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Equines & Toxic Plants: A Mismatched Pair

     Losing a horse is traumatic under any circumstances, but the preventable loss of one due to lack of information on toxic plants and poisoning is devastating as well as unnecessary.  Often, the simple awareness of the possibility of such an event is sufficient for its prevention.

    Livestock losses due to poisonous plants have been estimated at $340 million annually in the 17 Western states alone.  Each year, 3 to 5 percent of the cattle, sheep, and horses in western ranges are negatively affected by the ingestion of poisonous plants.  Due to physiological, physical, and behavioral characteristics, horses and other equines may be much more highly susceptible to the toxins in many plants than most horse owners realize.

    There is a shortage of comprehensive and concise resources on the subject of equines and toxic plants, and therefore this website was created. Its goal is to assist in educating horse owners and others in the equine fields on the prevalence of toxic plants in pastures and the effects that ingestion of or contact with them may have on equines.    

    During the course of this study, there has been little published literature found on the differences between the equid species: horses, draft horses, ponies, donkeys/burros, mules, and miniatures. Therefore, until such information is published, at which point it will be added to this website, all equids will be included when using the terms 'horses' and 'equines'. The only real distinction will be in size: the smaller the animal, the smaller the amount of toxic material necessary to cause problems.

     Included in this website are several sections:

  • a synopsis with several informational pages on specific equine, plant toxicity, and poisoning prevention issues;

  • a FAQ page for quick answers to common questions;

  • a database that includes nearly 350 plants in the U.S. that are known to be poisonous to equines, listed by common name, scientific name, and growth form;

  • a bibliography and citations page that also contains a number of links to other helpful resources; and

  • a contacts page with information regarding the author and links to the department and university.

  This site is in no way intended to replace your veterinarian; rather, it is to provide a resource that can't readily be found elsewhere.  Its goal is to supply information helpful in the prevention, identification, and successful treatment of plant poisonings in equines.