With summer fast approaching I’m sure you will have noticed the flourishing plants and shrubs in your garden, but have you noticed anything sprouting among your grazing ponies? Whilst some plants may look pretty, it is important to distinguish what could potentially cause your furry friend harm! To help you recognise dangers, we have compiled a list of the most common plants and weeds that could harm your horses.
Without a doubt, the most common poisonous plant associated with the horse is ragwort. This wild plant is often found in exposed, baron and dry areas. The main issue with these plants is their ability to disperse (with the help of windy weather). Consequently allowing them to germinate and produce more deadly plants! Ragwort is at its deadliest when it is dried out. In this state it becomes more palatable to the horse. Ensure you check your haynets before feeding to make sure nothing is lurking!
Ragwort can be distinguished by its yellow flowers which bloom between July and October. However, spotting the plant before it has flowered can potentially limit the spread. The base of the plant has large tooth cut leaves. An important point to highlight is that removal can be difficult; you must ensure you get the whole plant out, as damaging the roots will only cause them to grow back.
We recommend using the RAG-FORK to assist in the removal of these plants. Please also be aware that Ragwort can be harmful to the human touch. Remember to wear protective clothing when handling.
Although squirrels thrive off eating acorns, it is important not to let your horse follow the same diet! Acorns contain tannic acid and other tannins that, if eaten in large quantities, can cause internal damage to the liver and kidneys. Not only is the acorn poisonous, but the tree that houses the acorns is also harmful too. Oak tree consumption has been known to cause colic and noticeable weight loss!
If you're grazing horses near an oak tree, it is important to monitor the grazing area closely! Ensure the acorns are removed when they begin to drop in autumn. It may be that you have to segregate your horses from certain trees around their grazing area. We have plenty of fencing options to suit your needs – take a look at our fencing options here.
This is a plant that is commonly found in gardens for decorative purposes. The Foxglove holds toxins inside the leaves. Although not tasteful to eat, horses may consume such plants if other food sources are scarce!
Foxglove poisoning can cause weak and lethargic behaviour, swelling around the head, irregular heartbeats and seizures. It is important to note that if you spot any of these behaviours in your horse to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
Bracken can be harmful to horses if eaten in large quantities! Luckily, horses will not usually choose to eat bracken. The only time horses may eat bracken is if their other source of food is somewhat limited.
The toxins in bracken will cause physical issues such as poor coordination and balance (referred to as ‘bracken staggers’), nervousness, pacing, muscle spasms and laying down flat. Without early intervention, and removal of the problem source, this plant can be fatal! Therefore, it is important to remove any bracken from the grazing area, and if you think your horse is showing signs of poisoning seek veterinary assistance immediately.
Every aspect of the yew tree is poisonous to horses, including the bark, leaves and branches. Therefore, it is important to monitor the growth of this tree where horses graze. If consumed, the toxins in this tree are so fast acting that death will shortly follow in the form of a cardiac arrest. It is incredibly important if your horse grazes around yew trees that they are removed. It is true that the crunch and foul taste of the tree will put most horses off, but the consequences if this tree is consumed are fatal!
We hope you have found this blog instructive, and that you have gained some insight into the dangers that may be lurking beneath hooves! Please ensure you check your grazing on a regular basis to eliminate any possibility of poisonous planting growing. After all, we all want to own happy and healthy horses!