Yellow Peril – The Plant that Poses a Deadly Threat to Horses

No caring horse owner would want their animal to stop eating, suffer stomach pains, struggle to breathe, go blind or even die. Yet this is what can happen to horses if owners fail to do one very important job as part of their care.

Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary wants to educate horse owners on these effects of a horse that has eaten Ragwort – a weed that grows prolifically in fields throughout the UK. It is vital that horse owners learn how to recognise the yellow-flowered plant, and eradicate it from fields where their horses graze.

Where is Ragwort found?

Ragwort is found in fields across the country and the seedlings appear in the autumn, the rosettes in spring and the mature plants from May to October. They can be up to 2m tall. It may also find its way into hay, so owners also need to be vigilant when feeding their animals.

Why is it harmful to animals?

Ragwort is poisonous and damages the liver. The effects can build up over a length of time, so even if a horse only eats small amounts this can build up, having disastrous effects. Obviously they can also become extremely ill from eating large quantities.

The mature plants tend to be bitter, so horses will possibly avoid them, but young plants and dead plants lose their bitter taste so are especially dangerous.

How can people deal with it?

All plants must be removed. Remember that it can be harmful to humans too, so cover arms and legs and use gloves when pulling it up out of the field, and avoid inhaling the pollen too. The most effective way to remove Ragwort is to pull the plant up from the roots – special tools are available to help to remove roots. It is also possible to spray the area – agricultural merchants will be able to advise on suitable products. But be aware that the paddocks will need to be rested before the horses can go back on them – and all dead plants must be removed.

The Ragwort plants need to be carefully disposed of – burning is most effective – but it is best to speak to DEFRA for advice.

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