Coun­try di­ary:

Wendyl Nis­sen serves an an­i­mal banquet and is re­warded with a very happy horse and some ec­static al­pacas.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

the tale of a happy horse

Do horses purr? I hope they do be­cause I am very sure I heard one purr rather loudly in my pad­dock re­cently. My neigh­bours keep nine al­pacas and a horse in the pad­docks next to mine, which is nice be­cause I get to stroke the horse now and then, and in the spring I can wake up and find a new­born al­paca just over the fence.

We used to have them all on our two-acre pad­dock to keep the grass down, but this win­ter we de­cided we would plant loads of na­tives like flax, toi toi and manuka on the land to re­gen­er­ate it, and also to re­duce the amount of run-off end­ing up in the har­bour. So I asked the neigh­bours to take the an­i­mals off.

But… we never got around to the plant­ing. Work got in the way and the kikuyu grew and grew un­til it was about a me­tre high with a thick mat un­derneath. The po­hutukawa trees we had planted in an early rush of en­thu­si­asm were barely vis­i­ble.

But back to the horse. It was the end of win­ter and I no­ticed the neigh­bour­ing pad­docks were re­ally low on grass. Three years ago, when I was fresh from Auck­land, I used to think all the lovely pad­docks with short grass had been re­cently mown, but now I re­alise that be­cause of the slow growth rate in win­ter, the grass gets eaten down low by the stock.

I looked at my pad­dock, which was par­tic­u­larly ver­dant and lush, and sug­gested to my hus­band that we should let the al­pacas and the horse back on. We could fence the re­main­ing po­hutukawa, and the live­stock could keep the grass down un­til next win­ter, when per­haps we would fi­nally get around to our re­gen­er­a­tion project.

The neigh­bour was de­lighted and let them back on im­me­di­ately, which was when I heard the horse purr. I was walk­ing down our pad­dock to the beach and looked up to see the most de­light­ful sight of the big, brown horse tak­ing huge mouth­fuls of grass, rip­ping them out of the ground. And at the same time she was emit­ting a “maa­ha­ha­ha­haha” sound over and over.

“The horse is purring,” I shouted to my hus­band who was at the top of the pad­dock watch­ing with de­light as the al­pacas also took hur­ried mouth­fuls of green grass, chew­ing ea­gerly with their rab­bit-like front teeth, their lit­tle tails wag­ging fu­ri­ously from side to side with hap­pi­ness.

We were wit­ness­ing the an­i­mal equiv­a­lent of a banquet.

It took them lit­tle un­der a week to no­tice­ably trim down the whole pad­dock, and I’m sure there will be enough to keep them go­ing un­til the spring growth kicks in over the fence in their other pad­docks.

Mean­while, any time I feel the need to cheer my­self up, I sim­ply look back on that af­ter­noon in the pad­dock with the purring horse and the wag­ging al­paca tails and re­mind my­self what sheer joy looks like.

Three years ago, fresh from Auck­land, I used to think the pad­docks had been re­cently mown.

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