Poisonous plants may be lurking in your horse’s pasture and they can make your horse very sick. Symptoms can be as mild as a bellyache or as severe as life-threatening colic or founder.
Red maples and oak trees are common colic culprits. Red maples are toxic during the growing season and even more so after the leaves fall, causing anemia and kidney damage. Oak leaves can cause hard, dark manure following by colic, diarrhea, and mouth sores.
Other trees that have no place in the horse pasture include horse chestnut, buckeye, black cherry and black locust. Shrubs such as oleanders, mountain laurels, azaleas, and rhododendrons are unsuitable. Japanese yew is especially toxic—just a few leaves can be fatal. Avocado, too, is dangerously toxic to horses.
Common meadow weeds such as jimson weed, pokeweed, and buttercups should be removed from pastures. Look carefully for sorrel and shamrocks; these small plants contain oxalates that can cause stomach and intestinal inflammation. In large amounts, they can deplete calcium.
Manage and maintain your pastures to minimize invasive plants like spurge, wild mustard, and horsetail. These plants may be responsible for many mysterious colics.
Do not plant morning glories, foxgloves, tomato, or potato plants within reach of your horse, and be aware that cockspur hawthorn, mesquite, and persimmons can obstruct the small or large intestine.
This list is not complete. For more information, the Cornell University Department of Animal Science provides an excellent list of plants that are poisonous to horses.
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