In the Saddle with Anita Marsh: Seeds danger alert to horses

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There’s been a lot of coverage in the Bells and on social media sites just recently regarding raising awareness of the potential threat of poisoning to horses from the seeds of Sycamore trees.

I first heard about it a few years ago, and I must admit before that it didn’t seem to be as well known.

Over the recent weeks, vets across Lincolnshire have issued warnings of what to look out for and how horse owners can help protect their steeds. As a horse owner myself, I’m accustomed to the usual plants which can be killers to my two mares, such as ragwort, often found in my fields, We know to dig them up by the root, leaving nothing behind in the ground and burn it. Sycamore trees present a different danger, as they are not poisonous throughout the whole year. Bizarrely it’s not the trees that can be deadly but the seeds that they shed usually around the autumn months. What they do is pretty awful though affecting the muscles that enables horses to stand, the heart muscles and the muscles that allow breathing. When I first heard about it some years ago, I checked the trees around the boundaries of my grazing. The seeds can be blown in and stick to or contaminate leaves, so it’s important to check as far as you reasonably can. The seeds are not particularly tasty to horses, like ragwort when it’s flowering, but unlike that plant where the horse usually chooses to ignore it the seeds can be eaten when the horse eats leaves. The vets warn its usually in of poor pasture,

The safest thing to do if you have these trees around is move the horses off the pasture around the danger months. I know the vets say that providing hay in poor grazing areas may encourage your horse to eat this, rather than the leaves but if your horse is anything like mine they may eat them anyhow.

Please, please spread the word. Better safe than sorry, as they say.