At Horse Listening, we are emphatic life-long learners of all things horsey. You will be reminded time and again about how there is so much to be learned from horses and other horse people, if only we listened.

This guest post is by Hayley and Rebecca from Anything Equine, an equestrian clothing store that provides helpful advice and tips to beginner riders. Their years of experience have helped them gain lots of knowledge about equestrian health conditions and pasture management.

Which Pasture Plants are Dangerous for Horses?

Good pasture management means staying on top of things so your animals stay healthy. Check for anything that might be hazardous to your animals: holes, stray bits of metal and broken fences. Rotate pasture land to keep areas from being over-grazed.

If possible use self-filling troughs to maintain a fresh water supply. Provide some form of shelter for your animals to get out of hot sun or foul weather. Alternating mineral lick placement and feed areas will lessen the risk of muddy areas.

There are as many as 120 plants that are poisonous to livestock and domestic animals. Some can cause liver or neurological damage and many are life threatening so be on the look-out for them. These plants need to be dug out of the ground, not cut or sprayed.

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* Click on images for a better view.

Autumn Crocus or Meadow Saffron 

Autumn Crocus

The leaves appear in spring and the flowers in late summer or early fall. The flower looks like its name, a crocus. Usually shades of purple or pink, it may be found in others colours. All of the plant is poisonous. Look for this plant in damp areas.



An invasive fern that grows on moorlands and all parts of the plant are toxic but the roots are many times more poisonous than the fronds.

Bittersweet Woody Nightshade

The purple flowers of this plant will give way to green berries that will turn red in early autumn. This plant has a woody stalk but may twine around other plants. Found in hedgerows and woodlands, the berries of this plant are toxic.

Black Bryony 

Black Bryony

Found in hedges and woodlands, this vine will twist itself around anything. Look for heart shaped leaves and red berries in autumn. The entire plant is toxic but the berries and roots contain the most poisons. Check any hedges for this plant.



This invasive flowering plant will bloom in spring and early summer and can thrive in dry conditions. The plant is an irritant and animals will generally stop eating it because of the irritation but check with your vet if you think livestock may have eaten it. Once the plant is dry it becomes harmless so it causes no problems if it’s in hay.

Cowbane or Water Hemlock 


You will find this plant thriving along stream-banks and other wet areas. It resembles the caraway plant but gives off a noxious odour and is highly toxic to all living things.



Animals rarely eat this plant unless it’s in contaminated hay or silage. This plant, found in fields and along roadsides resembles a horse's tail and is hard to kill because of its long taproot.



Five pink flowers with petals and fuzzy stems are identifying features of this plant. It will grow in dry conditions and in any soil. 


The daisy-like flowers make this plant easy to identify. There are four species of ragwort, all equally poisonous. All parts of the plant are toxic even when dried.

St Johns Wort

St Johns Wort 

Star shaped yellow flowers help to identify this plant that grows in open woods and grasslands. It loses some toxicity when dried but is still harmful so watch for it in hay.

Yew tree

All parts of the tree are poisonous and a mouthful can be fatal. Fence off any yew trees or cut them down.

Yew Tree

Poisonous plants can be assumed to be toxic to all animals and humans. Wear gloves when removing plants from fields and get the entire root. Dispose of the offending plant by burning or tying tightly in a plastic bag to prevent seeds from escaping. Well-meaning neighbors may throw clippings over the pasture fence so check these before your animals get to them.

This is only a small sampling of plants that are dangerous to animals. An illustrated guidebook will help to identify toxic plants in your pasture. 

*All images are from flikr, under a Creative Commons license.


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Check out our other guest bloggers: 

Ten Truths of Equestrianism – Reblog from @SnarkyRider, by Quill: Are you really fit for horse ownership?

Little Known Qualities of Great Farriers, by K. Arbuckle, professional farrier: The farrier, though required to scientifically balance and shoe a horse, is an artist working with a living canvas.

Scoring the Hunter Round, by L. Kelland-May, senior judge: Have you always wondered how the hunter class is judged? Read it here straight from the judge’s perspective!

Enjoys Being Brushed! by SnarkyRider: Read this hilarious take on a sales ad from craig’slist.

One Comment

  1. I live in the southern interior of BC, we have a real problem with Hoary Allysum. It’s worth looking up, get to know what it looks like and if it shows up on your property, start pulling asap!