Yesterday I went out to look at a horse property with my family and we actually made an offer on it. We still haven't heard back and the seller has 24 hours left before he lets us know so it's still up in the air, but it did get me thinking about things I haven't had to think about in the last several years that I've been boarding my horses and not keeping them at home.
The one thing that really struck me was keeping control of plants in the pasture. The place we were looking at was not at all staged (something that's been on my mind a lot since we're preparing our house to be staged ... which means while it's on the market we may as well be living in a department store window ... but I digress ...) ... anyhoo, the field where the horses will eventually live was overgrown and I had to step over a lot of fallen branches and walk through tall grass and brambles and - damnit! A patch of stinging nettles. Yep, the one time I think "Oh, it's been really dry and I'll just take a quick peak in the horse areas so I can wear my little city-girl slip-ons without socks." While we were signing the offer paperwork and I was constantly rubbing my ankles where I walked through the nettles I was trying very hard to not worry that that might be a bad sign.
You would think that if a horse eats stinging nettles it will sting its mouth just like it stung my ankles, and after a little bit of research it turns out that is right. I figured it was but you never know. Cats and dogs are able to eat some nasty stuff that would practically kill us, but my experience with horses so far is that they are very delicate. It turns out buttercups are poisonous, unless there isn't much other forage there isn't that much to worry about. Since they have a bitter taste and can cause mouth sores in horses, they tend to stay away from them. Here's a bit of information about buttercups and livestock.
The other thing I wondered about because there was a chicken coop in the one pasture that was actually move-in ready for horses was "Can horses and chickens safely live together?" The answer turns out to be no, because horses can get salmonella from chicken poop just like people can and they are, once again, so delicate that it could easily kill them. Plus they can't throw up. Something I've always been jealous of horses for, that they can't throw up. Although last time I had food poisoning I probably would've hated it if I had not been able to throw up. Although throwing up twelve times in one night was pretty excessive, I probably would've felt worse if I hadn't.
So, move the chicken coop, and dig out all the nettles before I bring my horses again, and thankfully, the area is so well forested there weren't very many buttercups. But there are still a lot more plants I'm going to need to learn about and make sure are safe for the horses. Here's a link with a list of toxic plants plus (thank God) photos of them if you don't know what they are. What's interesting is apples are on the list - but not the fruit part of the apple, the seeds and leaves and bark. I did not know that, I just figured that since the fruit was fine the rest of the tree would be fine. But good to know, keep your horse out of the apple orchard.
My other big change will be there is currently no arena on the property (or near the property) so I'll have to get used to riding in a field until we can afford to build one. I tested that out riding out in the field adjascent to the farm next door to where I keep my daughter's horse, Geir. I actually really liked working on walk/trot and lateral work out in the sun in the middle of a field surrounded by nothing but rows of crops and the occasional little bird who would hop out from under a plant and scare my fat little pony half to death.
I'm looking forward to a whole new realm of horse ownership, having them live at home with me. My daughter is pretty excited about it too and is even saying she can't wait to move to a farm, even though it will mean having to switch schools. She's starting to say she hopes she can find more friends who have horses too once we move to a farm. It's very cute how a girl who was born in the city and never even saw hay until she was two years old (and then she was afraid of it) is now hoping to make more "country friends".
That just reminded me of a conversation she had with a new friend her first day of preschool daycare (back when we lived in the city) when she was three years old. They were talking about what they were worried about and my daughter had been worried there would be cows at the preschool. In fact before we left that morning she had asked me with genuine concern, "Will there be cows there???" and I had to promise her a few times there would be no cows. And as I was leaving her there that first day I overheard her new friend saying she had been afraid there would be dogs there, and my daughter said, "I'm not afraid of dogs. I have two dogs. I'm afraid of cows. But only a certain type of cow. A man in a cow suit type of cow." And with that, I will say good night!