It is vitally important to know what is lying around your horse’s field. Although horses are not stupid and, in general, they don’t eat things they are not supposed to eat (at least, not when they are grazing) there are moments when this can break down.
There is a lot of worry among horse owners about various poisonous plants found around the meadow at different times of the year: certain varieties of nightshade – of which there are more than 2300 species, among which the tomato, potato, aubergine and pepper – are known to be poisonous for horses, as is the ragwort (otherwise amusingly know as mare’s fart!).
Happily for us, our horses will tend to avoid these plants even when they are spread throughout the meadow – although it is not unknown that horses will eat ragwort and other poisonous plants in small amounts as a form of auto therapy. The real problem comes in the winter when the edible plants have all been eaten and all that is left are the poisonous ones.
Then the horses have little choice unless fed plentiful amounts of hay. And here again, one has to be careful that the hay has not been made from grassland with a high density of poisonous plants – when they dry out, horses have more difficulty in identifying them and will eat them up without hesitation.
But an even greater threat is possibly the rubbish that we wrap our haylage and silage in. These photos show faecal matter that is compacted with a piece of plastic sheet used for wrapping hay.
The mass is sitting on a sheet of standard kitchen roll, to give an idea of scale – but the last photo shows the unravelled plastic with a fountain pen next to it.
This plastic is thus big enough to very effectively cause a blockage in the intestinal tract of our horse.