Horse Health – Plants Your Horse Must Avoid

June 17th, 2012

Horse Health – Plants Your Horse Must Avoid

A Healthy Horse

You can find the first part of the article here.

All of the above are, among others, the most common symptoms of ground ivy poisoning.

This creeping plant, also known as creeping charlie can be fatal, but for this to happen, large amounts must be ingested. The largest danger is from ivy that is baled into hay.


Buttercups are frequently found on horse pastures and contain a compound called protoanemonin, which is a powerful irritant, and can cause inflammation, or ulceration of the mouth, and sometimes, in extreme cases, colic.


lesions of the mouth


inflamation of the mouth

colic (rare, only in extreme cases)


Tannins, otherwise known as tannic acid, are found in oak leaves, and are poisonous, though only mildly so. They have to eat a large amount for it to be dangerous, but it is addictive, so they can actively seek it out .

It causes kidney damage in large doses. Prevention includes fencing off oak trees, especially in spring and autum when the leaves and acorns respectively, are high in tannin.


constipation and diarrhea

lack of appetite

staring/ dull coat


blood filled diarrhea and/ or urine

Deadly nightshade

The whole plant, from the roots to the berries contains toxins, that are not normally fatal unless taken in high doses.

Found in woodland, clearings and hedgerows, the symptoms for the poisoning from this plant include

innability to stand

dilated pupils


This contains an enzyme known as thiaminase, which breaks thiamine (vitamin B1 ) down, so the horse essentially suffers from a thiamine deficiency. If you are aware that your horse has been consuming bracken, but is not showing symptoms, try feeding a vitamin supplement that is high in Vitamin B1.

Bracken needs to be consumed regularly for weeks, even months, before clinical signs show. A few days after eating sufficient bracken to cause damage, the horse loses weight, but shows little other symptoms. Then gait abnormalities manifest themselves in place of the normal paces, and this then increases to staggers. Muscle tremors and weakness will follow this, until a high heart rate, and temperature, then inability to move. From the time that the proper, clinical signs start to show, to death is usually 2-10 days depending on the intensity of the poison and its effect on the horse.

If you suspect your horse has been poisoned, call your vet.

While there are many other plants I could have listed here it is not possible to list them all so I just want to say;

”And the moral of the story is if you dont know whether a plant is toxic to equines or not, dont take chances! Feed, or give acess to only those that you are certain about, and keep him away from all the others!”

Horses , , ,

Horse Health – Plants Poisonous To Horses – Part 1

June 7th, 2012

Horse Health – Plants Poisonous To Horses


Rhubarb is pisonous to horses


It is essential that your horse has all the things necessary for a good life, especially food, water, love and attention, excercise etc., but it is just as important that he does not come in contact with poisonous plants. The toxins in these plants vary in intensity, from yew, which is so deadly that a single mouthful kills, to something more mild, like buttercups, which cause little irritating sores to form round their mouths.

Horses tend to avoid toxic plants if they have sufficient grazing, but when there is little left in the way of quality pasture, they turn to all other vegetation, which can, of course, contain deadly poisons.


One mouthful is enough to kill. This deadly plant contains taxine, to which there is no known antidote. It can kill withing minutes of being swallowed, due to heart failure. Symptoms include;


slowing heart rate

cardiac failure


Also known as mares tail, this weed thrives in marshy land. Horses tend to avoid it, but it is sometimes incorporated in hay. It has high levels of silica, and can cause poisoning.


Weakness, uncoordinated rear end

difficulty seeing

high levels of pyruvate in blood


This distinct, fast growing yellow weed thrives almost anywhere, from well tended pastures to wasteland.Even in the most meticulously cared for grassland, it can easily spread through its small, light seeds.

It causes irreversible liver damage and is extremely poisonous, both to livestock and humans. It is poisonous even to touch, the sap enters the bloodstream through the pores in the skin.

It must be dug up, gloves must be worn to do this, and a long thin spade should be used to remove roots to avoid danger of regrowth. Burn, roots and all.







This white flowering plant is extremely toxic to humans and animals, and can even cause damage simply through touch. The sap causes blistering, especially in the presence of sunlight.

Symptoms include;

dilated pupils






blue mouth

weak pulse

Ground ivy

breathing difficulties

salivation/ frothing

excess/ profuse sweating

Horses , , ,

Buying a Horse? Here are some things you should consider beforehand

November 12th, 2011

Considerations before buying a horse
Owning a horse is fun. You spend time with them and really bond with the animal you ride. You get to ride, to go showing, or crosscountry, hacking or western, dressage or driving but there is more. It is not all such fun, there is also a work element involved, as well as money that will be spent on daily matters,.
Before considering buying a horse, you have probably had some lessons at your local riding centre, and
found it very enjoyable and thought, ‘well, why dont I get a horse?’
STOP!!!!!!!!!!!! Dont go and buy a horse and expect everything to be fine, you need a lot more consideration beforehand.
Have you got time, patience, money, land etc…?

This is necessary for survival in this world. Money is needed to buy food and clothes, to pay morgages and rent. But if you have more money than you necessarily need, it can be spend on a horse. By more money I am not talking about a pound or two. No. I am not talking about a couple of hundred. No. I am talking about thousands. Most safe, decently behaved horses cost over one thousand. Occaisionally you do see some horses below this price who are said to be schoolmasters, but these are usually very old, or have an underlying problem. Even if you do pick up a good horse for under a thousand, you will end up paying a lot more in the way of insurance (essential, because if you are out riding and your horse gets scared and kicks a car, then insurance will cover the damage), food (essential for life) livery (certainly, you need somewhere to keep your horse, a field for excersise, and a stable for grooming, dentist vet or farrier visits etc…), tack, rugs, grooming kit, bedding etc. In fact, the average an owner spends on their horse per year is £3,600, so to be sure you want a horse takes consideration and care.


Regardless of how much money or land you have got, time is just as important. Time is needed to muck out, groom, feed , ride, clean tack, etc…
With work also having to fit in on the time budget, and possibly caring for kids, or other animals too, time can be tight.

Time and money may be in plentiful supply, but that still doesnt mean you can just go and buy a horse. You need patience to bond with the horse, to get used to how to ride him, he may also be timid or young and need your confidence and patience to help him gain confidence.

Land or Livery
You need a stable to keep your horse in, or a field, preferably both. A field alone would ensure he gets lots of exercise and fresh grass, but is not so suitable in winter, or when the farrier or vet has to come. Tacking up and grooming also become a problem, and so, grass livery is the cheapest you get.
DIY livery is suitable for those who need a field and a stable but have plenty of time, it is the second least expensive option.
Part livery involves feeding and turning out, leaving you to ride and muck out. At most livery yards this option is expensive, but still not the most expensive.
Full livery means you pay a lot of money, and the people on the yard do all the work for you. If your budget allows, this option is suitable for when you go on holiday.
Working livery is usually quite cheap. The people on the yard do all or most of the work, but people who come for riding lessons ride your horse. The disadvantage of this is that you have no control whatsoever over who rides your horse, and you can only come on a limited number of days to ride, and the days that you can come are usually determined not by you but by the yard owner.
The moral of the story is; If you have the time, money, patience, land and riding experience and really, really want a horse, but can cope with the work involved, then you are ready!
Once you have considered all there is to consider, and you tick all the right boxes, you are prepared to go! Refer to my article on buying a horse for more information on the next steps.

Horses , , ,

Leopard-spotted horses existed in Europe ages ago

November 8th, 2011

Leopard-spotted horses existed in Europe ages ago

Scientist have always suspect that Leopard-spotted horses existed in Europe about 25,000 years ago but all the evidence they had was cave painting depicting spotted horses but not hard DNA evidence which they have found to prove the existence of other pre historic horse. That has now changed, New genetic evidence suggests “dappled” horses depicted in European cave art were inspired by real life, rather than the cave painters drawing and imaginary coat on a horse.

Horses, were said to be the most abundant large mammal roaming Eurasian 25,000 years ago, were a key component of early European diets. Horse are also said to account for about 30% of animals depicted in cave art. The cave art in the blogpost show dotted horses in the cave of Pech Merle in France.

You can read the heavy science of this leopard-spotted horses in details at the bbc website.


Equine biology – a simple, helpful explanation about the basics of a cell

October 15th, 2011

Equine biology- a simple, helpful explanation about the basics of a cell

I am about to explain the very basics of a complicated and specialized science. I will only explain the things which are easy to mentally digest, and will start with the basic structure of a cell, then I will move on to a quick briefing on DNA.

The basic units of measurement for a cell are micrometers = one thousandth of a millemetre and nanometer (nm) = one thousandth of a micrometer.

The cell membrane is semi-permiable, so called because it allows certain substances to pass through, but not others. It is made up of a specific group of lipids (fats) called phospholipids. They have a rounded ‘head’ and a wavy ‘tail’. The tail is hydrophobic (repels and ‘hates’ water) and the head is hydrophillic (attracts and ‘loves’ water). The membrane is made up of two layers of phospholipids, and each layer meets the other tail to tail. Fat soluable molecules pass through the phospholipids.This is because the phospholipids are not attached and can move in a ‘wave’ in response to external ‘stimulus’ of essential molecules, therefore opening a gap. The molecules then have to wait in the middle of the membrane for another gap to open because only one layer opens at a time. Water soluble ones pass through special proteins known as pores. The membrane is studded with proteins, some only in one layer, carrying a polysacharide as a marker to avoid white blood cells accidentally destroying the cell, mistaking it for an invader, others spanning the entire membrane, and helping water soluble substances to pass into the cell (pores).

Within the membrane is a jelly like liqid known as the cytoplasm. It contains water, nutrients waste and dissolved substances. Suspended within the cyoplasm is the are the various organelles of the cell.

The nucleus is the control centre, it is the largest organnelle in the cell, and contains DNA. I will explain more about DNA later on. Within the nucleus is the nucleolus, which manufactures ribosomes.

The ribosomes (20nm) are the location of protein synthesis, the place where a chain of amino acids is made into a protein such as an enzyme (a globular protein that reacts with its substrate (the molecule it acts on) to create a product). Some ribosomes float freely in the cytoplasm while others are found on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Smooth ER has no ribosomes attached, while rough ER has ribosomes. Free ribosomes make products for the cell, while those on the rough ER make products for exportation from the cell. A structure known as the golgi body or dictyosome packages finished proteins into transport vesicles, which are very important, especially for enzymes which might start to digest the cell otherwise.

Mitochondria are the sites of respiration, the place where reactions occur. Oxygen and glucose are necesary for this to happen. The reactions that occur provide the cell with an instant energy source, mostly in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is made up of a sugar (ribose) a base, adenosine, and three phosphate molecules. This is broken down to ADP (adenosine diphosphate) + one inorganic phosphate. This provides the cell with energy, and the unnecessary by products are sent out of the cell (heat, water, CO2). A metabolically active cell such as a smooth muscle cell has lots of mitochondria. This system can only provide energy for up to ten seconds, even with CP as a backup molecule. After all the immediate ATP has gone, glucose oxidation occurs to create more. One minute or more of exersise, and lipids are oxidised and used as an energy source insead.

Perioxisomes (one micrometre) are small structures that breakdown hydrogen peroxide, a highly toxic by- product, into harmless oxygen and water.


That was a short description of a cell, now i will focus on genes. These are what determines our appearance, our horses appearance, and the appearance of mans best friend (dog) and all the other living creatures. Below are some key words.

Genotype= the arrangement of genes

phenotype= the way genes express themselves (appearance)

loci (si. locus)=a ”point” on DNA (at each ‘base’) where the gene is found

allelle=a variation of a gene (brown eyes and wall eyes are from the ‘eye colour’ gene but cause different effects and so are different allelles.

Dominant= a gene that creates an effect, even if only one strand of DNA contains that particular gene

Recessive= a gene that requires two doses on one locus (one dose on each strand) to produce an effect.

A dexyribonucleic acid molecule consists of a sugar (deoxyribose) a phosphate group (phosphorus molecule) and two organic bases which combine to form a ‘rung’ of the ‘ladder’ of DNA. DNA is twisted into a double helix and ‘pushed together’ into tightly coiled chromosomes.

Each base has a particular shape and its pair has a complementary shape, meaning that no other base can combine with it. In DNA, Adenine always pairs with Thymine and Cytosine always pairs with Guanine but with RNA T is absent and in its place is Uracil. A and G are purines, which are larger than their partners, while C and T are smaller and known as pyrimidines.

DNA never leaves the cell. If a copy is needed for the ribosomes to assemble a protein, then ribonucleic acid transports the information gets to its target structure, therefore it is a mobile copy of a gene.

To create a protein, a copy of DNA is made onto the messengerRNA and taken to a ribosome. Part of the DNA uncoils and the DNA sequence is copied onto mRNA and taken to the ribosome. TransferRNA is made upof a single strand of nucleic acid, looped back on itself to create a clover leaf shape that collects amino acids and brings them to the ribosome which then makes an amino acid chain in order of instruction which, once complete becomes a protein.

Horses have 64 chromosomes. 62 of these are responsible for various parts of the horse, such as colour, etc. but the last two are sex chromosomes. These are known as X and Y. Female chroosomes are XX and male chromosomes are XY. The females ovum is always X. For this reason it is the males sperm that determines the of the foal. Y is dominant, and so if a Y chromosome comes from the male the result is a colt. Despite Y being dominant, there is an equal chance of a filly as there is a colt.

Cells split through mitosis and meiosis. The former is for growth and the latter is for reproduction. The former produces two identical cells with the full number of chromosomes (diploid), while the latter produces four cells with half the number of chromosomes (haploid). When the ovum and the sperm fuse, the full number chromosomes is restored. If this did not occur, the number of chromosomes would double with every generation.


That wasjust a quick explanation about The equine cell, and DNA, if it is a subject that takes your interest, more information can be found in an equine genetics book or online.

Recommended reads;

Equine science by Sarah Pilliner and Zoe Davies.