EQUUS - - Eq Tack & Gear -

Erad­i­cat­ing all red and sugar maple trees that grow in or around horse prop­er­ties is not prac­ti­cal or even ad­vis­able. But it is wise to con­sider the dan­ger when choos­ing new trees. “When se­lect­ing trees to plant in or around horse pas­tures,” says Knight, “choose such trees as ash, fir, birch, hick­ory,

hack­berry, mag­no­lia, etc. Avoid maples, oaks, box­elder, wal­nut and chin­aberry be­cause of their po­ten­tial tox­i­c­ity.”

If there are ex­ist­ing maple trees on the prop­erty, take steps to re­duce the risk for horses.

• Promptly re­move fallen branches and leaves from turnout ar­eas. Horses are most likely to en­counter wilted red maple af­ter a storm has dropped a tree branch or blown large num­bers of green leaves into a pas­ture. Make it a habit to in­spect turnout ar­eas af­ter any storms, es­pe­cially one that brought high winds, and do not re­turn horses to the area un­til any fallen leaves and branches have been cleared.

If you have many ma­ture trees, con­sider hav­ing an ar­borist in­spect them. He may be able to iden­tify weaker branches, which can be pruned out safely be­fore they fall. An ar­borist may also iden­tify un­healthy trees, which can be ei­ther treated or re­moved be­fore they de­velop sig­nif­i­cant dam­age.

• Rake and re­move au­tumn leaves from pas­tures. As maple leaves change color and dry out each fall, their tox­i­c­ity lev­els be­come high. If red or other dan­ger­ous maples are po­si­tioned where they con­sis­tently shed their leaves into turnout ar­eas, rake and re­move the leaves to keep them away from graz­ing horses. If maple leaf fall is es­pe­cially heavy in some pas­tures, it may be

wis­est to turn horses out in dif­fer­ent ar­eas for the sea­son.

• Fence off large maple trees in pas­tures. Gal­lic acid is present in bark and branches as well as the leaves, but few horses are likely to eat enough woody ma­te­rial to be af­fected. How­ever, if the horse is a crib­ber or ha­bit­u­ally chews on trees, it is a good idea to fence off the maples. The lower branches of maple trees should be regularly pruned to keep them out of reach of horses.

• Mon­i­tor horses in dry lots. Horses who are on good pas­ture or have free­choice ac­cess to hay are less likely to eat enough maple leaves to do them harm. Those re­stricted to dry lots with lim­ited for­age may be more in­clined to reach over the fence for nearby branches or eat what falls into their area. A hun­gry horse is more likely to eat dried maple leaves.

• In­spect hay. If your hay is grown in an area where maple trees are com­mon, you may oc­ca­sion­ally find fallen leaves in­cor­po­rated in the bales. (This may be more likely to hap­pen in fall cut­tings.) Re­move the leaves be­fore of­fer­ing the hay to horses.

• Re­move maple trees when nec­es­sary. If there are a com­bi­na­tion of cir­cum­stances that could place horses at risk, such as a horse who cribs liv­ing in a pas­ture with old red maple trees, it might be best to re­move the trees. Dou­ble-check the iden­tity of the trees be­fore re­mov­ing them by show­ing the leaves to an ex­ten­sion agent or horticultu­ralist at a lo­cal nurs­ery. Make sure all de­bris, in­clud­ing stray twigs and leaves, are re­moved from the field be­fore re­turn­ing horses to the area. Bet­ter yet, have the trees cut while they are leaf­less, to sim­plify cleanup and re­duce the risk of leaves be­ing left in the field.

With these sim­ple pre­cau­tions, the chances of red maple poi­son­ing can be greatly re­duced or elim­i­nated.

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