Ragwort is poisonous to horses  but it has a cumulative effect, in that eating small amounts over time will have the same effect as eating a large amount in one go. All parts of the plant are toxic even when dead (or dried in hay) and horses will not naturally avoid the plant in all cases. It is quite bitter and will be eaten if grazing is tight. It is also much less bitter when incorporated into hay or haylage. It is flowering now, a tall plant about 2-3 feet tall with large heads of yellow flowers, which produce many thousands of airborne seeds.

The plant has a two year cycle. In the first year it is a small floret, close to the ground and in the second year it flowers. It is more likely to be eaten with grass during its first year.The toxins within the plant cause liver damage, and ultimately liver failure which can lead to a wide range of symptoms, from weight loss, lethargy, photosensitisation, lack of appetite, impaired vision and neurological disorders. Theses are often seen in Winter, when the effects of eating ragwort during summer accumulate, to produce these irreversible symptoms. 

Both manual removal and chemical spraying can be very effective to remove ragwort and landowners have a responsibility to control Ragwort and its spread. (Few do!) 

If you are concerned about your horse then please do not hesitate to call us for more advice, 01382 811111.

For more details, and how to control the weed click on the links below!

http://www.bhs.org.uk/welfare-and-care/ragwort-toolkit-country-selection/toolkit-dealing-with-ragwort-scotland

http://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/ragwort?gclid=CKDo-oGHtM4CFWEz0wodpdUHqA