A List of Human Foods & Plants That Are Harmful or Poisonous to Horses If your horse consumes any of these three things in excess, then it can lead to very bad gas and colic problems that could hurt them.
Feeding your horse bran can possible cause some digestive problems and diarrhea. Rhubarb is known to make horses very sick, and cause injuries to their urinary tract and digestive systems.
Yes, we have seen some horses take a bit of a cheeseburger, hot dog or chicken nugget and be just fine. And on farms, horses can sometimes be seen bending down and eating a baby chick (gross and sad, yes, but a reality nonetheless).
Still, meat products should not be offered to horse, who are naturally herbivores and not carnivores. The digestive system of a horse is simply not evolved to have any kind of meat processed through it.
While bread products are not poisonous to horses, they can get stuck in their throats and possible cause them to choke and die, which is a hazard. Milk isn’t outright “poisonous” to horses, but there’s always the possibility that it could cause digestion issues.
Not only does chocolate have caffeine in it (see above), it also contains something called theobromine, which is poisonous to horses in large amounts. It can cause internal bleeding, metabolic derangement, seizures and colic (yeah, every one of those things are situations that you definitely want to avoid).
These plants should generally be avoided by horses because they can damage red blood cells and lead to sickness. If a horse eats tomatoes, it can cause an increased heart rate, constipation and other dangers.
During her second journey through “America’s Outback,” the experienced Long Rider made a discovery regarding equine behavior. Her eyewitness experiences resulted in the creation of a simple, effective and inexpensive device that could save human lives.
While those who inhabit an urbanized world may be unaware of it, horses have long presented a potentially lethal threat to humans and other animals. The image (above) shows a mustang stallion in Wyoming’s Red Desert trying to kill a dog owned by photographer Rob Palmer.
The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration explains that for the first time in history large numbers of humanity have no meaningful daily experience with the animal world. Professor Richard Bullet has warned there is a danger connected to not understanding animals accurately.
Bullet is a professor of history at Columbia University, one of whose specialities am the influence of animals in the development of human society. Bullet contends that in our current era civilized man has undergone a sea-change in terms of his relationship with animals.
The result, Bullet cautions is, “a pronounced humanization of companion animals that shows up particularly in their becoming characters in novels, movies, and cartoons.” Thus, the average human being’s daily knowledge of animal nature has diminished to an alarming extent.
In the movie, The Lion King, for example, prey animals, such as a Meerut and warthog, are depicted as wise teachers who counsel the predator. Yet thanks to a variety of recent cultural misconceptions, horses are now commonly depicted as being peaceful herbivores that lack any defense except flight.
Advocates of his theory have forgotten about the “Sultan Stallions” who were observed utterly destroying wolves on the Central Asian steppes. Nor was this equine aggression restricted to one sex, as was proved by Rosette the French army mare who gleefully disemboweled enemy soldiers during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
For example, because of Josef Stalin’s ruthless agricultural policies, 47 % of all Russian horses, fifteen million animals, were lost in the two-year period of 1928 to 1930. As a result of the overall demise of horses in farming, military and travel in the last century, the groundwork was laid for the unforeseen formation of an intellectual equestrian vacuum.
Adding to this collective human amnesia is the contributing fact that the vast majority of people who are still involved with horses primarily limit their dealings to mares and geldings. Thus, despite thousands of years of evidence indicating how dangerous equines can be, millions of people have become largely out of touch with the natural world of horses.
The horse is an agile athlete who can run, jump, rear and turn round in less than the length of his body. His supple neck sways like a rearing cobra, ready to strike with a mouthful of dangerous teeth.
Scientists have established that receiving a horse kick is similar to being struck by a bowling ball travelling at 80 mph. When horses use their front hooves aggressively, a blow is struck by the sharp edge of the hoof which smashes their enemy into jelly.
This used to be such a common occurrence that Charles Dickens’s killed off a prominent character in Great Expectations by having the man die in this manner. By matching their agility to their ability to deliver crippling blows, horses can strike left, right and backwards with incredible precision.
According to nineteenth-century English authors, Great Britain’s King George IV presented a beautiful bay thoroughbred to his fellow monarch, the Maharajah of Rude. For reasons not yet determined, after the horse arrived in India he became a repeated killer and thus earned his blood-soaked name.
This occurred when Knight on chanced upon a trampled bloody mass which bore a faint resemblance to a human figure. When he stopped the buggy to satisfy his curiosity, the journalist discovered it was the corpse of a native woman who had been terribly disfigured by the horse which was terrorizing the city of Lucknow.
“The body was bruised and lacerated in all directions, the scanty drapery torn from the form; the face had been crushed by teeth into a shapeless mass; the long matted hair, which fell in bundles over the road, was all clotted with blood. The attack, which occurred in Sunderland, England in 2012, left Steven with bite marks, bruising and swelling on his chest.
The combination of agility, strength, speed, deadly kicks and meat-ripping teeth allows a horse to inflict terrible wounds or kill his opponent with relative ease should he feel the need to defend himself. Many people lump horses in with cows; believing them to be non-violent herbivores who use their teeth to nibble succulent greenery.
Though he is well known today for having created Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a devoted student of history and a keen observer of deadly horses. In his book, Sir Nigel, Conan Doyle not only provided a lengthy account of the Hundred Years War, he described the actions of a stallion who had slain many men.
The infuriated horse catches the victim in his teeth, shakes him viciously, throws him into the air and then stomps him to death. The combination of agility, strength, speed, deadly kicks and meat-ripping teeth allows a horse to inflict terrible wounds or kill his opponent with relative ease should he feel threatened or the need to defend himself.
For example, English Long Rider James Wentworth Day wrote, “Anyone who has been chased by a stallion, as I once was, will not forget the nightmare of those bared teeth, flashing eyes and blood-curdling screams. This seldom understood part of the horse’s nature hasn’t disappeared and Long Riders have encountered aggressive equines in a variety of countries.
Bill Holt in France, Jane Dot chin in England, Temple Abernathy in America, Memo Phillips in Spain, Henry Savage Lander in Tibet and Bonnie Folk ins in Mongolia, all endured aggressive attacks by equines. Nor are many miles any guarantee of success, as one of the world’s most well-travelled Long Riders was nearly killed by a horse.
American Long Rider Bernice End has ridden more than 25,000 miles during the eight journeys she has made in the United States and Canada. Beginning in 2005, the veteran equestrian explorer has survived a host of predictable problems such as bad weather and aggressive drivers.
In an interview granted to reporter Pat Wolfe in 2015, the veteran Long Rider recalled how she “came as close as possible to being killed.” With several thousand miles under her saddle, the experienced traveler left the paved road, opened a gate, entered a large fenced area, rode a quarter of a mile into the open countryside and made camp as the sun set.
She had no tent, so after placing her mare, Honor, on a 25-foot picket line, the weary Long Rider got into her sleeping bag. In addition to camping close to a water hole, unbeknownst to Bernice, a large drum of shelled corn had been put out as bait for wild pigs.
Even though many years had passed, describing the event to the reporter caused Bernice distress. To protect herself and Honor, Bernice tried to drive the stallion off by swinging and hitting the aggressive animal with a rope.
When the stallion retreated, Bernice rushed to pack her possessions and saddle her horse in the dark. In keeping with the tradition of an attacking equine, he came at Bernice with a lowered head and with his ears laid back.
After she managed to saddle Honor, Bernice tried to escape but became lost in the dark and couldn’t find her way back to the gate. Having been overcome with fear, the seasoned traveler sat on the frost covered ground and wept with relief.
She has had other close calls, Bernice told the reporter, including encounters with grizzly bears, but that nighttime attack was the worst experience she has ever endured. Though he is more often remembered as the “father of evolution,” English Long Rider Charles Darwin was an avid equestrian traveler who rode in South America, Africa and Australia.
“ Horses when savage,” Darwin wrote, “draw their ears closely back, protrude their heads, and partially uncover their incisor teeth, ready for biting…. Every one recognizes the vicious appearance which the drawing back of the ears gives to a horse. And luckily Samantha Szesciorka realized that a common household item could be turned into a potent weapon for self-defense.
In the summer of 2016, Samantha completed her second extensive journey through the wild horse country of northern Nevada. Samantha Szesciorka (right) has explored the deserts and mountains extensively on her BLM mustang, Sage.
In stark contrast, Samantha and Sage found themselves either being inspected by curious mustangs or fending off attacks by aggressive wild stallions. But one notable exception occurred when a herd of fifty wild horses boldly galloped up and entered the Long Rider’s camp.
Having endured multiple encounters with wild horses, Samantha gave serious thought to how she might protect herself and Sage from curious or aggressive equines. The Long Rider’s ingenious solution, which I have taken the liberty of describing as a “wild horse protection stick,” could be a lifesaver.
“My 100% effective method to scare off wild horse attacks (no matter the size of the herd) is... a plastic bag! I tied an ordinary plastic bag (like you get in a grocery store) to the end of a short English riding crop.
Multiple tests, done in the field, with varying numbers of wild horses, proved the effectiveness of Samantha’s device. So when they charged, I simply pulled out the crop and gave it a few shakes (this inflates the bag and makes that distinctive crinkly sound).
And in recalling how Bernice End endured a nighttime attack, Samantha learned that the device works equally well in the dark. “Unfortunately, the attacks often came in the middle of the night when I was fast asleep, so I took to keeping the crop/plastic bag contraption in my tent with me, so I could rush out to defend Sage.
Given the aggressive behavior demonstrated by some Nevada mustangs, a person might be forgiven for thinking that all wild horses are potentially dangerous. In fact another Long Rider, making a journey at the exact same time, on a different continent, proves otherwise.
Kimberley Delivered is a young Long Rider who is making a 3,500-mile solo ride along Australia's tough Bicentennial National Trail. It is home to about 2,400 wild horses, and at the moment there's a lot of discussion in the news about culling and preservation of the Rubies.
If Australia's Rubies are not as aggressive, could it be connected to the horses having been culled, which has left a strong residual association between humans and danger? Having studied wild horses for several years, Samantha has had time to digest her experiences, reflect on them, and develop perspective.
Yet Samantha’s journeys into the sparsely populated and remote regions of Nevada confirm that horses which have little or no interaction with humans can present a potential threat. The well-known Australian explorer, Mr. Stuart, recorded a striking account of stupefied amazement together with terror which resulted when an Aborigine native witnessed a mounted man for the first time.
He stood incapable of moving a limb, riveted to the spot, mouth open and eyes staring. That might seem to be a quaint episode from the colonial past, except for the fact that as fewer people journey on horseback the sense of amazement has returned when pedestrians witness the unexpected arrival of a Long Rider.
Case in point happened in 2011 when Long Riders Billy Benchley and Christine Hence arrived in Uganda. As Kimberley in Australia demonstrates, the possibility of encountering wild horses is not restricted to Nevada.
Regardless of whether the horses encountered are wild or domestic, a Long Rider would be wise to remember the hard lessons of the past. Horses killed more people in Australia in recent years than all venomous animals combined, research has shown.
The University of Melbourne's Dr Rozelle Elton examined hospital admissions data and colonial records. Bees and other stinging insects were the next most dangerous, causing 27 deaths, followed by snakes, which also claimed 27 lives but landed fewer people in hospital.
Dr Elton said the study, published in Internal Medicine Journal, challenged stereotypes around Australia's venomous animals. Sue McIntosh thought her horse, Finnegan, looked a bit off, so she rushed him to a veterinary clinic a couple of weeks ago.
Finnegan recovered and was sent home, where he nuzzled with McIntosh during a recent interview. The Moore Equine Veterinary Center, just north of Calgary, treated Finnegan and several other horses with the illness.
“The ones that we see are typically the very sick horses,” Dr. Gillian Happen said while checking on a patient. Fluid dripped into the horse from two large clear bags connected to the ceiling of a stall.
“Treatment is trying to kill the bacteria with an antibiotic, lots of fluids,” Happen said, adding boots filled with ice are also put on the horse's hooves to help with inflammation. Dr. Gillian Happen, of the Moore Equine Veterinary Center, examines a horse in isolation at the facility in Calgary.
The bacteria live inside snails, slugs and aquatic insects, such as mayflies and caddises. Infected animals can lose up to 100 liters of fluid per day.
“You might have clusters of cases and that's what we're really seeing in Alberta this year,” said Dr. Ashley Whitehead, a senior equine specialist at the University of Calgary. “Anything that changes that harmony ends up causing the potential for something else to get in and overtake it,” said Whitehead.
Dr. Ashley Whitehead, a senior instructor at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, speaks about Potomac horse fever. He went from the diarrhea, depressed, not wanting to eat and all of that,” she said from her home east of Edmonton.
There’s nothing like having some nice shade trees around your pasture to protect your horses from the hot afternoon sun. Photo by InspiringMoments/ShutterstockThere are a lot of reasons to love oak trees: they’re tall, majestic, and they possess large leaves that offer perfect shade for any lawn or park.
Oaks leaves contain tannin acid, which can cause colic and other digestive problems in horses. It’s not known what the toxin is exactly, but wilted red maple leaves can be fatal to horses who consume them.
Photo by Peng Tali/ShutterstockWalnut trees are an oddity in that they affect horses in ways you wouldn’t suspect. Always check with your shavings supplier to make sure that it doesn’t have black walnut in the product because horse bedding contaminated with it can cause laminates.
The branches, leaves, pollen, and nut hulls of the various walnut trees can also poisonous and can cause respiratory problems or even liver cancer in horses. The problem is thought to be a chemical produced by the walnut tree called jug lone, which can also affect other plants growing in its vicinity.
Photo by PixabayIt’s true that yew is an attractive evergreen shrub/tree, and for this reason, it’s planted for decorative purposes in landscapes around buildings. At the same time, it’s also true that yew is very poisonous and very dangerous to horses (as well as people and other types of livestock).
This group includes familiar fruit trees like cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, and others. Horses that ingest these parts of the tree will no longer be able to extract oxygen from their blood, leading to increased respiration and bright mucus membranes.
You may also find undomesticated cherry and plum trees growing wild along the edges of your pastures, particularly in the eastern half of the U.S. The problem here is that the leaves may blow into the pastures and into the reach of your horses, or summer storms might break branches off, and they land inside the fence.
You’ll find horse chestnuts growing throughout most of the U.S., except for the far southern and far northern regions. Daniel Johnson is a freelance writer and professional photographer, and watcher of horse movies.
He’s the author of several books, including How to Raise Horses : Everything You Need to Know, (Voyageur Press, 2014). These common weeds, trees, plants, and shrubs, shown below, are toxic to horses and ponies.
Learn to identify these plants in your pastures and yards and be sure to remove them as soon as possible to keep your horses safe. Merma1d / Getty Images Deadly nightshade likes sandy soil and thrives even in dry conditions.
It has a bell-shaped purple flower and the small, round fruit looks like a large black currant: a deep and shiny black/purple. Typically, horses accidentally ingest a toxic plant because it has been baled into the hay and eaten unknowingly.
Colic-like symptoms loss of muscle control, unable to rise disorientation, stumbling or other neurological signs dilated pupils death Paul Mansfield Photography / Getty Images The flowers are yellow and cup-shaped with sharply lobed leaves off of a thin stem.
Cedar ZAREBSKI Photography / Getty Images Bracken fern is very common, growing along roadsides, in fields, in light bush areas, and even gardens. If a horse eats a large quantity of this fern the toxins can cause a vitamin B1 deficiency.
Weakness especially in the hind legs' depression apparent blindness due to damage to the central nervous system liver disease death A horse would have to eat many lamb's quarters for the toxin to take effect.
If a horse consumes many lamb's quarters symptoms may include: This common garden plant is toxic to humans and pets, including horses.
Lily of the Valley is unlikely to be growing in a pasture as it is typically planted in house gardens because of its attractive flowers and pretty red berries. It could be accidentally ingested if someone were to throw garden clippings close to a fence line where curious horses might be able to reach.
The pods develop to about 3" and in fall split open to release brown seeds that float through the air on downy white fluffy fibers. Living and dried plants (accidentally baled into hay) are toxic.
Xia Yuan / Getty Images The bark of red maples is smooth and grayish. Three pounds of ingested red maple leaves are considered lethal.
John Lawson / Getty Images Various varieties of oaks live throughout North America. If you crush the flowers between your fingers, it will leave a rusty reddish stain.
Animals will have blistering skin and white areas of the coat will easily sunburn. But the gravest dangers arise with the few tree species that are toxic enough to sicken or kill horses.
Of the non-ornamental native trees, the most deserving of the skull-and-crossbones warning are those that produce cyanide in their wilted leaves. Cyanide suffocates animals by blocking oxygen transport via the red blood cells.
“There are other trees that shed red leaves in the fall, but the red maple has some distinctive features,” says Anthony Knight, BSC, MR CVS, who specializes in toxic trees and plants at Colorado State University. Signs of poisoning, including lethargy, discolored urine and darkened gums, may not appear for four days.
These leaves also produce cyanide when wilted, affecting horses within a few hours of ingestion. To be safe, remove these deadly trees or relocate horses away from pastures or paddocks bordered by or containing them.
However, when curiosity or boredom spurs exploratory bites, the horse may ingest enough of the deadlier species to do harm. The following trees have no place in housekeeping areas because of their toxicity or potential for causing digestive distress.
Red Maple (Acer rub rum) Cherry trees and relatives (prunes SP.) “I defy anyone to tell me they have a pasture with zero poisonous plants,” says Jeffery Hall, DVD, PhD, a toxicologist at Utah State University.
For one thing, most of them are unpalatable, and horses who are filling up on quality forage aren't likely to spend a lot of time grazing on the few bitter leaves populating their pasture. However, some plants are cause for concern either because even a curious nibble can spell doom or because repeated browsing over weeks or months can lead to serious illness and death.
However, bracken fern is unique among the toxic plants in that some horses seem to develop a taste for it and will seek it out even when other forages are available. What to do: Large doses of thiamine over the course of a week or two can aid in the recovery of horses whose bracken consumption is discovered before the neurological signs are severe.
Range: Grows wild along roadsides and other open uncultivated areas throughout North America. The danger: Hemlock leaves, stems and seeds contain several potent neurotoxin that affect both the central and peripheral nervous systems.
Also known as: Tansy ragwort, grounds ID: A multistemmed weed with alternating leaves that produces clusters of small daisy like yellow flowers. The danger: Levels of toxicity vary among different members of the species, but all are thought to contain at least some concentration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which inhibit cell division, especially in the liver.
Damage to the liver is cumulative and irreversible, and most horses succumb to chronic exposure over time, after consuming between 50 and 150 pounds, in total. Range: Johnson grass is a wild grass native to the southern climates, where it grows along roadways and other uncultivated open areas.
A close relative, Sudan grass, and its hybrids are cultivated throughout the United States as a forage crop. The danger: The leaves and stems of johnsongrass and Sudan grass contain a cyanide compound, which when metabolized inhibits the body's ability to absorb oxygen, in effect suffocating the animal; young shoots of johnsongrass contain the highest concentration of the toxin.
Cyanide concentration drops to safe levels when the grasses are cured for hay, but nitrates, if present, do not. The first indication is rapid breathing, which progresses to tremors, frequent urination and defecation, gasping and convulsions.
The danger: All toxic species of locoweed contain swainsonine, an alkaloid that inhibits the production of the enzyme necessary for saccharine metabolism, and the resulting sugar buildup disrupts the function of brain cells. Signs: Strange behavior is usually the first evidence noticed; horses may bob their heads, adopt exaggerated, high-stepping gaits or stagger and fall.
Also known as: Rose laurel, Adela, rosenlorbeer ID: An evergreen shrub that can reach the size of a small tree, oleander has elongated, thick leathery leaves that can grow to three to 10 inches long. The flowers, which grow in large clusters at the end of branches, are one to three inches in diameter and can be white, pink or red.
Range: Hardy only in hot climates, oleander is used extensively in landscaping across the southern United States, from California to Florida. Signs include colic, difficulty breathing, tremors, incumbency and an irregular heart rate.
What to do: Horses can survive if treated early with supportive care, such as the administration of activated charcoal to inhibit further toxin absorption and the use of anti-arrhythmic drugs to stabilize the heart. Signs include lethargy; refusal to eat; dark red-brown or black urine; pale yellowish gums and mucous membranes at first, advancing to dark muddy brown; increased respiratory rate; rapid heart rate; dehydration.
Also known as: Spotted water hemlock ID: A perennial weed with erect hairless stems that can grow to six feet from clusters of fleshy roots. Leaves are elongated and toothed, and the small white flowers form flat, umbrella-shaped clusters at the ends of branches.
Range: Water hemlock grows throughout the contiguous United States and is most likely to be found in marshy areas of meadows and along streams and irrigation ditches. All parts of the plant contain a cicutoxin alkaloid that affects the central nervous system, but the toxin is most concentrated in the root.
Because cattle are more likely to pull up and consume the root, that species is considered most at risk of poisoning, but horses have also been known to browse the plant; less than a pound of the leaves and stems can be fatal. Signs: The toxins affect neurons primarily within the brain, causing various signs, including excessive salivation, dilated pupils and nervousness, progressing rapidly to difficult breathing, degeneration of the heart and skeletal muscles, seizures and convulsions; death usually results from respiratory paralysis.
What to do: Supportive care initiated before the convulsions begin can offset the worst effects of the seizures, but horses who survive are likely to have experienced permanent damage to the heart and skeletal muscles. Also known as: Barnaby's thistle ID: Yellow star thistle is an annual weed that branches out from a single base stem to form a spherical plant up to three feet tall; its round yellow flowers are surrounded by stiff spines 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch long.
Russian snapped spreads via a creeping root system; its erect, stiff stems grow two to three feet high and are covered with gray hairs, and its thistle like flowers range from purple to white; Russian snapped has no spines or prickles. Range: Both plants appear throughout the Western United States, approximately from Missouri to California, and from Mexico northward, almost to Canada.
The danger: Both plants contain a toxic agent that has a neurological effect on the brain that inhibits the nerves and control chewing. The poisoning is chronic in nature; to receive a toxic dose, horses must consume 50 to 200 percent of their body weight over 30 to 90 days.
Signs: Affected horses may appear to have tense or clenched facial muscles, and they are unable to bite or chew their food effectively. ID: A woody evergreen shrub with closely spaced, flat, needle like leaves a half-inch to one inch long.
Berries are bright red or yellow, soft and juicy with a hole in the end, where the dark seed is visible. The danger: All parts of the yew plant, except for the fleshy portion of the berries, contain taxing, an alkaloid that causes respiratory and cardiac collapse.
Animals found alive may be trembling and colicky, with difficulty breathing and a slowed heart rate. EQUUS thanks Anthony Knight, BSC, MR CVS, and Jill Richardson, DVD, for their assistance in the preparation of this article.
With the free weekly EQUUS newsletter, you'll get the latest horse health information delivered right to your in basket! If there is plenty of other food, such as grass or hay available, your horse probably won’t touch any of the trees within its reach.
But, if it gets bored or hungry, to satisfy its need to graze, your horse might try chewing on tree bark, branches or leaves. Generally, horse owners don’t plant trees in pastures for this reason.
Saplings have a good chance of being aggressively pruned by horses --to the point where you’ll be left with nothing but a ragged stick. If you do plant trees, you’ll need to find a way to safely protect them, until they are large enough that they are no longer a tender snack.
Chances are if your horse snatches a mouthful of red maple or oak leaves while trail riding, it won’t be harmed. But if your horse gets hungry or greedy, a stomach full of leaves or tender bark could spell trouble, however.
But, during drought, when pasture grass is sparse, your horse might snack on the trees despite the taste. In the springtime, emerging leaves may taste fresher to your horse than a dry hay bale.
Instead, be vigilant for opportunities or situations that might lead to your horse ingesting any part of a toxic tree. Even though these trees are safe, a horse can still overeat bark, twigs or leaves, which can lead to colic.
Are you in search of a bedding product, but are worried about toxic shavings for horses ? Certain types of wood can be poisonous for horses and can often be the cause of a host of different health problems.
Horses can have sensitivity or allergic reactions to particular types of wood, that’s why it’s so important to know exactly what’s in your shavings. Below is a detailed list of the best and worst types of wood to make shavings with.
Softwood Commonly Pine, Fir, and other woods are used to make animal bedding. Typically, softwood shavings are the cheapest, and they’re often sufficiently fragrant to mask any unwanted odors.
However, in some cases, if Pine is too green, some sap may remain which can irritate the horses skin. Dust should be kept to a minimum as it presents a health risk to both horses and humans alike.
Cedar Bedding should never be used for smaller pets such as guinea pigs, rabbits or hamsters, this is because the oil content is way too much for their small lungs.