they probably didn't use the nice, clean tank I'd scrubbed & filled for them in Pasture Paradise, despite the fact that I led each one to the tank to show it to them before turning them loose in the morning. The grass is plenty wet on its own, and I assume they'll start using the tank as they get used to the whole plan.
Operation Pasture Paradise was a resounding success!
|And what a beautiful evening!|