How To Identify Grasses
You may question the necessity for this subject on a web site about horses, but, the composition of the sward (grass in the field), and the contents of a bale of hay or haylage, will determine how well your horse thrives.
The grass family is the largest and most important family of flowering plants in the British Isles. It is comprised of cereals, (wheat, barley and oats), grasses for hay, silage and grazing, and there are more than 150 wild species.
The British farmer favours six grasses:-
Included in amongst these grasses you will find a wide variety of other plants which can provide valuable nutrients to the horse: -
WILD WHITE AND RED CLOVER - Trifolium repens/pratense - does well if included in the sward. It enhances the feed value and palatability of the pasture and the root nodules increase the fertility of the soil by providing a steady source of nitrogen for the sward. Cultivated white clover is larger-leafed and very productive, but demands higher fertility that the wild types. Wild clover is more suitable for horses than the cultivated variety because it is less nutritious and less likely to cause digestive upsets.
YARROW - Achillea millefolium - one of the most common wild flowers, found in grassland all over the British Isles. It is a perennial plant, which blooms throughout the summer. Growing up to 45cm (18inches) tall, with rough angular stems. Yarrow bears flat heads of white/pink and occasionally deep purple flowers, which at first sight appear to be one large flower.
CHICORY - Cichorium intybus - the large blue flowers of this herb cluster towards the top of tough stiff stems. It is sometimes sown on shallow chalk soil because it has a deep tap-root that helps to break up the sub-soil.
DANDELION - Taraxacum officinale - by tapping minerals deep in the soil the dandelion provides a valuable supplement to the nutritional content in the grass.
VETCH - there are about 150 different varieties of vetch, all members of the pea and been family (legumes), used to be grown by farmers as fodder, bearing purple flowers signally or in pairs, at the end of the summer these develop into seed pods.