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Are there any poisonous plants that are tasty to horses?

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  • Are there any poisonous plants that are tasty to horses?

    Just wondering.

    I don't worry about the occasional poisonous thing growing in my pastures because I know my horses aren't hungry enough to eat anything that isn't Kosher. The only thing that worries me slightly is the wild cherry trees along the line fence, since just a few wilted leaves can kill. One of these winters when all the leaves are off we'll think to fire up the chainsaw...

  • #2
    The amount of sugar varies greatly in all plants due to different environmental conditions. This applies to plant toxins as well. When you get the right conditions you can have max toxin levels as well as good taste. If horses never ate toxic plants, then why do people at universities even bother to write books, ID pamphlets and websites dedicated to informing horse people of the dangers of toxic weeds. Do you think this is just about drama? Anyone who choose to believe that horses will not eat toxic plants as a reason to neglect removing them is living in a romance novel. Hope it doesn't turn into a horror story.
    Are you feeding your horse like a cow? www.safergrass.org

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    • #3
      If horses would readily eat any poisonous plant that wandered into their line of sight, the species would be extinct by now - how could they survive millenia in the wild (or domestically) if they didn't have some common sense/instincts about good food?

      If they aren't getting the right nutrients or enough to eat, they'll eat the side of the barn or dirt. So will humans. And it makes sense to remove highly toxic things as a precaution, since younger horses and some playful horses will grab stuff in their mouths not out of hunger but just to tear it down or drag it around, or curiously, and might inadvertently ingest.

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      • #4
        When I asked my vet about buttercup and a couple other things she said she has yet to see a horse who would eat them if they had other food to eat.

        I certainly don't view it as drama. Otoh, I've had horses out in Vermont pastures with weeds for over 40 yrs now with not even one issue.

        I know there have been two such cases that I know of in this area and both were horses who had been fed clippings from around the yard that contained things that were poisonous, one which was yew and the horse died soon.

        Leaves that can blow off trees into the pasture that are poisonous I would for sure worry about. But the vegetation in the pasture, I am going to do as I always have. IM sure they are some who believe that if we can't afford to kill off all vegetation, plow and reseed that we shouldn't have horses, to each their own.

        Someone on a forum just posted about the same on cats. I read the poison plant list and I have 47 of those plants in my yard. Some of which the cats walk through each day. Again, I've had hte same plants all my life, and no cat issues. The only plant they bother is the one I keep just for them, the kitty pot.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by twofatponies View Post
          If horses would readily eat any poisonous plant that wandered into their line of sight, the species would be extinct by now - how could they survive millenia in the wild (or domestically) if they didn't have some common sense/instincts about good food?
          The original horse, which originated in North America, is indeed extinct. How or why is unknown.


          If they aren't getting the right nutrients or enough to eat, they'll eat the side of the barn or dirt. So will humans. And it makes sense to remove highly toxic things as a precaution, since younger horses and some playful horses will grab stuff in their mouths not out of hunger but just to tear it down or drag it around, or curiously, and might inadvertently ingest.
          I think you give their sense of self preservation far too much credit. Most would happily chow down a 50# bag of sweet feed if given the chance.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by rcloisonne View Post
            The original horse, which originated in North America, is indeed extinct. How or why is unknown.



            I think you give their sense of self preservation far too much credit. Most would happily chow down a 50# bag of sweet feed if given the chance.
            That is indeed true. However there is a huge difference between a poisonous plant and a bag of sweet FEED.

            I have had horses and goats at home for almost 40 years. In that time I have had ONE incident of toxicity, a doe eating a false hellebore early in gestation, resulting in a cycloptic kid.
            I wasn't always a Smurf
            Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
            "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
            The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

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            • #7
              This is a case where clippings are dangerous because they don't or can't filter out the bad bits.

              I've heard that they can develop a taste for locoweed, which has an alkaloid that is toxic but not always fatal.

              We have red maple also and wild cherry, there were tons of wild cherry surrounding fences at the TB farms and what was bad was not the wilted leaves but the Eastern Tent caterpillar - totally bizarre but true, that the horses will ingest wandering caterpillars, which have indegistible spicules that migrate through tissues and into a foal in the case of broodmares compromising the pregnancy. The TB business suffered a huge hit one year in KY with an abortion storm as a direct result of these caterpillars. Once the research was done most TB farms now remove wild cherries.
              Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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              • #8
                Originally posted by rcloisonne View Post
                The original horse, which originated in North America, is indeed extinct. How or why is unknown.
                Technically, it is not extinct, or we wouldn't have horses today. The horse migrated from the Americas. Then the population in North and South America disappeared, but the species continued to evolve on elsewhere.

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                • #9
                  Hoary alyssum--they supposedly won't eat it when it's fresh, but after it's dried (and in the hay) it apparently gets eaten quite readily. We had a scare at a local barn last year where some round bales had this weed in there--multiple horses lethargic, febrile, stocked up and miserable for a couple of days.
                  Click here before you buy.

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                  • #10
                    Interesting point on the horse extinction point. Today's horses and those from 10,000 years ago before they died out in N. America are genetically identical. They could have interbred like our modern breeds. One could certainly argue that they were simply reintroduced by the Spanish and that they are a native breed to N. America.

                    I do know that horses will readily eat locoweed. It's a western plant mainly.

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                    • #11
                      Don't just whack down some wild cherry trees without checking with lumber cutters. Cherry wood from larger trees is quite desireable now, so maybe you could SELL the tree or trees instead of making fire wood.

                      My son is working at cutting lumber now, said his boss is ALWAYS excited to find larger cherry trees that need removal. He pays pretty well for them.

                      I do remember that TB abortion issue a few years back. I thought they decided the problem was heavy catapiller infestation eating the cherry leaves and pooping (frass) on the grass along fences. Horses grazing in fields, ingested the grass along with catapiller frass containing cyanide in it from the new cherry leaves, and then the problems got going.

                      Just a seasonal thing, with heavy catapiller infestation that year, but the TB farms do now remove cherry trees near horse pasturage.

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                      • #12
                        Tasting

                        I have heavy Hoary Alyssum in my pastures and I have seen them eat it after hard frost and when it is first emerging but not when it is tall and flowering. I have occasionally had my mare stock up for a day and I thing they had a weed of some kind...I have more than hoary alyssum and plenty of grass of all kinds as well. In general there is plenty to eat and they eat lots of different weeds...some they prefer to grass at times but also at different times of maturity for the weeds.

                        I think the problem with weeds comes when they do not have enough grass and hay and they are out scavaging but even then I have some neighbors who feed barely enough in dry lot and have weeds that the horses do not eat. The picture is different if the horse is trapped in a box stall and has hay with weeds. Then they have no other option. I get the wilies when I see some farmer baling a field of hoary alyssum and other weeds. I have also seen a friend who got home from a hay auction feeling smug because she just got some cheap hay...it was baled weeds...her dry lot horses would have to eat it.

                        What I am doing is mowing strips around the pastures with my belly mower as opposed to doing the whole field. I am gradually working my way to the middle. There is old cut pasture...there is fresh mowed pasture and there is uncut. I cut another loop every 3rd day. They will pick through some of the fresh cut...never touch the old cut...and usual dine in the uncut. Right now I have 10 acres for 2 horses and lots of perfect conditions to grow more grass. Last year was drought. PatO

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                        • #13
                          goodhors - http://www.ca.uky.edu/gluck/mrls/200...8ETCupdate.htm

                          I have to re-read it but I believe it is the actual caterpillar and not the frass. Darn near unbelievable, really.
                          Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                          Incredible Invisible

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                          • #14
                            In Ireland we have to be aware of ragwort. Does serious liver damage and you may not know the extent for a few years. I am constantly told they won't eat it, but still I PULL it out by the root. In it's growing state it has a nasty taste and horses do stay away from it, but when it dies it becomes palatable. So bushhogging them is not an option. Actually it is a law that you have to keep the ragwort from your property - noxious weed act or something. Pretty sure no one's gone to jail for it, but all the same, I like to keep it from my horses.

                            Also (and Thomas can correct me if I'm wrong) it's toxic to cattle as well and can do damage to humans if you're eating meat from cattle who eat the stuff. But most cattle people are much better about keeping their pastures than horse people so it really isn't a worry.

                            Terri
                            COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.

                            "I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ReSomething View Post
                              goodhors - http://www.ca.uky.edu/gluck/mrls/200...8ETCupdate.htm

                              I have to re-read it but I believe it is the actual caterpillar and not the frass. Darn near unbelievable, really.
                              Thank you for correcting me, I had not followed the research to the final findings.

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                              • #16
                                I have a TB who can delicately sort through everything in the pasture and only eat grass, and I have a Fjord who will vacumn up anything green that is in front of him. I have seen him go after things horses are not supposed to like or eat..... Perhaps centuries of selection in a harsh environment with limited grass dulls the tastebuds.....who knows, but I wouldn't be surprised about anything he ate...
                                Turn off the computer and go ride!

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