Ragwort is a common weed many of us will see thriving on wasteland, road verges and railway land, and if left to grow can spread easily and quickly onto neighbouring horse pasture.
The danger is that ragwort contains toxic compounds which can cause poisoning to horses if eaten in any state. Horses are particularly at risk of ragwort poisoning, although other grazing animals are susceptible too. Ragwort can damage the liver, which may eventually result in severe disease and even death.
Most horses won’t immediately choose to eat ragwort if it is growing among their grazing because it tastes bitter– but this isn’t a guarantee. Horses will eat ragwort if nothing else is available, if they eat it accidentally or where parts of the plant have died and become palatable. Ragwort loses its bitter taste if it’s cut, dried and found in forage like hay – but it doesn’t lose any of its toxicity and still remains a danger.