Fall Leaves In Horse Pastures Can be Toxic

Disposing of fall leaves properly or composting them in an area outside of pastures is an important aspect to horse management.
Fall Leaves In Horse Pastures Can be Toxic - Articles

Updated: August 8, 2017

Fall Leaves In Horse Pastures Can be Toxic

Horses like the taste and smell of recently fallen leaves; however, the leaves are dense and can compact in the horse's digestive system, causing compaction colic.

  • The horse's GI tract is a delicate system; therefore, feeds should be selected not only for their ability to meet the animal's nutrient requirements, but also for compatibility with the horse's GI tract.
  • Feeding dense leaves and grass clipping can result in "choke." If feed becomes lodged in the esophagus, the end result is called "choke." Choke in the horse occurs in the esophagus and, although it is painful and uncomfortable to the horse, it is not life-threatening as in humans where the airways are cut off.
  • Feed in the esophagus can only move in one direction - toward the stomach. A choking horse often presents itself with its head hung low with saliva and masticated feed coming out of the horse's nostrils. Choking horse requires immediate veterinary attention and is usually treated with minimal complications.

Be Careful, Do Not Toss Yard Waste Over The Fence!

  • The weather is cooling down, and it is the time of year when people prefer yard work to house or barn work. Horse owners may not be aware that various yard waste "trimmings" can be toxic to horses and other livestock.
  • In urban areas, neighboring homeowners toss vegetative yard plants over the fence, not realizing these can be deadly when consumed by horses. It is always a good idea to establish a good acquaintance with your neighbors and educate them to the toxic affect yard waste may have on horses and other livestock.
  • During this time of year, the greatest risk can come from those who need a place to discard their yard waste. As little as ½ lb. of yew shrub trimmings can be fatal when consumed by a horse. Death can occur within 24 hours, though occasionally death may be precluded by respiratory difficulty, shaking, or muscle weakness. Unfortunately, there is no known antidote for yew poisoning.
  • Other ornamental plants common to our landscape are the Rhododendrons and Azaleas. All parts of these plants, but especially the foliage, contain poison, and only 2-3 leaves may produce a severe toxic reaction. Rhododendrons are more likely to retain green leaves year round than most other plants, and most toxicities occur in the early spring, when other green forage is unavailable.
  • Prevention is critical to assure that your horse stays healthy. As fall arrives and plants become over grown or get frosted out, these plants have the potential to harm horses and other livestock.

Authors

Implementing Conservation Practices Environmental Stewardship Equine Care and Management Equine Nutrition Equine Pasture and Manure Management Riding Area Surfaces

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