These Plants Are Not Horse Friendly
 By Winniefield Park   •   1st Jun 2015   •   3,216 views   •   0 comments
These Plants Are Not Horse Friendly

After a long winter green grass, flowers and leafy trees are a welcome sight. Your horse is enjoying a taste of pasture too after eating hay for so long. But not all that is green is edible, at least not for your horse. There are a few things you donít want your horse to eat, even though itís growing lush, and sometimes right inside its pasture. And there are plants that may be growing in your lawns and gardens that arenít good for your horse either.

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I live in a more northerly location than most of you. Right now, in my garden, the rhubarb is burgeoning and the lily of the valley is blooming. Neither of these plants is good for you or your horse. Both contain toxins in the leaves. Eating the stems of rhubarb as you would in a delicious pie is okay, but donít throw those leaves over the pasture fence. Likewise, lawn clippings that contain lily of the valley are bad news too.


Are your horses leaning over the fence to nibble lovely green tree leaves? Some trees like willow and apple may be okay in moderation. But red oak, red maple, yew and black walnut are just a few of the trees that might make your horse sick. Trim them back or fence them off so that your horse canít reach them and never throw leaves over the fence for horses to eat without knowing exactly what is in there. Black walnut in particular is a worry if your horse is bedded on wood shavings. Know whatís in your shavings - softwood shavings are best.

Many people think that staghorn sumach is harmful to horses, but the red Ďfruití that grows out in late summer, leaves, stems and roots are not harmful, in moderation. In fact, the fuzzy berry-like fruit is used in folk remedies for colic and heaves. My horses used to eat them down to the ground and go looking for more, even though a yummy round bale was only a few yards away. The risk with horses eating too many woody twigs is of course, impaction colic. Itís okay to snack on things like this, but eating them as the main meal might cause a problem. White berried sumach is toxic.

Staghorn Sumach
Staghorn Sumach

Pigweed, lamb's quarters, and various types of nightshade are also emerging. These plants may look lush and tasty, but most horses that are well fed wonít touch them. If however, a hungry horse and gets a belly full of these toxic weeds, it can result in dire consequences. Bracken ferns are also unfurling, and while you can forage for fiddleheads to go with your dinner, your horse best not forage for the fully grown leaves.


My horse loves dandelions. Actually, I do too. I canít understand why people put herbicide on them. I might feel differently though if I lived in a place where a mold connected with stringhalt grows on them. I think the chance of this in North America is slim, but it has been a problem in New Zealand.


I noticed that the nettles were coming up too. Stinging nettle will make you miserable for a short time after you touch it, but for some reason horses can eat it without harm. Apparently it makes a healthy tea too. If you try some, let me know how you like it. But where I saw the nettles, buttercups were starting to grow. These are definitely on the do not eat list for any livestock. Another yellow flower, that grows a bit later in the summer is St. Johnís Wort. While this may have medicinal properties for humans, it can also cause sun sensitivity for livestock.

Depending on where you live, you may have plants and trees you can add to this list. What are the toxic plants you have to worry about?
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