View Full Version : Plants poisonous to horses?

13th May 2005, 05:35 PM
Alongside the whole length of our third garden (of the cottage we are soon moving to, not there yet) is a horse paddock. :D :D It is owned and maintained (quite nicely actually :d) by a house that is a bit up the road. Between the post and rail of their paddock and our garden is about a metre of ground which will belong to us. At the moment our boundaries are marked by a few trees, hawthorn, greengage trees, a walnut tree, weeds, nettles and unidentified plants. (see pic) We will put in fencing as soon as we can afford it but my problem is that as the horses are eating their paddock they are also stretching under their post and rail and eating whats in the gap and the tips of the trees that they can reach that are in our garden. (it also means that if any horse was to try and jump the post and rail at the end of their paddock,they would end up in our garden!)

I am obviously concerned (as any horse lover would be) that they might be eating something that is poisonous to them as the owner of our soon to be cottage has not done anything at all to this part of the garden. So until it all comes into flower we cant be sure that this part of the garden is not full of ragwort So one of our first jobs we have to do when we move in, is walk that part of the boundary and remove any thing that would do them any harm. The present owner of our cottage did say to us in all seriousness, 'I did ask the horse owners if they wanted the grass clippings, after all the horses eat grass all the time, but they didnt want them, perhaps you should ask them again when you move in' .....eeerrr no :eek: :eek:

Has anyone got a definitive list of what is harmful to horses? I know about Ragwort and Rhododendron, but what else?

Heres a pic, this post and rail goes down the whole side of our third garden, its about 100feet long.


13th May 2005, 05:44 PM
Black walnut is VERY bad for horses, I don't know about the others though.

13th May 2005, 05:56 PM
List from my vet book is

deadly nightshade
black nightshade
st johns wort
bog asphodel
lily of the valley
bulbs of daffodil, hyacinth snowdrop and bluebell
greater celandine
alder buckthorn
hemlock water dropwort
white bryony
meadow saffron
herb paris
black bryony

if you are able to identify all of these these you are a better gardner than i am

13th May 2005, 06:10 PM
Yew I think is the one to really watch out for. It kills fast - often while it's still in their mouth :eek: Ragwort and foxgloves are very noticable if you have them - those you want to get rid of asap, also bracken. Oak itself is ok, but acorns are poisonous, so best bet is to fence off oak trees when they're dropping acorns. Buttercups are low level poisonous (they'd have to eat a heck of a lot of them) and they taste quite bitter so horses tend not to bother - hence no major paranoia from horse owners about fields of buttercups.

Those are the only ones I really know about. No idea what yew looks like though.

Does anyone know if lilac bushes are poisonous? Got something in my field that looks a bit like it - oval pointy leaves and bunches of something that looks like it would flower into white things.

As a suggestion (don't mean to hijack Janice!), mods, would it be worth putting something like this as a sticky or something for the summer at least? There's always a lot of 'is this poisonous' threads over summer so it could be useful to have it all in one place where a lot of info could be referred to?

13th May 2005, 06:17 PM
yew trees can be seen as a hedge (or within a hedge) or as a standard specimen tree.

they are very slow growing. their leaves are very similar to a Christmas tree, but a deeper green with a glossy finish. They often have red berries. The trunk is a very dark brown bark and can grow very thick and they can reach telephone wire height and are a very large mop headed tree (but to be that height they would be about 200 years old).

They were traditionally planted in churchyards to stop grazing as they are so lethal, -all parts of the tree, bark, berries and leaves, are fatal with one mouthful. We have one opposite our field and two in our back yard all with preservation orders on them.

The horses have grazed for 12 years here without incident, but occasionally you almost die of fright as a bird may drop a piece in the field, or foxes/rabbits other animals pass the berries in their manure in the field. When the tree is in berry I have to be very vigilant.

Most horses die of heart failure/siezure if they eat yew - it is an instant death. I have learnt, over the years, to try not to be paranoid about it. They tend to be grown mainly on chalk downland which is where we are and in our village there are about 40 of the blighters!

13th May 2005, 06:38 PM
Goodness Big Ears :eek: More delicate than they look, these horses, with all those poisonous things!!!

I know for definate that there is no
lily of the valley
bulbs of daffodil, hyacinth snowdrop and bluebell

Having children and working in a nursery, I can spot most of the common 'poisonous to children' things so that will help. I think I had better buy myself a ragfork to get rid of any other nasty weeds, as we can't use weedkiller either.

As for the others, I think I am going to have to get myself a jolly good wildflower identification manual!

I think it would perhaps be a good idea to have a sticky with these, on, as well as perhaps a different countries around the world section, as there are lots of plants around the world that are just as toxic.

Oh deep joy, now why did moving to a 17th C cottage from a seven year old house seem appealing......

Because instead of fairies at the bottom of the garden......I have horses :D

14th May 2005, 06:45 AM
its very rare that any horse will eat somethin thats poisinus to them, so dont worry.
my horse eats rhubarb, dock leaves and nettles which grow in our feild :p amd he is fine!

14th May 2005, 06:54 AM
Are thistles dangerous? Foxy loves them, and never seems to mind getting a prickly nose.

14th May 2005, 06:58 AM
Are thistles dangerous?

No, they're just a pain and take up grazing land!

14th May 2005, 07:01 AM
We don't have any grass yet anyway, thistles are the only things that can survive it I think!

14th May 2005, 08:27 AM
thistles aren't a problem our donkeys love them

probably the only really bad ones are bracken, nightshade, yew, ragwort and worst of all grass clippings....

14th May 2005, 08:54 AM
its very rare that any horse will eat somethin thats poisinus to them, so dont worry.
my horse eats rhubarb, dock leaves and nettles which grow in our feild :p amd he is fine!

Unfortunately this isn't true and its a very irresponsible way to think. Certainly SOME toxic plants are bad tasting - but that is not a way to stop animals from being poisoned - many household products are bad tasting and kids are poisoned every day. Neither dock nor thistle are toxic, rhubarb however will affect kidney function so if your horse is eating rhubarb you must stop this immediately - he may seem fine, right up until the time he dies of kidney damage. :(

14th May 2005, 08:59 AM
oh and other things to add to your list

caster bean plant
tomatoes - same as potato any green bits

Mama Bear
14th May 2005, 06:25 PM
Angel's trumpet
flamingo lily
arbor vitae
autumn crocus
apple, apricot, cherry, peach (all but fruit)
alder buckthorn
blue cohosh
broom snakeweed
black locust
california buckeye
calla lily
carolina jessamine
All euphorbias (spurges)
Chinese lantern
coral plant
some daisies
death camus
devil's backbone (kalanchoe)
Dutchman's breeches
European spindle tree
false hellebore
field horsetail
golden trumpet
grass pea
greater celandine
glory lily
gopher plant
ground ivy
golden chain

This a partial list from my book, I can add more later...for now, off to pick up Silver.

Mama Bear

14th May 2005, 09:39 PM
Yep, basically Horses and human gardens full of flowers and exotic plants don't mix :)

Bay Mare
14th May 2005, 09:59 PM
Does anyone know about 'Cleavers' (also known as 'Goose Grass'). It's the (annoying) plant that leaves the small 'sticky buds' on your clothes. I know that it's used in Ayurvedic and Herbal medicine so presume that it's edible but can the 'buds' be eaten or is just the plant? (Still talking horses here, not for me :)).

Mama Bear
14th May 2005, 10:57 PM
Cleavers are used mostly for skin problems and as a tonic. There are some possible problems for horses, but as a rule, they shouldn't be toxic. Cleavers contains coumerins, which are blood thinners. They also contain a small amount of salycilic acid (aspirin), which can add to the blood thinning effect. Horses already taking blood thinners, who are prone to bleeding or are on medications that have that sort of effect could have problems.

In medicine, it's usually used directly on the skin, in either tea or tincture form.

Bay Mare
15th May 2005, 07:05 AM
Thank you :)

15th May 2005, 07:12 AM
Too many buttercups can cause colic also ivy if eaten to any large amount can bring out hives and colic, if yu wanted to know the early signs of ragwort let me know and I'll bring you a piece from my field got a couple of bunches that need to be pulled, but it is better to get it no or at least before it seeds as otherwise it acts like rabbits on heat :eek:

15th May 2005, 12:50 PM

Oak-because of the acorns (they can cause colic)
Flower and fruit of the deadly nightshade
Berries of the yew tree

Make sure that no fields surrounding you have poisnous plants because the spores from those plants can fly into your field and Wa La, you have a field full of plants that are harmful to your horse. So, watch out for these. I don't have a picture, but im usre if you look them up you will have a better chance of identifiying them.

17th May 2005, 07:41 PM
Unfortunately this isn't true and its a very irresponsible way to think. Certainly SOME toxic plants are bad tasting - but that is not a way to stop animals from being poisoned - many household products are bad tasting and kids are poisoned every day. Neither dock nor thistle are toxic, rhubarb however will affect kidney function so if your horse is eating rhubarb you must stop this immediately - he may seem fine, right up until the time he dies of kidney damage. :(

dunno if it is rubarbh but it looks like it. its bn there 4 ages and not turned red yet. cheked it 4 bite marks and no leaves are missing infact more have grew. mums bn down a few time and says he is only eating nettles round it.
not much ragwort, no yew and not much hedrow is found in my feild any way.
touch wood! :D

17th May 2005, 08:17 PM
dunno if it is rubarbh but it looks like it.

Sounds like the same stuff I have! And no, it's not rhubarb. Starts off in the spring with pointy conifer-shaped flowery things then grows big rhubarb leaves. I've never managed to find out what it is. Someone suggested some large leaf plantain type thing which wouldn't be poisonous, but that's as far as I've got. The horses never touch it, but I'm trying to get rid of it to be on the safe side. Even if it isn't poisonous it's a waste of grazing.

Mama Bear
17th May 2005, 08:23 PM
What do the leaves feel like? Are they flat to the ground or upright? Does it resemble celery, or does it look more like spinach? Also, does it have any scent? I mean, does it smell sweet, sour, like licorice or just like a plant?

Rhubarb resembles celery a great deal, plantain tends to have leaves that are flat to the ground and a flower spike in the middle. If it has a sweet smell, it could be angelica.

17th May 2005, 08:33 PM
Buttercups may be low down on the poison scale however they have a cumulative effect, and so the toxins build up to cause liver damage. They containe a substance called protoanemonin, which is a powerful irritant, causing inflammation or ulceration of the mouth, often with sorenes, increased salivation and sometimes colic. Because they have a bitter, burning taste they are not generally eaten by horses or ponies, however, when they are very abundant this is unavoidable. In severe cases, diarrhoea, blood stained urine, staggering and sometimes impaired hearing and sight can occur. When herbicides have been applied to buttercups, they become more palatable, and therefore horses and ponies should be kept off treated areas until the weeds are completely dead.

I am currently having the buttercup debate with my YO and so have been investigating.

Mama Bear
17th May 2005, 10:51 PM
All of the members of the buttercup family (aka ranunculus) contain that chemical, and they're bad for humans as well as horses. Wearing gloves is recommended if you're going to pull them.

I teach a class on toxic plants, and at one lecture, I had a branch and flower with me. In the time it took to go from one side of the room to the other with it, everyone in class could see my hands turn red.

4th Jun 2005, 12:07 PM
To resurrect this - I've finally got round to taking some photos of stuff I really don't know what it is, so if anyone knows can you please tell me?

First 3 pics are something that grows in with the hawthorn - quite tree-like in terms of height.

Next 3 are the rhubarb-type stuff.

4th Jun 2005, 12:08 PM
Last rhubarb pic

Mama Bear
4th Jun 2005, 07:22 PM
Without hauling out the books, I only recognize one, the third one in the first set is ground ivy. It has other names, alehoof, etc. It has tannic acid in it, and could potentially cause colic if eaten. However, it's very bitter, so who knows if any would be swallowed.

The last picture, the one labeled rhubarb like is definitely not any type of rhubarb I've seen, though I don't yet know what it is.

Is this in England or the U.S.? When I get out the books, it helps to know what climate to look for.

4th Jun 2005, 07:46 PM
Thanks :) I've never seen them eat any of this stuff, so I guess it's not very palatable, but it's useful to know if I have to get rid of it or can ignore it. We're in the UK. If it helps, the rhubarb-type stuff is growing in very wet patches in the fields. I don't think it's very deep rooting as there's minimal amounts in the field now, it's mostly outside whereas there was a lot of it when we first moved in. As they don't eat it I can only assume that just having the horses walking on the field is enough to seriously discourage it from growing. Earlier in the year it did have flowers as well. Not sure what colour as I pulled them up before they flowered properly.

4th Jun 2005, 07:47 PM
The rhubarb ones look like Coltsfoot


4th Jun 2005, 07:51 PM
The first ones are not Ground Ivy though, this is ground Ivy:


4th Jun 2005, 07:55 PM
Thanks Janice. Certainly looks like coltsfoot. It's not on the poisonous lists in previous posts, which is good, and according to that descripation if they do eat it they shouldn't get asthma or piles anyway :eek: :D

Mama Bear
4th Jun 2005, 07:58 PM
How it looks depends on the soil conditions and I think there are a couple of different strains of it. The leaves look like this: http://www.turf.uiuc.edu/weed_web/groundivy/groundivy_leaves.htm, but how big, how many and how close together they are vary. The ones in my back yard are more like the ones in the picture by Zingy (which is odd, because we live in Southern California), but I've seen plants that look like those in Janice's post.

4th Jun 2005, 08:12 PM
The first three pictures are definately Ground Elder, not Ground Ivy, Ground Elder has long pointed serated edge leaves, Ground Ivy is round.

Here is ground elder :


and on this one you can see the same buds at the top of the plant


Mama Bear
4th Jun 2005, 11:02 PM
I think we may be miscommunicating a bit, as I don't know what the first two pictures are. The third picture (different plant) is the one I was referring to if that helps any.

Coltsfoot contains chemicals that can cause cancer, and may damage the liver and kidneys, but it's not an immediate threat. It's supposed to have a slightly salty flavor, which may account for it being eaten.

5th Jun 2005, 08:37 AM
Thanks again Janice :) I don't know where you managed to find these cos I had absolutely no idea!

Mama Bear, the first 3 pictures are all the same plant - oval leaves with clusters of what looks like will become white flowers. It is growing right in with the hawthorn though, so that might account for the confusion :)