It is springtime finally, and if you have “properly maintained” your yard or pasture, you may not see this little gal. After all, Who would want a pesky weed messing up their fields?
Like many weeds, you may find her popping up her shaggy head and blooming along roadsides, or on construction sites.
Lady Prunella stays under cover of taller grasses in pastures, accompanied by her buddies chickweed, dandelion, and another interesting springtime plant, shepherd’s purse, which burns off at the first hint of the sun’s heat.
Have you ever just plain hung out with your horses in a mixed pasture? It’s surprising that many busy horse owners have never done that. One may have to spend a little time at it initially. Everyone knows that if your horses have an established relationship with you as their “person”, so to speak, they will tend to come over looking for treats or affection. Once they have resigned themselves to the fact that you were indeed only hanging out, and not focusing on them (oh the indignity of not being the center of attraction, they are thinking!)…you then become merely part of the scenery, and you can truly watch their grazing habits.
First, it should go without saying to be careful of suddenly turning a horse out come springtime from a winter in the barn on a heavy pasture, no one wants colic.
You’ll notice for the most part, a grazing Equine will pass these aforementioned weeds by, preferring the grasses, clover varieties and nipping off the green grain tops on the taller rye and orchard grass. They wisely avoid the poisonous buttercup. (They’re pretty, but that’s one that’s better off on the roadsides rather than in your pasture)
There’s one time when you will see a horse crave the diminutive prunella. And that is a mare in the weeks following foaling.
I have watched a post-partum mare pick a stand of prunella clean, with her non grazing suckling comically trying out his new legs by her side. Foals are funny to watch, as they “pretend” to graze, the plants dropping out of their little mouth as they mock-chew the grass.
The broodmare’s sudden craving makes sense, because the low-growing Prunella is a healer…sometimes called “Self heal”, “Wound wort”, or “Heal all”. It was used by Native Americans in their medicine bag to cure a variety of injuries, and as a fever reducer because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
One can only figure that the plant is being used in the mares’ system to help her internal parts recover from the rigors of having her foal, and to help her “clean out”.
[As a personal aside, while stabled at Colonial Downs, I made a hot tea from dried prunella, and took it myself with honey. I won’t go into details, but I felt better very quickly, within an hour.]
Note Prunella’s two close buddies, which grow along with her in the spring. Dandelion and chickweed often intertwine between the purple flowering heads of the springtime weed. Herbalists often say that the plants that grow together should be taken together. That is food for thought. Shepherds purse will grow a respectful distance away, solitary. An herb to stay bleeding, only used when needed.
Horses can be smart. They seem to know that more is not always better when it comes to a plant with medicinal properties, and will only delicately nip at the more powerful dandelion, and take very little of the chickweed. They know the proportions better then a studied human herbalist.
In any case, welcome that little Lady Prunella and her pals in the springtime, and allow them to grow among your more “acceptable” grasses. Put away your weed killers and uprooting tools. Someone up there knows just a little bit more than we do, and has let the horses in on the secret.