What could be more inspiring than watching a horse grazing serenely in a pasture? Horses are natural foragers, and enjoy finding tasty plants while they roam. However, there are many common plants that are toxic plants for horses.
At Oak Haven Acres, we are blessed to have several acres of pasture that is free from toxic plants for our boarding and rescue horses. Our equine friends always have stables for shelter, but they spend most of their days running wild as nature intended.
Recently, one of our neighbors told us that one of his horses got sick last fall from eating acorns. Fortunately, his pet survived and is doing well. He had never heard that eating large quantities of acorns can be toxic or even fatal to horses.
One of our resident veterinarians, Todd, explained that many plants that grow wild in fields and gardens are dangerous for equines. If you own horses, please watch out for these common toxic plants:
Most pastures have a few trees around them. While horses are more content to graze on grasses and other plants, they will occasionally ingest leaves and soft twigs. Some of these can make them sick or worse, says Dr. Todd. Seeds and saplings of oak, maple, and sycamore are not safe for equine food. These trees contain a substance that can cause equine heart enlargement and can lead to death.
If your horse has tremors, weakness, stiff muscles, breathing trouble, or dark-reddish urine output, she may have ingested seeds or saplings from these trees. Contact your vet as soon as possible.
Many toxic plants have an unpleasant bitter taste, so your horse will leave them alone. However, some of the lovely flowers in your garden can be lethal—even in small quantities. Plant your flower gardens out of your equine friend’s reach, to keep him safe.
Rhododendrons and Azaleas may be your favorite spring blossoms, but your horse could die from respiratory failure with just a few bites of the deadly bushes.
Do you have dainty Buttercups growing in the pastures during spring? If your horse eats large enough quantities of them, it could cost her life. However, dried Buttercups in hay are harmless.
Deadly Nightshade is a vining plant that often grows wild in fields. All parts of this plant are toxic, including the berries. While ingestion may not prove fatal, it can cause pupil dilation and unconsciousness.
Let’s not forget to mention your cherished spring Foxgloves. This deadly bloom contains a substance that affects the heart, and can kill your horse with the smallest ingestion in just a few hours.
Yews are a traditional landscaping shrub that creates attractive borders for the garden. They are evergreen, and some species produce berries that birds adore. The foliage and berries from Yews are poisonous to equines. The smallest ingestion could lead to a coma and death.
Have you seen Ragwort growing intrusively in abandoned fields? This pesky weed will only get worse when it is mowed down, and must be killed with herbicides or burning. Ragwort poses a dangerous threat to horses if eaten. It can build up in their system over a lifetime, and cause liver failure and possible death.
Do not let your horse into your vegetable garden, either. Potatoes, tomatoes, and radishes may be delicious and healthy for us, but they can be dangerous for your horse. The horseradish may sound safe; however, it is on the top of the equine toxic plant list.
Pitted fruit like cherries, peaches, and plums can be poisonous to horses as well. So keep them fenced in away from pastures.
Keep Your Horse Safe From All Potential Sources Of Toxic Plants….
Do you know the source of your hay? Some hay fields may have some of these toxic plants growing in them, and they accidentally get mixed in the drying hay. Ask your hay suppliers about any toxic plants that grow in their fields, and how they manage them.
If you grow your own hay, be careful to see what goes into your equine’s food. If you have Oak, Sycamore, or Maple trees growing on your property, keep fencing around them to prevent your horses from grazing on their seeds and saplings. Rake up any acorns or hovering maple seeds, so they will not be a tempting taste for your horse.
Talk to your local extension agent about environmentally-safe herbicides to destroy poisonous foliage in your pasture, such as Buttercups, Nightshade, and Ragwort. If you have flowers and other ornamental plants, keep them fenced in and out of your horse’s reach.
If you believe that your four-footed friend has ingested a poisonous plant, says our Dr. Todd, get immediate vet treatment. Some of these toxic plants can be fatal within hours of eating them.
To keep your horse happy and healthy, be aware of toxic plants, and know your food sources.
Talk to your vet about recognizing the signs of equine poisoning. The safety of your animal friend depends on you. With love, attention, and regular medical treatment, your horse can enjoy a long life.