Mesquite Trees and Horses: Incompatible

photo mesquite treeWhen I moved to the Sonoran Desert, I learned about mesquite pods.  I knew about the mesquite wood used for barbequing, but not the seed pods of the tree. They’re used as food by both people and animals.  The mature pods, not just the seeds, are ground into flour, which is quite delicious. A five-gallon bucket will produce about a pound of flour.

Many animals eat the pods: doves, quail, ravens, bighorn sheep, rabbits, ground squirrels, rats, mice and coyotes. In fact, if you find canine droppings on your property and you wonder if it was left by an irresponsible neighbor, look for the pods. If pods are present, it was left by a coyote, not a dog.

However, mesquite pods are not good for all animals. Horses find their sweet taste irresistible but eating too many of them can lead to colic. The beans impact the stomach or intestines, which can lead to surgery or the death of the horse.

When the pods ripen, the trees fling them about, carpeting the ground.

mesquite tree seed pods in horse corralUnfortunately, some pods land in the areas designated for horses, like this round pen. My horses eagerly head for the round pen in the hopes of finding pods. My task before they arrive is to remove the pods not only within the pen but also within reach of those long necks and agile lips.

Is it fair for me to enjoy something I deprive my horses of?  Yup. I enjoy their company and want them with me for as long as possible. Mesquite pods, be gone!

Book Note: The Sonoran Desert is a wild and beautiful place. I have written several books set in this extraordinary place. Please visit my Sonoran Desert Books tab for more information.

collage of sonoran desert book covers

#elaineapowers

#lyricpower

#mesquitepods

#mesquitepodsandhorses

 

 

Ergot: A Fungus and a Tissue Protuberance–Geez!

My favorite bread flavor is rye. Given a choice, I will always choose rye.  So, growing up, I wondered why rye hadn’t been more popular historically. After all, rye is easier to grow than wheat and, in my humble opinion, much tastier.

The reason is Ergot.  Ergot is a fungal disease that killed and disabled people throughout Europe. Symptoms produced by the fungus Claviceps purpurea include gangrene, convulsions, headaches and hallucinations. Healthy grains are replaced with dark, hard ergots and get mixed into the flour during harvesting and milling.

Once the source of the ergot was identified, the infections were able to be controlled. An interesting story in history.

photo ergot protuberance on horse fetlockI love learning about words and, as a new horse owner, I got a word-surprise one day. I get lots of advice from more experienced horse people. One of the recommendations I’ve gotten is to keep the tissue protuberances on the legs trimmed. These natural calluses are made of keratin that can flake off. They are hidden in the long hairs just above a horse’s hooves. My gelding’s flake off nicely by themselves, but I need to soften the tissue on my mare so I can pull them off.

Why am I telling you this? Because these protuberances on the horse’s fetlocks are also called Ergots. (Their purpose is not known.) The fetlock is sort of the ankle of a horse. Ergot is derived from the French word for a rooster’s spur, which makes sense, since that is what it looks like.

Ergot: one word, two very different meanings: A fungal disease or a protuberance on a horse’s fetlock.

Bonus Word: Higher up the horse leg is a round callus that also flakes off or can be trimmed flat. This is called a chestnut. That’s a word with three meanings:

A tree that produces an edible nut;
A reddish-brown colored horse with a brown mane and tail;
A callus on the inner side of a horse’s leg.

Book Note: I’ve recently released a new book, Squirrels of the Sonoran Desert. Did you know that every squirrel in this desert is a ground squirrel? Neither did I until I did my research. There are lots of fun science facts in this book, written in rhyme. You can see it on the Sonoran Desert books page.

book cover for Squirrels of the Sonoran Desert
Despite their different appearances, all the squirrels native to the Sonoran Desert are ground squirrels! Burrow into this book to learn about their shared and unique features. This is a great family read for ages 5 and up. If your little ones are curious about those borrowing, furry squirrels in your backyard or at your favorite park this book is a great introduction. It’s full of insightful information and wonderful illustrations. Even if younger children won’t remember all of the scientific knowledge contained in this book, it’s important to start imprinting their brains with positive, educational, interesting information about the world around them.

Who Was Observing Whom?

I was exercising my young horse when he suddenly turned away from me to look at something outside the ring. I discovered my horse enjoys birdwatching as much as I do.

photo of roadrunnerHowever, as horse and human watched this Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus, pass by, I noticed that it seemed to be studying us as much as we were studying it. I have to say “it” because male and female roadrunners look alike.

photo of roadrunner bird

I wondered what the roadie thought of the two mammals watching it. Obviously, it didn’t feel threatened, moving ever closer, stopping frequently to examine us. After a few minutes of mutual observation, Exuma and I got back to work, and the roadrunner said as it continued on its way: “Places to go and prey to catch. Sorry, I can’t stay.” Perhaps we will all meet again.

photo of roadrunner running away

I was delighted to find out that my boy liked watching wildlife as much as I do. This bodes well for our future trail rides.

Book Note: In the midst of writing fun science books about reptiles, I veered off to write one about the predator I often see in my yard, the Greater Roadrunner. The result was the colorful and fact-filled book written in rhyme, Don’t Make Me Fly! Young and old alike seem to love the rhyming stanzas all about this Southern Arizona iconic bird. Pick up your copy today!

Infographic about book Don't Make Me Fly

You might also be interested in summer-fun workbooks full of activities about Roadrunners that are available from Lyric Power Publishing LLC. The covers below show what is included in each workbook, My Book About the Greater Roadrunner, one for grades K-2 and one for grades 2-4. 

Book cover about the Greater Roadrunner GR K-2book cover about greater roadrunner GR 2-4

#elaineapowers  #lyricpowerpub  #roadrunners

Happy Birthday, Exuma!

Since my mare, Button, is approaching retirement from being a saddle horse, I decided to get a younger horse to take over her work. That is how Exuma, a Quarter Horse gelding, came into my life.

Exuma was born on April 28, 2017. Today is his fourth birthday!

Above photo courtesy of D. Iman

He has grown into his legs and is embracing his training to be a trail horse. He is fearless out in the desert, but he finds manmade objects, like furniture, mailboxes and garbage cans, a bit disconcerting. He is eager to learn, explore, taste (he is a growing boy) and just go!

photo of quarter horse gleding age 4
Exuma at four

It’s been an adventure for me to learn about young horses. His silliness, his testing of dominance and discovering the world outside of his stall are fascinating. He’s learning about relationships, getting along with other horses, standing patiently while I speak to other humans and that I will put my hands on him (brushing, hugging, petting).

One of the things that attracted me to him, other than his winning personality and lack of behavioral baggage, was his size. He is my mare’s size, about 14.2 hands. I wanted a nice small horse, like my mare. I don’t think I am an able enough rider for a bigger horse. As you may have guessed, with attention, time and exercise, Exuma has grown from his boyish figure into a taller, muscled gelding. Hopefully, with the bond we have forming, he will allow me to lead as we ride forth into the world.

It will be exciting as we both develop our trail riding skills. I hope we will create a team based on trust and mutual affection. Our story has just begun.

Oh, the places he–I mean we–will go!

Book Note: I do love being out in the Sonoran Desert and am often inspired with story ideas.  I have written three children’s science books, written in rhyme with colorful illustrations that kids love. Looking for that perfect gift for a little one or a budding scientist? Check out my Don’t Series!

graphic of three books in The Don't Series

#AuthorElaineAPowers  #QuarterHorse #SonoranDesert #TheDon’tSeries