12 Plants That Are Toxic to Horses

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If you have horses, you perhaps already know that some of them are pretty inquisitive. Horses may enjoy whatever grass is around, but there are numerous plants that can be toxic to them. You need to know which plants are poisonous to protect your animals from accidents and ensure their good health. Here are the most popular plants that are toxic to horses, so make sure you watch out and remove them from your garden or yard.

1. Ragwort

One of the most toxic plants is known as ragwort, and there are more than 70 species. You can easily identify them due to the yellow petals that resemble a daisy. This plant is harmful both fresh and dry because it affects liver function. In other words, if your horse consumes ragwort over an extended period, it can lead to permanent liver damage.

2. Water Hemlock

This plant is quite common in the United States. You can find it in wet regions and, when ingested, it is toxic to both horses and people. This plant leads to convulsions and a state of agitation because it impacts the nervous system. If your horse eats a large amount of water hemlock, especially its root, it may suffer from respiratory insufficiency or even paralysis.

3. Buttercup

The buttercup bloom is a very delicate, beautiful plant in our gardens. The small flowers come to life during spring, but they contain chemicals that are toxic when they are chewed. However, buttercups do not have a pleasant taste, so your horses are likely to avoid it as much as possible. If they do not, they will suffer from digestive and mouth irritation. You can prevent buttercups by mowing your garden as often as possible.

4. Black Walnut Tree

You may not know that this tree can be exceptionally toxic to your horses. However, they do not tend to eat the leaves or the bark. Rather, most animals get poisoned after they ingest accidental shavings of this tree. Some of the most common reactions appear up to 12 hours after ingestion, and these include increased pulse, moving the weight from one limb to another, and warm hooves. These symptoms may disappear if you cut the horse’s access to the shavings very early, but a vet appointment is still highly recommended.

5. Johnson (Sudan) Grass

Johnson grass often comes in non-toxic hybrid versions grown as a forage crop in the southern part of the United States. This plant contains cyanide in both its stems and leaves. When ingested, these compounds render oxygen transport. This leads to fetal damage, difficulty when backing, and ataxia. Damage incurred from Johnson, or Sudan grass is not reversible.

6. Rhododendron

Although a very common flower in many landscaping choices, rhododendron is highly toxic to horses. Along with laurels, azaleas, and other plants, this shrub is high in grayanotoxins. These lead to heart and digestive problems when ingested by horses. The shrub usually blooms in warm months, but the plant remains toxic all year round.

7. Red Maple Trees

This beautiful maple tree can be a valuable addition to your garden. Its leaves are safe for your horse when they are fresh, but dried leaves are pretty toxic, despite their excellent taste. When ingested, red maple tree leaves affect the function of red blood cells to such an extent that 3 lbs of consumed leaves lead to death.

8. Tomatoes and Potatoes

If you plant edibles, there is a high chance that you have tomatoes and potatoes in your garden. Although these are delicious for humans, they are toxic to horses. When they ingest these leaves, horses suffer from depression, colic, and even troubled heart and respiratory functions. The edible tuber of the potato is also toxic, while tomatoes come with mixed advice. To be on the safe side, make sure you skip these two plants entirely.

9. Alsike Clover

If you live in the northern US or Canada, you probably already know the alsike clover. It is commonly used for improving the soil, hay, or even pasture. If ingested, the alsike clover leads to photosensitization in the short term. In other words, your horse’s skin becomes sensitive to light to the point of swelling and discharging. If your horse eats this plant repeatedly, it may lead to nitrate poisoning, liver damage, and finally, death.

10. Deadly Nightshade

With an intuitive name, the deadly nightshade is a popular plant in dry climates. You can recognize it due to its bell-like bloom and small fruits. This plant is not only toxic to horses but also to humans and pets. Unfortunately, its fruits are sweet and similar to black currants, which makes them even more dangerous. Horses may lose their ability to control movements; they start to stumble, are unable to rise, and eventually pass away.

11. Eagle Fern

The Eagle or bracken fern is popular in moist areas and woods, so that you can find it almost everywhere apart from the desert areas in the Southwest. The plant stops the absorption of vitamin B1, which is compulsory for the nervous system. On the good side, the toxicity is relatively low, so your horse must eat a few hundred pounds to feel sick.

12. Milkweed

Finally, the milkweed is a popular plant with a cluster of tiny flowers. All of its parts are toxic, either when fresh or dry. However, horses will avoid this plant unless there is not enough food available in the area. If your horse ingests it, you will notice spasms, disorientation, a weak pulse, and troubled breathing.

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