Three Common Plants That Might Hurt Your Horse
Is there poison in your pasture?
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Sadly there are plenty of growing things that your horse might think are nice to eat, but are in fact poisonous. Over the twenty years of designing facilities we have developed a twenty two page document listing as many of these as we can. It might be a native growth or an ornamental planting brought in by ambitious gardeners. Either way, it’s time to check your outdoor areas and make sure there’s nothing dangerous lurking out there. Here are a few culprits to watch for:
Oleander is particularly deadly — and incredibly common. Decorative with its bright flowers and long slender leaves, oleander is used in mall parking lots, suburban gardens, and highway medians with increasing frequency — despite the fact that it is a deadly poison to animals and humans alike. Stables in suburban areas should watch out for oleander plantings near their fences, or even decorating their own entrances. Although bitter and not really a desirable taste for horses, fallen leaves can be accidentally ingested.
Azaleas are hardy flowering shrubs that love shade and bloom brilliantly, making them a gardener’s best friend in a leafy yard or even along a barn’s north side. They also grow naturally in high elevations. Unfortunately, the leaves and nectar of this common plant are toxic, causing potentially vague symptoms such as muscular weakness or colic. Mistaking toxicity from azaleas could result in death — best to banish them from the barnyard.
Ground Ivy is a highly invasive weed that can take over a lawn (or pasture) with ease, pushing out native plants and grasses. It’s also toxic to horses and is hard to eradicate, so if you spot this plant, call in a professional! Look for small, heart-shaped scalloped leaves on a herbaceous-type plant, with purple flowers in spring. Ground ivy is a member of the mint family and has a musky mint odor when crushed.
For an excellent primer on common North American plants that pose a risk to horses, visit the Poisonous Plants page at the Colorado State University. And take care!