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Irons in the fire: Build a little horse pasture

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 May 2017

I’m pretty good at doing a lot of things at a high level of mediocrity. Not unlike a good share of the folks I know, I have several irons in the fire, as it were. Too often, I’m afraid, one of the most common byproducts of my activity – or malady, depending on your viewpoint – is that some of my projects are poorly done, done late, done late poorly or not done at all.

I’m not particularly proud of this. As a matter of fact, I’m ashamed of this character flaw. I do plan on fixing it. I think I’ll start on it tomorrow.

Now, procrastination – that’s something I perform at a high level. My procrastination proficiency, coupled with my tendency to spread myself a little too thin, manifests itself in myriad ways.

Perhaps the epicenter of this ineptitude is my front lawn. Although I continually lament the difficulties presented by the cold and snow of winter, it does have its advantages – not the least of which is a lawn that doesn’t require mowing.

All through the month of April, I cussed the cold temperatures which prevented the grass from growing and, in turn, necessitated my feeding the cows well into May. The only place the grass grew within a 100-mile radius of my house was my front lawn.

I have a hard enough time keeping the place looking anything more than a little trashy, but an overgrown front lawn seems to really magnify the yokel mystique.

One of my little tricks to killing two birds with one stone is to turn a couple of horses onto the front lawn. It saves me a bale or two of hay, and it makes the mowing easier. This little feed-saving technique also ticks off my wife. She begs, pleads, implores and threatens me to persuade me to, at least, clean up the manure piles.

I’ve found the easiest – though perhaps not the classiest – way to do this is to simply mow over said piles with the lawn mower. It’s another two birds, one rock consolidation thing.

Though the horse-as-lawn-mower practice is officially forbidden by my wife, she does allow me to turn the horses onto the south end of the yard for a couple of days in the spring, if I string up a wire to keep them off of the lawn. That’s the spot next to the corral where the basketball standard is, and the soil is so poor the grass doesn’t really grow, anyway.

The foxtail shoots up in the spring, and if we mow it or let the horses eat it down early, we don’t have a problem with the wicked, nasty little excuse for a plant going to seed.

My wife is a farm girl. She was raised on a dairy farm and has put up with our cow-driven lifestyle for over 30 years now. She has never really taken to the horse aspect of it all, though. She’s left that up to the kids and me. Though she helps with the feeding and appreciates them and knows each of them because her family loves them, she’s always felt a little intimidated by the horses.

They’re just not her thing. So I was surprised, if not shocked, when I came home from a meeting one evening to find a yearling colt and the barely started 4-year-old gelding contentedly grazing on fresh foxtail within the confines of a hotwire pasture south of the front lawn.

Neither horse is a Crazy Alice type, but I haven’t spent enough time with either of them to consider them gentle by any means. I haven’t even had a halter on the yearling, and he barely lets me touch him. When I inquired of the Mrs. as to the situation, she told me she knew I was short on time and long on jobs, so she figured she’d take care of my little foxtail pasture project this year.

Turns out the colt lets her scratch his head and ears for minutes at a time, and she and the sorrel gelding have developed a sort of understanding where they both have a quasi-fondness for each other.

Now, I know my wife’s preference would be for me to clean up the south end of the yard, plant some grass or, at the very least, just mow the foxtail and be done with it. But she knows I get some serene, if misplaced, satisfaction from my four or five days of foxtail horse pasture.

She had to, at the very least, go far out of her comfort zone and, at worst, stare down a very real fear, just to give me a little peace. She did a hard thing for the benefit of someone other than herself, and it didn’t take a fire or a flood to convince her to do it.

I’ve decided that it’s probably not a bad idea to build a little horse pasture once in a while.  end mark

Paul Marchant
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