Green pastures, hay, straw, grains and herbs are part of the horse feed everywhere. But still horses chew on wooden posts or gates often annoying the stable owner. When horses do not have access to trees, bushes or hedges, they try to chew on anything wooden in their way. In today's blog, we tell you why and what plants are safe for your horse.
During autumn, winter and in spring, horses do need more forage that is rich in fibers. The bark of trees and the leaves contain tons of fibers and that's why fallen leaves in autumn or fresh shoots in spring are a welcome addition to your horse's feed menu. The bark and leaves contain valuable vitamins and minerals and on top it, your horse will enjoy passing the time by nibbling the bark of the branches.
If you have an open plan stable, you can plant some hedges, bushes and trees yourself. You can plant them along the pastures or as natural separation instead of fence. Or if you have some "empty" areas, you can plant a little grove or even a group of trees that the horses can use as protection from the sun in summer or rain and storm during the colder seasons. A beautiful addition to your stable might be a hedge of wild roses bordering your paddock and it can a source for rose petals and rose hips.
If you are stabling your horse in a stall, you can go into the woods and collect some branches to offer them to your horse as an addition to its feed. There are some fixtures that you can buy now to fix on the walls but often the wood that comes with them is old. Your horse definitely prefers fresh bark though. So it's better to go for a stroll and collect the branches yourself. Or you can pick up some fallen leaves from a linden tree and scatter them on the paddock.
Which trees, bushes and hedges are safe for horses?
We have a massive willow tree in our garden. When we trim it or the storm tears off some branches, we just put them on a heap in our paddock and the horses come running and start nibbling! But why? The bark contains phenolglycosides, tannins, salicin and its derivates and flavonoids. These active substances have a pain-relieving and blood thinning effect. Salicin is metabolized in the liver to salicylid acid, similar to aspirin. Also a willow tree grows pretty quickly - you only wait a couple of years for a good sized tree.
Our herd loves our hazel bush! Fortunately, they do not have constant access otherwise our bush would be bare in no time. During autumn, when the nuts are starting to fall of the bush, we have to fence it off. Otherwise, the horses would eat all our nuts! Our horses are real "nut crackers" and know exactly how to crack the nut shell and just eat the delicious nut. The leaves of the hazelnut bush contain essential oils, tannins and flavonoids who support a healthy gut, promote bile flow and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the mucous membrane of mouth and throat.
A wonderful tall linden tree borders our paddock and it provides lots of shade for the horses in summer. The flowers and leaves are a welcome snack for our horses. The linden flowers are the real medicinal part of the tree. They contain healthy mucilage, flavonoids, tannins and essential oil. Linden flower tea is known for its healing effects if you have a cold or to promote urine flow. But they also sooth irritations and support expectoration while coughing. The leaves stimulate appetite and have a calming effect.
Apples, pears, cherries, plums - a sweet snack or some branches after the cut in spring - our horses love it! Of course, horses should not eat tons of fruits, so it's better to clean the pasture of most of the apples or pears and just leave some for your horse to snack on. Cherries and plums contain lots of fruit pulp, which the horses love, but if your horse cracks to many cherry or plum stones, it might ingest too much hydrocyanic acid which can be toxic. I observed my yearling mare sucking on some plums and cherries and she knew exactly how to just enjoy the fruit pulp and to spit out the stones!
Blackberries and raspberry hedges are prickly but the fruits contain lots of vitamins and vital nutrients. The leaves are known to support a healthy gut and help in case of inflamed mucous membranes in the mouth. And I was told that specifically raspberry leaves calm down a studdy gelding or a difficult mare!
Here a small list of other safe trees and bushes:
Montain ash, ottonwood tree, elderberry, birch tree, hawthorn, alder tree, blackthorn and elm tree.
Looking for poisonous trees and bushes? Check out this link.
So off to the woods to gather some branches!