View Full Version : Battle of the Burrs

Nov. 10, 2009, 12:25 PM
Can I "pick" your brains on the subject of burrs?

Burrs are the bane of my existence. *I HATE THEM. I have a hobby farm with retired pet horses (ok some are too young for retirement, I need to get motivated to get back riding them again!) and almost 50 acres of pasture. *The burrs are KILLING ME!

Can they be gotten rid of once and for all or is the only defence to keep chopping them down? *As many of us know, when you chop one bush down, three more come to the funeral. *Is there any safe weed spray you can use on them?

And what about picking them out of the forelocks, manes, tails, ears etc.,? *What works best? Show Sheen? Vetrolin Shine? *SCISSORS? Someone better hide the clippers on me, I'm about ready to give them all a hogged mane (and tail!)..... *Is there any hope in saving my fave polarfleece sweater? *Or will I forever be feeling the after effects of my last burr battle on my highly sensitive and allergy prone skin? Speaking of skin, my poor hands. *One big rash! *I am thisclose to cracking out the Uptite as a last ditch attempt to get those tiny little burr slivers out of my hands!

I'm sure I sound like a wimp, but I don't care. I need help!

SF2009 :D

PS - I'm new here so I hope there are enough non-showbarn people on this forum who know what I'm talking about. *I don't know of too many show barns with burr problems!

Piatt Farms
Nov. 10, 2009, 01:22 PM
Yup, have a hobby farm too here in Okie land. LOTS of burrs and stickers. I feel like they have abandoned the neighboring fields and taken up residence here on our farm. I swear, I can go visit friends that live a mere 5 miles from here and they don't have a single sticker/burr on their property. ...and claim to have never had them so it's not like I can ask for help on how to eradicate the little suckers.

We have the itty bitty ragweed kind, the big fat brown one's (I have yet to identify what they are...not enough hours and not high enough on the list) and we have those nasty sand burrs. The sand burrs are by far the worst here. They show up on my shoe laces, the dogs feet, kids clothing, horses lead ropes, saddle pads, etc. Horrible nasty things. Here's what I can share...
Horses-- can remove them fairly easily from the horses manes and tails using show sheen and picking them out with my fingers but I usually end up with a few embedded thorns.
Saddle pads-- use a stiff brush over a trash can to take off as many as you can then you have to pick the rest off by hand
Lead Ropes-- good luck. My kids were using one to play "snake" and i ended up tossing it. It was literally covered....and then I picked thorns out of the kids hands for days
Pets--See Horses. Use tweezers to get the burrs from inbetween your dogs toes or the ones that break off in their pads (if your dog/cat is drooling more than normal take a look...I ended up taking my cat to the emergency clinic with an ulcer under her tongue from a broken off sand burr thorn)

As far as getting rid of them--I've heard from my grandfather-in-law that you have to burn them, but they can stay dormant for 5 years. A more fun option if you have kids or grandkids is to give each of them a few burlap sacks and have a race to see who can "catch" the most on their sack. Have them drag it across the yard, wrap it around a garbage can and roll it around on the grass, etc...get creative. Our bribe was the winner got to pick dinner for the next 3 nights (hot dogs, mac n cheese and roast beef) and then we used them to start the bonfire. ...speaking of, it's time to do that again this year.
You can't use normal weed control since the sand burrs are a type of grass, you would have to use an actual grass killer to get rid of them.
The only other option (and this would be for a small area) is to get good at identifying the distinguishing looks of the grass and pull it in the spring as it comes up. I did that for approx 3 nights before I decided that as much as I liked the idea gardening at sunset, I wasn't going to win the war and gave up.
It's important to remember that it's going to be an ongoing battle. I judge my progress based on the if this year is better/worse than the year before...so far I'm slowly but surely winning.
To date, my biggest problem is the fact my DH doesn't remove his shoes when he comes in the house like the kids and I and he tracks them in. There is nothing like waking up in the middle of the night to get a drink and step on one of the black ones. OUCH! He is the reason we are now switching from carpet to wood floors. :lol:

Good Luck!

Vesper Sparrow
Nov. 10, 2009, 02:59 PM
I just pick them out one by one (my horses are used to this), but, in really bad cases, Cowboy Magic detangler (the one that costs $40 a bottle) works well.

One day, my gelding came in with a cone of burrs in his forelock. I knew then where the legend of the unicorn comes from.

Nov. 10, 2009, 05:25 PM
I just did a little thing on my blog about burrs. For most species they only set seed every other year. Therefore they happen mostly in uncultivated areas. If you turn the soil over, the plants don't have the opportunity to grow and then come back the following year to set seed. Year one they grow, then go dormant during the winter, year 2 they grow/set seed/die. Turn over the ground 3-4 years in a row and you should reduce the # of plants.

I board now, but what I used to do was every year walk my fenceline and carefully pull up the dead plants by the root and put them seedhead side down in the burn barrel and burn them. I had to be very careful not to shake even one of the burrs off the mother plant because there are a lot of seed per burr. They can produce up to 15,000 seeds per plant. Pulling them up did help a lot. These plants usually have a VERY long and stubborn tap root so not allowing the seeds to germinate is the easiest way to prevent them from growing. I suppose that if I were really invested in trying to get rid of them, I might also find them while they are flowering, cut stems before they go to seed and burn the flowers/stems. The mother plant will die, without producing seed.

Nov. 10, 2009, 05:28 PM
you might also look into corn meal gluten as a pre-emergent killing product.

edited to add:


Nov. 10, 2009, 09:49 PM
Thanks for all the feedback. Seems there is still no magic cure to get rid of the buggers easily.

I tried a silicone gel tonight - Sante Fe brand (a brand that may be long extinct since it was at the back of the cupboard and was at least 7 years old....). It actually worked not too badly......

Olga Rose
Nov. 10, 2009, 10:19 PM
Hi Superfreak,
I have problems with burrs too. Ugh do I ever hate them....so much so I start cutting them down way too early only to find that like you say, cut down one stalk and 3 more show up for the funeral! lol I was deburring my horses tonight and pray they do not find any more hiding bushes tomorrow. I cut a pile out of field on the weekend,. My poor fingers are covered in little infections.
I used vetrolin shine, and it was o.k. My horse has a massive thick and long tail and the trick is to brush it through and use lots of glossy product during this time of year, before they get into the burrs. The burrs will already be easier to get out....no dreadlocks or rough muddy gritty tails that burrs seem to really love to tangle into!


Nov. 11, 2009, 11:56 AM
This is my first season dealing with burs as well, and I've given up already.
I walked into the barn one day and my boy's mane was one giant LOAF of burs, I figured the only way to start was to start *over* and grabbed the clippers.
His tail, if picked daily, isn't tough to keep up on, but he had a knack for attracting those little suckers right to his mane. He is also the horse who HATES having his mane pulled, so giving up was so much easier than fighting. (although for the first few weeks of bur season, he stood fairly well for mane picking, I must give him credit.)

I too am of the "douse it in show sheen" club, however, I am worrying that these products are subsequently going to dry his tail out over the course of the winter. Has anyone had issues with this? Remedies?

Nov. 11, 2009, 02:01 PM
Get yourself a pruning anvil, the kind with a set of 3' long handles. Cut every burr plant down as close to the root as
you can. Remove the cut portion from the area (I find it so
satisfying to watch the burrs burn in my burn pile). Then
apply some sort of weed killing product to the cut stem to
kill the remainder of the plant (otherwise it will regrow from
the roots). If you are careful not to let the burrs fall off the
plant when cutting and you diligently cut down all the plants
you can find in your pastures and fenceline, after a couple of
years you will find it to be a very quick job as there will be
very few burr plants any longer.

By the way, it is very possible for a horse to suffer from
eye injury by getting a piece of burr into the eyeball and
scratching it.

I find it best to wear a nylon windbreaker when out removing
burr plants. The burrs have a harder time sticking to the
nylon. And I always work with leather gloves on and usually
wear a hat or hood when cutting and handling burr plants.

Nov. 11, 2009, 10:00 PM
We have many burrs on our farm and they are nasty things. The easiest and cheapest way to get them out of manes and tails is Pam, cooking spray. The generic cooking oil sprays work just as well. Spray the "burr loaf" generously, squish it in and around as much as you can. Then start at the bottom, picking and combing your way up. Ad more Pam as needed.

As far as killing them. In the spring I plan to spend many hours spraying them with Roundup until I kill them all :mad:.

Nov. 11, 2009, 11:15 PM
This year I've had burrs as well! Brought my horse home and wouldn't ya know it, burrs in his pasture.

AND he likes to graze around them... getting them everywhere! Our burrs are the round ones that are very picky.

I took a 3 pronged approach:

1. Show Sheen mane and forelock liberally when burr free. LIBERALLY.

2. Tail in a tail bag! He had only been getting burrs on the bottom of his tail and then when he'd swish his tail they'd get up higher. This helped A LOT.

3. When a burr is in the forelock/mane, works best to hold the burr and pull the mane in little pieces away from the burr. I think of the burr as a stationary comb. It works pretty darn well and I don't seem to lose much hair! Although I did notice his forelock was noticeably thinner after he came in with a Unicorn Horn.

The other day I pulled a cluster of 3 out of his forelock and then showed them to him, as he seemed curious. He promptly ATE THEM. :eek: I was not expecting that. Popcorn for ponies?:confused:

Nov. 12, 2009, 01:34 AM
I've suffered MAJOR burr episodes, and tried the regular ways: combing the burrs out (time-consuming, but the job), being told by someone else to douse the mane, etc. in oil (softens the burrs so you can comb some of it out, but softens my HANDS even more (ouch!!!) and just as time-consuming, plus some of the burr stays in and the hair is covered in whatever product/chemicals) then discovered THE WAY. Just pull the hairs, a few at a time, out of the burr(s). Come right out.

Nov. 12, 2009, 07:54 AM
I see you are in Ontario and I am close to Buffalo, so I think we may have the same issues. I use Laser Sheen and it stays in their manes and tail in the pasture for a good week. If it rains alot, I must reapply,but it never gets sticky or makes them get frizzy. Also since I have about 20 acres of paddock with this issue, I am having it sprayed professionally in the spring and moving the horses out for a period. I will lose some of my broadleafs but it is worth it to me. There is no way I can do this by hand and I too am sick of the war.

Nov. 12, 2009, 09:04 PM
The other day I pulled a cluster of 3 out of his forelock and then showed them to him, as he seemed curious. He promptly ATE THEM. :eek: I was not expecting that. Popcorn for ponies?:confused:

I can only imagine you had the same "is this really happening" expression I get when I watch my horse do something I consider asinine (although not harmful).
I can't say Pash has ever eaten them (to my knowledge) but can I borrow your pony for pasture-weed control? That might turn out to be the easiest way to rid yourself of burrs!

Nov. 12, 2009, 10:38 PM
....looks like I'll be off to buy a huge pair of bada$$ monster shears, some kerosene and stock in roundup and silicone! :yes:


Nov. 12, 2009, 11:11 PM
I can only imagine you had the same "is this really happening" expression I get when I watch my horse do something I consider asinine (although not harmful).
I can't say Pash has ever eaten them (to my knowledge) but can I borrow your pony for pasture-weed control? That might turn out to be the easiest way to rid yourself of burrs!

:lol::lol::lol:That is EXACTLY what I thought!!!! I know he gets curious about things so I thought he was going to give them a good sniff... and then when he ate them I thought he'd spit them out... but he definitely ATE THEM.

So maybe all this time when I thought he was intentionally grazing AROUND the burr plants... he was actually EATING THEM! :lol: That would explain a lot!

Elly Mae II
Nov. 12, 2009, 11:41 PM
My horse only occasionally gets burrs in his tail. But my Miniature Schnauzer is the real magnet that finds them. He's gotten them in his beard and on his legs many times and squirms like the dickens when I try to get them out. Once I saw him chewing at his leg and before I knew what he was doing he had swallowed a burr. He gagged and gulped and ate grass while I had visions of major vet bills. In the end there was no major damage but I doubt he learned his lesson.