Horses and Poisonous Plants
It can be confusing to know which plants and trees are poisonous (and sometimes) fatal to horses. We’ve put together this handy blog so you can check your paddock safe in the knowledge that your horse won’t come into contact with anything poisonous.
Top tip - when you’re removing poisonous plants from your horse’s field be sure to wear protective clothing - gloves, trousers and a shirt or coat that covers your arms are strongly recommended. And if you’re not sure whether a plant is poisonous or not, the best advice would be - if in doubt, take it out. The below list is by now means a complete guide, there is a handy link at the end of the article where you can discover more information.
Most horse owners have heard of Ragwort and many are aware that it is very poisonous to horses and damages the liver when eaten. Ragwort starts as a dense rosette of leaves and when spotted in a field where you horse grazes it is recommended to pull it out (root and all!) before it has chance to grow and produce yellow flowers. Uproot, remove and burn - this is the best way of dealing with Ragwort.
Horses seem to have a sixth sense and generally will not eat Foxglove plants but it’s not worth the risk. If you see this tall, often pink flowery plant growing in the field where you horse is grazing be sure to remove it. If eaten, your horse will likely show signs of breathing difficulties, contracted pupils, convulsions and death after only a few hours.
Although not normally fatal to horses as the name might suggest, deadly nightshade can cause unconsciousness and convulsions in horses. It is quite easy to spot due to the black, shiny berries with bell shaped flowers. You’re most likely to find Deadly Nightshade on scrub land or grass verges so keep an eye on the verge outside your horses’ field and be sure to deal with the toxic plant as soon as it crops up.
Oak trees are a great form of natural cover for horses but be aware when they drop acorns in autumn. When eaten in large quantities, acorns are very poisonous to horses and often lead to severe colic. Collect the acorns as soon as they start to fall or move your horses to a different field in the autumn months if possible.
A common plant in gardens, the fallen leaves and berries from a yew tree are lethal to horses. Even if the yew tree is the other side of your fence be vigilant about the leaves and berries blowing into your horse’s pasture.
A common garden plant, privet is most dangerous as box privet and even eating a small amount could kill a horse. Keep an eye on neighbouring fields and gardens for the possible of dumped cuttings in your horse’s field.
For more advice on poisonous plants and how to check your field check out World Horse Welfare’s poisonous plant guide.