Can Trees And Plants Be Dangerous For Horses?

When clearing ground for an equestrian facility site in a wooded area, or when horses are allowed to graze in a wooded area, care must be taken to eliminate poisonous plants that are harmful to the residing horses. While horses tend to avoid toxic plants because of their taste, they can still be affected by foraging, particularly if in sparse areas or in times of drought.

Cornell University lists the following species of plants that are of particular concern to horse owners:

Red Maple, Fiddleneck, Locoweed, Yellow Star Thistle, Crown Vetch, Jimsonweed, Horsetail, Buckwheat, St. John’s Wort, Mountain Laurel, Sensitive Fern, Black Cherry, Bitter Cherry, Choke Cherry, Pin Cherry, Bracken, Fern Oaks, Rhubarb, Rhododendron, Castor Bean, Black Locust, Grounsels, Common Nightshade, Black Nightshade, Horse Nettle, Buffalo Bur, Potato Sorghum or Milo, Sudan Grass, Johnson Grass, and Yew, as well as molds of various kinds in various feeds.

In the case of Yews and Hemlocks, whether the entire plant or just a few clippings, a small amount can kill a horse within hours as a result of heart failure. The list above is by no means all-inclusive and there are a number of other toxic plants that can be researched on the internet.

Equestrian landscape architecture and site planning must take this factor into account to assure that landscapers eliminate dangerous plants during installation. The Landscape Architect should walk the planned site together with the landscape installer and check for dangerous plants and mark them for elimination. In specifying proposed planting locations for the equestrian site, the landscape architect must assure that toxic plants are not placed in a position where horses can come into contact with them.

Landscape Architects are required to be licensed by the State in which they practice and are usually members of the American Society of Landscape Architects, ASLA.

Landscape architecture encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of the natural and built environments. The national professional association is the American Society of Landscape Architects, based in Washington. ASLA full members have graduated from an accredited landscape architecture program, have obtained 7 years of education and/or professional experience, and are state-licensed. In Michigan, as well as all other States, a three (3) day LARE examination administered by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards is required to be passed for state licensure.

Landscape designers do not have these professional credentials. Many state and local governments require designs to be stamped with a state registered Landscape Architect’s seal.

Enjoy your equestrian activities while assuring the protection of the health of your horses. One ounce of prevention is all it takes.

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