Horse paddocks, particularly those overgrazed, may end up covered in buttercups at this time of year. They look pretty, but horse owners should be aware that they carry some risks.
Buttercup toxicity is relatively low risk, mainly because they don’t actually taste very nice! But, horses on very restricted grazing with little else to eat will consume them if they have to. Buttercups contain a toxin known as glucoside ranunculin which can cause excessive salivation, colic and diarrhoea. Most cared-for horses will be offered enough alternative feed to not eat the buttercups, but owners should be aware that there is still a risk, all be it unlikely.
Irritation caused by contact with buttercups is far more likely than toxicity from eating them. Contact dermatitis, which looks like sun burn on the nose and mud fever on the lower limbs, is fairly common on pink skinned noses and white legs. Buttercups in full flower are most irritant, and showery weather helps to spread the toxin. A Vet will generally take a blood test to ensure the symptoms aren’t caused by photosensitivity due to liver disease. If the bloods are normal, applying a barrier cream or leg wraps should protect sensitive skin, but the best way to solve the issue is to turn the horse out in a different paddock.
How do you eliminate buttercups from the fields?
This is not easy! Buttercups are very invasive and thrive on poor soil conditions which are so often seen on busy yards. Once the buttercups are cut and dead, they will no longer contain the toxin. Luckily this also means they are harmless if found in hay. Draining, harrowing and aerating the land to encourage better grass growth will help. Buttercups can be killed by spraying but the horses usually need to be removed for a couple of weeks. Only certain horses are susceptible so it may be easier to remove the horse from the field, than try to eradicate the buttercups!
It is worth noting that buttercups thrive on poor land. This means that the grazing will also be fairly poor quality so the horse may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs. For horses on little hard feed, adding a vitamin and mineral supplement to their diet will ensure they are getting everything they need. We recommend Think Complete.
Think Complete Granules allow you to feed your horse accurately, ensuring that he receives the optimum levels of vitamins and minerals to support health and performance. This is a palatable and dust free alternative to powder supplements. The granules are easy to handle, so minimizing waste, and mix in easily with your horse’s usual feed.