The lat­est from the horse world

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NATALIE MCGOLDRICK MRCVS owns South Coast Equine Vets and has a strong mes­sage for all own­ers. “Don’t as­sume your horse won’t eat the ragwort in his field. Use a spe­cial­ist fork to re­move all plants and their roots as soon as you spot any.” Natalie is con­cerned by how much of this poi­sonous weed she’s seen in pad­docks this sum­mer, and the seem­ingly un­con­cerned at­ti­tude of some of the horse own­ers she’s spo­ken to. “Ragwort’s nat­u­ral habi­tat is sand dunes, but it also thrives on over-grazed pas­tures,” she ex­plains. “The pro­longed drought this sum­mer has re­sulted in poor pas­ture­land and over-graz­ing, and ragwort is thriv­ing.” Ma­ture plants taste bit­ter and horses usu­ally avoid them, but they will eat them if they have to. “Horses will eat what­ever they can if they are hun­gry, in­clud­ing poi­sonous plants if there’s no al­ter­na­tive,” says Natalie. “With the fields be­ing so scorched, many are at this stage. Also, as it starts to die, ragwort loses its bit­ter taste and horses will then eat it read­ily. If it’s not re­moved be­fore this stage, horses are at high risk.” It’s not just ragwort in your pad­docks you need to worry about. “As I’ve been driv­ing around, I’ve no­ticed an in­crease of ragwort in fields be­ing cut for hay,” ex­plains Natalie. “This is ir­re­spon­si­ble on the farmer’s part — I’ve seen ponies with se­vere liver dam­age after con­sum­ing ragwort this way. Try to stick to a sup­plier you know takes care of his fields and, although ragwort can be tricky to spot in hay, be as vig­i­lant as you can.” The ef­fect of ragwort on the liver is cu­mu­la­tive, so your horse only needs to eat a lit­tle over an ex­tended pe­riod of time for the ef­fects to be dev­as­tat­ing. Symp­toms of ragwort poi­son­ing won’t show un­til it’s too late, so en­sure you clear the plant from all your graz­ing and nearby land. It’s toxic to hu­mans too, so wear gloves when han­dling it.

The dry sum­mer has seen poi­sonous ragwort flour­ish

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