Thursday, June 25, 2009

Primitive Grullas in Clover

Shelagh and Maeb take a break while I begin taking photos of the splendor that surrounds us.

The prairie land at Ravenseyrie has become a landscape filled with wildflowers, delicious sweet & spicy fragrances and the hum of insects. We've recently had a string of hot and humid days, several of which were accompanied by a noticeable absence of our usual East Bluff winds, making the days dreadfully oppressive and very little for the horses and mules to do but stay continually on the move through their forest trails, brushing the blood-thirsty flies and mosquitoes off.

Prior to this stretch of sultry summer stickiness, we had sublime warmth with gently cooling beezes and more often than not, the horses remained out in the open with heads plucking at the amazing variety of edibles that the environment so abundantly provides.

The primitives group together for a mid-morning nap among the wildflowers.

Encantara wakes from her fully prone nap to nibble on the slender grasses amidst the Ox-Eye Daisys.
Along the tree-line in the background, you can see the yellow of the Buttercups growing there.

We experienced an extremely cool, very wet spring and boy-howdy has this made a huge difference in the amount and size of the wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, etc.! Nothing seems to have benefited from the cool wetness more than the clovers!

We have Red, White and Alsike clovers growing in massive, heavily scented tracts.
Zorita's light grulla color looks especially lovely amidst this tract of clover.

The Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum) is especially profuse this year, mingling right in with our usual copious amounts of Red clover.
Alsike Clover above, and Red Clover below

With so many cautions against horses grazing on this clover due to its toxic effects of photosynthesis and liver damage, I was initially alarmed to see so much of it growing this year. In years past, the scanty, low growing patches of Alsike clover seemed deliberately passed over by the intuitive herd--but, eegaads! this year they are seeking it out with abandon!

Animado grazing in the Alsike Clover

Zorita feasting on the Alsike Clover

Altamiro pauses from grazing, a Alsike Clover flower dangling from his lips.

Even Encantara is enjoying the taste of Alsike Clover

There have been no detected ill effects of these clover feasts and I have noted that the actual time they spend specifically gorging on the clover is brief, five or ten minutes and then they move back to the grasses.

Ciente and Zorita are the first to make the choice to leave the clover and resume dining on grasses.

If I were a scientist, I'd be keen to test this year's Alsike clover against other years to determine what about the growth this year has made it so attractive for the horses, while in prior years, they've eschewed it. My laywoman's hunch is that in typical growing seasons (which means relatively dry for the East Bluff), the Alsike has a certain unpalatable chemical that serves as a deterrent to animals and insects that would like to consume it, and that unless horses do not have other grazing choices, they will avoid this clover because they find its taste unpleasant. In a year of hyper-abundance, the plant may have no need to produce the chemicals that would account for its toxicity and it is free to be as sweet and inviting (and nutritious) as is the Red and White clover.
Pretty as a picture is our Shelagh!

Some of the other wild flowers that are in bloom now are Ox-Eye Daisy and Yellow Goat's Beard

Yellow and Orange Hawkweed are in bloom too, though not as widely spread as in they were in the drier summers we've had.

Maeb enjoying a summer morning amid the wildflowers

Harvested Red Clover flowers make a delicious and refreshing sweet herbal tea.


eva said...

Lynne, this sea of flowers is breathtaking. How that must feel to be immersed in sweet smelling edibles after this long harsh winter.

I happened to click on last year's June topic "coping with biting insects" where the horses went to the lake to cool of in the breeze, the grass seemed half as lush, and no sea of flowers, so this year must be truly special.

It s interesting that they will sample the toxic clover for short periods of time; i would not worry too much about it since they have lots of other choices, and probably a good instinct limiting their indulgence to brief moments. It looks so cute with the clover hanging out of their mouths.

How are the domestics doing? Have they settled into their own little society with their own rituals? Is Mistral putting on weight and enjoying himself? How do you divide your time between these bands?


Annemiek said...

It looks like you have your own confetti fabric! How wonderful to be surrounded by all those little miracles of nature.

I have been thinking about the Alsike clover. I think you could not prevent the horses from eating it even if you wanted to. I have not yet figured out how it works, but I think most horses know pretty well what is good for them and what not. With all the different plants they can chose from at Ravenseyrie why would they select a plant that can harm them? When I watch Rudolf eat I am always amazed how he seems to be able to pick the one leaf or flower he wants between an ocean of others. If a horse can be that selective I cannot believe they will blunder into something bad.

Lynne Gerard said...

Eva and Miek,
I wish that I could take you walking with me though the prairie land is utterly surreal! Now that several more days have gone by, its obvious that most everywhere there are grasslands, there is also Red and Alsike clover blooming all throughout. The Yarrow, Goat'sbeard, Hawkweed, Buttercup, Cinquefoil, Cleavers and Treefoil are likewise hyper abundant in their flowering flourishes this year, but nothing trumps the clover! It's transportive...but only if you are out there when the mosquitoes and flies are on break! There is a downside--lots and lots of bugs!

The herd had made some trips to the beach midday according to Kevin, but yesterday, on my day off, when I went down to the beach the herd remained topside...we had slightly rainy, overcast skies with a cool breeze and there was a lot more to eat up on the bluff than down at the rocky beach. Of course, I'm so looking forward to getting new photos of the herd at the beach, so hopefully next Sunday it will work out that they are down there when I am able to be down there.

Eva, I will write about how Zeus and Mistral are doing in a separate blog entry in the next couple of days.

I agree with both of you, that these horses are not going to consume anything in amounts that would cause them harm...there are too many choices and they are innately intelligent about such things.

Who would imagine how much pleasure humans could get out of watching what horses eat!