5 Dangerous Hazards In Your Horse's Summer Paddocks - header image

5 Dangerous Hazards In Your Horse’s Summer Paddocks

With summer comes drier weather, with the majority of horse owners looking forward to increasing their horse’s field time. Ensure your field remains a haven for your horse by checking for these five poisonous plants, which can cause dangerous hazards in your horse’s summer paddocks. Avoid these 5 dangerous hazards in your horse’s Summer paddocks:


Ragwort is one of the 5 dangerous hazards in your horse's Summer paddocks

Probably the most well-known poisonous plant to horse owners, Ragwort is recognised by its frilly leaves and starburst bright yellow flowers and spreads like wildfire. Ragwort matures to flower from May to October and can reach over 2ft in height. One plant can produce thousands of seeds, so removing it as soon as you spot it in the early stages is essential. Ragwort damages the liver when eaten; sadly, the toxic effect builds up over time, thus causing irreparable damage. 

Ragwort needs to be disposed of carefully. One of the most efficient ways to get rid of the weed is to burn it, taking all relevant precautions. You can find some helpful advice and other methods of ragwort disposal at Defra – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Because the seeds can remain hidden in the ground for many years before they germinate, it isn’t easy to completely irradicate and will require attention year after year. 

The symptoms of ragwort poisoning depend on how long the horse has been exposed to the plant and its toxins. They include lethargy, weight loss, diarrhoea, colic, depression, skin lesions from photosensitisation, odd behaviour with head pressing, aimless walking, circling, and seizures.

Deadly Nightshade

Deadly Nightshade is one of the 5 dangerous hazards in your horse's Summer paddocks

The deadly nightshade is mainly found in chalky soils, particularly on recently disturbed ground and is more common in the south of the UK. This bushy perennial has purple-brown bell-shaped flowers that appear before the shiny black berries and grows from June to August. 

While ingestion of deadly nightshade is not normally fatal and is naturally unpalatable to horses, it is recommended you remove it from paddocks as it can make your horse very sick, leading to dilated pupils, muscle tremors, convulsions or seizures.


Ivy is a very common leafy plant that grows up through trees, walls, and fence lines. The vine plant features deep green, triangle-shaped leaves and spreads quickly and aggressively if not managed. This poisonous plant to horses contains toxins that can cause reactions such as diarrhoea and colic. It can also irritate the skin around the mouth, causing blisters, a loss of appetite, and dehydration. Ivy grows all year round.


Hemlock is one of the 5 dangerous hazards in your horse's Summer paddocks

Even in small quantities, hemlock consumption in horses can be fatal, causing paralysis and then death. Not to be confused with cow parsley, which flowers earlier, Hemlock grows in late April/early May and dies off around July, spreading its seeds after flowering. It is similar in appearance to carrot plants and produces umbels (umbrella-like clusters) of white flowers in June and July but can be identified by the hairless stems and their distinctive purple-reddish blotches which can be seen on their stems.

Hemlock is bitter-tasting to horses, so they will generally not consume it if ample forage is available. However, if spotted in the paddock, it should be uprooted and removed. 

Oak Trees (Acorns)

Acorns is one of the 5 dangerous hazards in your horse's Summer paddocks

While oak trees are a traditional beauty in our UK fields and offer wonderful shelter from the elements for livestock, their acorns are extremely toxic to horses. Alongside Sycamore and Yew trees, Oak trees are equally as problematic. Acorn shedding happens according to the individual tree’s own cycle, but generally, acorns mature in late summer and start falling from the trees around September or October. 

Acorns and some other parts of the oak tree contain tannins, which are naturally occurring chemical compounds. These are highly toxic to horses in large amounts. These tannins can cause damage to the kidneys and also the delicate gastrointestinal tract. To prevent your horse from developing a taste for acorns, fence off a vast area with electric fencing surrounding your oak trees to avoid them eating acorns.

Use a leaf vacuum to pick up acorns on the ground and help prevent germination.

Symptoms of acorn toxicity include depression and loss of appetite followed by digestive tract issues, such as colic episodes, gastric disturbance and diarrhoea (which may appear bloody).

Disposing Of Equine Poisonous Plants 

Remember to use protective gloves when handling and removing poisonous plants from your horse’s pasture and dispose of them responsibly and safely.

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Enjoyed 5 Dangerous Hazards In Your Horse’s Summer Paddocks? Read Summer Nutrition; what does your horse really need?

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