See this tree? It used to have bark. Now it has horse teeth marks. Not content with being horses, Buddy and Lucy want to be beavers. I don't know what kind of tree this is but it's one I like. I need to paint it with Tabasco or something. They're also beginning to work on the pecan trees, which may bring out the horse muzzles. Sweet gums they can have because the gum balls get in their feet. But pecans are another matter.
If you ask around you'll find a lot of reasons given for why horses eat tree bark. Some experts say it's a lack of copper or other nutrients. Other experts say it's to make up for fiber in cold season grasses.
Buddy and Lucy have not one but two mineral supplement blocks. They eat a bale of Coastal Bermuda hay a day. They get a pelleted feed that's supposed to be full of yummy stuff. There is some green in the pasture. I agree with the experts who say it's because they like the taste. But maybe there's a grander scheme.
You didn't think horses were long-term thinkers and planners, did you? Neither did I. But this bark-eating thing has been going on a while, and I'm seeing a plan.
First they ate all the bark they could reach off of our sweet gum trees. Go figure. If the tree is actually sweet that's a no-brainer. So we had a big die-off of the sweet gums in our pasture because the horses cleaned all the bark off of the trees. In other posts on this blog you'll see photos with stumps in the background. Those were the sweet gums. We had to cut them all down before they blew down and hit the barn. We made some of them into jumps.
But we missed one. And in the high winds over the weekend, the top sheared off and broke through the fence. We didn't see it at first because it's in the wooded back of the pasture where we seldom go. But Lily and some friends were out exploring and discovered the gum tree crashed through the fence. It's hard to make out what's what in the following photo. Paul put a board across the top as a temporary fix. You can see the tree squashing down the wire portion of the fence, and the dead horse-eaten trunk standing in the foreground.
Notice also that they have already started eating the upper branches that are now within reach.
Tell me. Is it because the trees are tasty, or because once eaten through, they'll be able to go visit the neighbor's horses and eat their grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-fence?