Common Plants That Are Toxic to Your Horse

Common Toxic PlantsHorses have to watch what they eat, not to maintain a slender figure, but because there are so many plants out there that are toxic to them.

When I started writing my toxic plants section it quickly became comical as I started recognizing (& photographing) the many plants I was writing about in my daily life. I chose the pics below mainly because they are so common.

Nobody’s Fool

Horses are smart and will generally avoid plants that are toxic to them, however they can become a problem during drought circumstances when natural forage is limited.

It should be noted that I’m not a vet, & this information is for educational purposes only. If you suspect your horse has eaten something toxic contact your vet right away.

The plants below are common in many areas and horse owners should be on the lookout for them at all times.

Alsike Clover

Alsike Clover
So common there is probably some growing in your backyard right now, every part of the alsike clover plant is toxic when the plant is dewy. It’s abundance and the high palatability of the greens and sweet flowers make it a concern for horse owners who graze their animals.

Although it rarely happens, poisoning can cause: sensitivity to sunlight, (especially in light-skinned horses), colic, jaundice, lack of coordination and gastrointestinal upset.

Azalea

Azalea
One of the prettier toxic plants, azaleas produce a variety of different showy and colorful flowers. The plant is unpalatable to grazers, and often found in gardens and ornamental planting.

Although these plants are usually out of reach, they are highly toxic to horses and worth a mention. Symptoms include: gastrointestinal upset, drooling, loss of appetite, colic, weakness, weak heart rate and can be fatal.

Chickweed

Chickweed
Another plant that you can probably find growing in your backyard or garden, every part of the chickweed plant is mildly toxic.

It takes large quantities to cause toxicity and symptoms are mild, however it’s lush green abundance means it can become part of a grazers feed frequently.

Elephant Ear

Elephant Ear

Image from Tony Rodd

Often used in ornamental plantings, this plant is easy to recognize with it’s huge, broad leaves.

Not readily accessible to most horses, the whole plant is toxic enough to be a threat. Symptoms include: Irritation of the mouth and throat, gastrointestinal upset, excitability and can be fatal.

Fiddleneck

Fiddleneck
The fiddleneck grows wild in many areas, they are highly invasive & are often found in great numbers. Their effects can be fatal.

Although they are unpalatable, they are highly toxic. Their symptoms can be severe and include: weight loss, constant licking, jaundice of mucous membranes and toxins can be passed along to fetus in pregnant mares.

Foxtail Awns

Foxtail Awns
More of a mechanical issue than a toxin, foxtail awns can create serious problems in horses and they are very common in many areas. The awns have small barbs, & rarely are they ingested by animals, however the barbs can latch themselves to your horses coat & hair and slowly become buried into the skin.

A danger because symptoms vary from animal to animal and by location of the awn. Believe it or not, these foxtails can travel from extremities into the bloodstream and lungs.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea
Another beautiful toxic plant, hydrangea blooms in showy bunches of vibrantly colored flowers.

These plants are usually tucked away from horses in gardens and front yards, however they contain a glycoside which can be fatal in high doses. Symptoms include: gastrointestinal upset and excessive sweating.

Jointed Charlock

Jointed Charlock
Also called Wild Radish, this plant is more of a weed, it’s a highly invasive species that grows abundantly in unmaintained areas. The toxic part is the seed which contains an irritant that can cause gastrointestinal upset and colic in horses.

Not highly toxic, but found frequently enough its toxicity should be noted.

Oleander

Oleander
Often used as an ornamental shrub, oleander isn’t just toxic to horses, it is highly toxic to all animals, people included.

Every part of the plant is poisonous and some of the symptoms in horses include: colic, profuse sweating, bloody stool, difficulty breathing, lack of coordination. Ingestion of this plant can be fatal due to heart failure.

Rubber Tree

Indian Rubber Plant
Not a fatal plant, but an irritant, the rubber plant is common to many areas in the world and the sap contains an unknown toxin that irritates the skin on contact.

The rubber tree doesn’t taste very good, so horses usually avoid it, however exposure to the sap will cause irritation to the skin. Should an animal ingest this plant symptoms include: irritation and swelling of the mouth and throat and gastrointestinal upset.

Toxic Plant Identifier

Loving an animal that eats from the earth makes it important to understand what is dangerous to them. There is a long list of plants that are toxic to horses, although that doesn’t help if you don’t know the name of the plant your horse just ate.

If you know what it looks like, try using a toxic plant identifier to find what it was by comparing what your horse ate to pictures of the plants themselves.

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