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Safe Shade Trees For Horses

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I'm looking to plant trees around some of my pastures. The trees will be on the outside of the fence-line, but the leaves will most likely end up in the pastures. I have no idea what kinds of trees are toxic to horses. I'd like something attractive...but safe. Anyone have any ideas? Are silver maples toxic? Not sure they would work here though, it's pretty windy. Any ideas would be awesome. thanks.

Moh

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Fast growing and making plenty of shade....cottonwoods (they do come in "cottonless" hybrids) are great. Also hybrid poplars (cottonwoods are a variety of poplar but these are different)... there are some varieties used for pulpwood growth that will reach 70 feet in 10 years. They are winter hardy even in very cold areas. Fruitless (or fruited if you don't care about the mess and want to feed the birds as well) mulberries...grow pretty quickly and are wider/shorter type trees. Use a lot of Russian Olive around here as they tolerate the bad soil and grow quickly but they can also be invasive in some areas. Same thing with locust....honey locust is pretty, does have thorns, is a small leaved tree that doesn't make a mess....I'm not sure about the seed pods being safe although my horses have been around them before without ill effects..don't know if they ate them or not...I think there are seedless varieties of these as well. Globe willow makes a quick growing round mound of early spring green and can get to about maybe 40 feet tall/wide. Sycamore is a pretty tree with interesting bark. Ginko is prehistoric tree that grows fairly quickly as a young tree, turns gorgeous gold/yellow in the fall. Quaking aspen is another fairly quick grower that has beautiful fall color. Alder might also grow in your area. You probably have enough rain/water to not have to irrigate...getting most of these started here takes watering with a drip line for a year or two. You can also check with your local agricultural extension agent....they usually have a list of trees/shrubs etc that do well in your area. I love the look of maples but they don't do well here and I don't know which ones are toxic (red maple I know is if the leaves are wilted...like from a fallen branch...but don't know about others or dried leaves that fall in the autumn). Suggest you plant far enough from the fenceline that the horses can't reach over and eat the tops out of your young trees or put a hot wire along the top of the fence to prevent reaching over....members of the poplar family apparently taste pretty good.

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MOH,

My horses are pastured in a woods surrounded by red & white oak, black & white ash, aspen, basswood, & red & sugar maple. Bracken fern & red maple can be toxic to horses, if ate in large quanities. They might nibble on both a bit, but if they have enough grass or hay to eat then, it shouldn't be a real problem. Yes there is always the exception to the rule, but there so many things that horses can get hurt on or eat to much of, it is a winder they survive. Trees planted along edge of your pasture, shouldn't create a big problem. But planting red or white pine, & aspens are fast growing trees, as well as white & yellow birch. If you plant trees you will more than likely get some volunteer trees. I wish you well getting some shade for your horses. Best Wishes. PD

Edited by Peppers Dad

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Stay away from the oaks!

Why? My horses have lived among a variety of oaks for many years. Never had a problem.

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Wow! Lots of great information! Thank you so much. I've got lots of ideas now for the pastures. I love the idea of planting something for the birds too, my south pasture will do nicely for that...it can get as messy as it wants down there. LOL The northern pasture is on very rocky ground and very windy, so something tougher will have to go there.

I'm very excited to get going on this. I'll take before and after pics for sure. Thank you for your help everyone.

and PD...you are welcome to come and see it in person any time you want :happy0203: LOL One of these days we'll have to meet. :smileywavey:

I'm going to steer clear of the oaks and maples...Lacey is a horse that will try anything once and is very sensitive. I've heard the acorns can cause problems.

That and no young tree is safe from Indy...she snaps any saplings in half using them for a belly scratcher. :rolleye0014:

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Why? My horses have lived among a variety of oaks for many years. Never had a problem.

It is mostly a spring thing, but it can happen at any time. Both the acorns AND the oak tree leaves produce tannic acid, which is poisonous to horses. Eating a few leaves won't kill them, but it is said that they can be addictive. They can cause both digestive issues and kidney damage.

Many believe that it is not if a horse dies from it, but when. They believe that the toxins over time, can build up, leading to more and more kidney damage.

I know when I have my own place, my pasture is going to be 100% clear with man made shade. Trees in horse pastures are a pain in the ***.

And if you live in FL, they can harbor roseary peas- which contain one of the most deadly toxins in the world- Abrin.

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It is amazing how many horses do survive. I think the vast majority of pastures in my area contain both oak and maple trees.

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Indeed. If Oak and Maple were autotoxic to horses there would be no horses in East TN!!!

That said, the best advice is to talk with your County Agent and find out what will do well in your area that won't pose an unreasonable risk to horses. What works for us in our temperate climate might not work at all in the frigid wilds of Northern WI. :smilie:

We have a lot of locust around here and they are death on tires (for trucks, tractors, balers, skid steers, etc.). The thorns can easily reach three inches and are as hard as nails. I'd never voluntarily plant them (even though they also make good fence posts).

Good luck in your selection.

G.

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Indeed. If Oak and Maple were autotoxic to horses there would be no horses in East TN!!!

I am not saying horses drop dead over night from eating Oak tree leaves or acorns- but I am most certain that it contributes to health issues.

I believe the body can only handle so many toxins and each toxin we put in our body, slowly damages the organs.

This could be one of the reasons why horses drop dead in the middle of the night when there is no other explanation. People tend to laugh off toxins and/or drugs, but each one impacts your health in a negative way. For instance, when you take Tylenol or Excedrin, it damages a little bit of your liver each time.

"Watch out for weeds and debris. Hazardous weeds can invade pastures, lawns, walkways, and the nooks and crannies around your farm. Make periodic inspections of your grounds and pastures, which means anywhere a horse might grab a nibble while walking by or make a feast if he got loose. While on patrol, take time to pick up any plant debris, such as fallen leaves, branches, and nuts. Sometimes these are the only poisonous parts of a plant. For instance, oak tree leaves can build up toxins in early spring or when a branch breaks and the leaves wilt. Thus, it might be safe to keep oak trees on your property as long as horses can't reach the leaves or acorns, which can also be toxic. "

http://www.thehorse....le.aspx?ID=6861

Edited by Blondyb

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Wonder if the horses on miles and miles of live oak covered hillsides in Texas and California know that they are toxic? Have seen dozens of places in both areas listed for sale that are established farm properties and one of the things they mention is the dense shade of the oaks.

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Wonder if the horses on miles and miles of live oak covered hillsides in Texas and California know that they are toxic? Have seen dozens of places in both areas listed for sale that are established farm properties and one of the things they mention is the dense shade of the oaks.

Doesn't mean it is right.

Notice how on most thoroughbred farms in Ocala, if they have oaks, they have white fencing around the oak trees? It is there not just to look cute or to just protect the tree from the horses.

You also cannot group horses that are on miles and miles of land with horses that are kept in acre paddocks or smaller.

Your horses on miles and miles of land are going to have grass to eat all day and probably wouldn't get bored and start munching on other items.

Edited by Blondyb

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How old does a horse have to GET for the poison from oak to be effective? I have a bunch of over 20, a few over 30 and one who just died at 40. All are healthy as a horse (heh) and have lived among the oaks for most of their lives, and in the case of some, including the 40 year old, ALL their lives.

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How old does a horse have to GET for the poison from oak to be effective? I have a bunch of over 20, a few over 30 and one who just died at 40. All are healthy as a horse (heh) and have lived among the oaks for most of their lives, and in the case of some, including the 40 year old, ALL their lives.

Are the horses on a lot of property? I would think horses will behave differently if say, you have two horses on a couple of acres, vrs. several horses on tons of acreage with grass.

I am sure if a horse that has plenty of access to grass all day long, would not find the need to go foraging around. But I know here in Florida, that is not the case with a lot of the horses.

Especially here in Central FL. Several barns around my area have small paddocks that horses stay in, lucky if they are 1/4 of an acre. I was lucky and was able to rent a 1 acre pasture but even still, my horses really don't have much grass (it has been so dry down here!) and they of course forage around.

In fact, when my mare got sick, it was suspected that she had eaten the oak leaves and got sick.

I guess it would depend on the environment of the horse and whether the horse becomes addicted to acorns and/or oak tree leaves.

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Someone suggested Russian Olive. I'd avoid planting that anywhere your horses could reach branches. According to the Colorado Extension Service, an OUNCE of Russian Olive seed is enough to poison and KILL a horse!

We have Russian Olives in our pasture (several fairly young trees were here when we bought the lot) but have uprooted the smaller ones and fenced off the larger ones. Before we got them fenced off this year, we used to prune them after flowering, but that was getting to be too much work now that the trees are older. The pruning just encouraged more growth, which meant more flowers, fruit, and seeds.

I'm not saying your horses WILL eat the seeds. I see Russian Olives in pastures all around us. But knowing my horses, they'd decide to try them. Our pasture is very barren, so the horses nibble on everything! They've already stripped the bark off the Elm trees in the same pasture, killing the trees, at least the visible parts. The roots are still alive, as they keep putting up new growth at the base of the old trunks, so hope to save them once we fence those off.

If you have good pasture, your horses may not be interested in eating the olives. Just wanted to give you a heads up on the possible danger of planting them.

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My horses are on a small lot, we have pine, oak and poplar trees. Of course we live in the middle of the woods, so lots of trees, lots of shade, little grass. :indifferent:

I've never actually witnessed MY horses eating leaves or acorns... but I did hear of someone who's horse had impaction colic from eating acorns and had to have surgery to remove the blockage. :confused0024:

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That plant is not the Russian Olive I'm familiar with and that I mentioned here, although it is in the same family apparently. I didn't realize there was more than one plant with that common name.

The Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) I'm referring to is a tree with silver leaves and light green fruit that resembles a green olive in shape. It also has nasty thorns! It is considered a noxious, invasive weed in many locations, including Colorado. It is very hard to eliminate once established, as it will send up new growth from the roots if cut down. Best method is a strong herbicide, which I hesitate to use in my pasture.

I can't link to the info at the Colorado website that mentions the risk to horses (it downloads as a pdf), but here's another site that has photos and info: Russian Olive, although it doesn't address the issue of toxicity to horses as the Colorado document does.

If you'd like to download and read the Colorado pdf, here's the link: Russian Olive Fact Sheet

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I would guess that horses with limited grass and confined to smaller areas would eat almost anything just to be chewing on something (this includes things like wooden fence rails and posts and barns). So yeah, if in small enclosures and little access to anything to chew on BUT oak leaves/branches/acorns they would probably eat them. I would be inclined ot avoid red oaks as they are listed on some sites as potentially toxic. I know that horses live just fine under live oaks and pin oaks...so maybe those are not as much of a problem...and that those are in areas where there is lots of pasture as well and perhaps the horses prefer grazing to eating acorns (which would be a fall thing rather than spring...and I would think would be rather bitter...I know making acorn flour requires that the acorns be soaked and washed repeatedly to get rid of the tannins as they are very bitter tasting)and use the trees for shade. I also know that red maple is toxic shen the leaves are wilted...from a light frost, broken branch etc. so would avoid them.

Re Russian olive....I thought the photo in the link I posted was different looking than the trees we have here (same as described...silver green leaves and the fruit is small, green olive shaped)...I didn't think of two different trees having same name..duh. The silvery green, thorny Russian Olive is what we have here as well and is used along fence lines for wind breaks/shade (one of only a few kinds of trees that really thrive here) and along creek/river banks for erosion control....does spread downstream easily...also roots from branches touching the ground in damp areas and from cuttings very easily. Suckers a lot too and tends to be more of a shrub than a tree unless pruned hard. I see it in pastures all around the area and see horses and cattle using those fields in winter (summer time the fields are hay fields)...maybe it is safer in winter after dropping fruit? If it is toxic than by all means avoid it.

Re locust and thorns...yep...although I think there is now a thornless variety. Wood makes almost indestructable fence posts and it does grow quickly and make a pretty tree. There are green, gold and a smokey bronze varieties as well. OTOH those thorns make for a good hedgerow to discourage visiting kids, dogs and (in this country) mustangs and range cattle.

Another tree we have here that can be great or be a pain in the neck and I don't know if toxic in any way....called Tree of Heaven. Grows REALLY quickly, does sucker and make a grove of trees but can be controlled, big ferny fronds for leaves that drop like crazy with the first good frost...an entire tree will go naked in a day. Leaf fronds can be 4-5 feet long. Makes great shade.

We also have catalpa trees here...huge heart shaped leaves, wonderfully sweet smelling flower clusters in the spring, late to leaf out and fairly early dropping leaves. Seed pods look like long beans but the seeds are small and have fluffy ends so tend to fly off in a breeze...sometimes pods are on the ground and don't break open until walked on or very very dry. A bit cold sensitive at this area (5b zone with 2-3 weeks of -10 to -15 in winter) so some die back sometimes. Don't know about toxicity.

Lots of use of mulberry trees here...big leaves, deep shade, grow in this climate and soil. Fruitless varieties are neater...fruited ones have white or purple fruit (and it makes decent wine....and will stain things).

Probably best to check with local ag extension agent but should be lots of trees that would do the job and be safe. Know of sources of hybrid poplars (cuttings that you can put in frig vegie drawer in their plastic bag and the darned things will root themselves by spring!) for as little as $1/tree. Will take several years to reach sizable growth but 7-10 feet a year is normal.

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This past year in FL , there was a very unusal occurrence. We had excessive winds about the time the acorns were green on the oaks.Many folks ended up with the green acorns in large quantites in their pastures.Often times the pastures were sparse, but not always. Some horses left them alone, others would consume them like candy. The vets were running colic calls like crazy. The common denominator was the green acorns.This subsided also as the acorns aged or folks cleaned up the green ones. This was not proven one way or another, but the coincidence was most interesting.I'am 62 and lived here my whole life and this is the only year that there seemed to be a problem with acorns from oaks. I know our trees shed acorns as we have live oaks and water oaks. The only difference other than this year was the immature ones that were green, compared to the aged ones that normally end up on the ground.Our pastures are improved pastures, so maybe our horses preferred the grass more, who knows.

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I have heard that the mulberry berries are poisonous to horses too.

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I have heard that the mulberry berries are poisonous to horses too.

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/mulberry-tree.aspx

In addition....all parts of the white mulberry EXCEPT the berry/fruit is toxic to humans. Maybe eating trees is common among some humans but not in this area so we use the trees for shade here.....as well as making mulberry wine....been made for probably thousands of years.

Edited by coloredcowhorse

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My horses have access to every tree known to man and have NEVER had a problem... They also have blackberries, mulberries, blueberries, muscadine and almost anything you can imagine.... They will not eat what is harmful to them... smileywavey.gif

Wanted to add unless they are starved...

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Started looking at the ASPCA list and got to the point where so many of the plants around here are Toxic! :thud:

That I started trying to find nontoxic plants that are on our land! :shocked:

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I'm looking to plant trees around some of my pastures. The trees will be on the outside of the fence-line, but the leaves will most likely end up in the pastures. I have no idea what kinds of trees are toxic to horses. I'd like something attractive...but safe. Anyone have any ideas? Are silver maples toxic? Not sure they would work here though, it's pretty windy. Any ideas would be awesome. thanks.

Moh

The hard/Red Maple is very toxic to horses if the leaves are eaten at any stage, even after they dry in the Fall. One tree that was NOT mentioned is the Wild Cherry tree. It is VERY toxic when the leaves are in the 'wilt' stage, such as if a storm blows a branch down into the field and the horse were to take a bite of the leaves during wilting stage. It's Cyanide and kills them instantly! Insurance claims on cows and horses have been made when they find the animal laying dead beside the tree with the leaves still in the mouth.

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Started looking at the ASPCA list and got to the point where so many of the plants around here are Toxic! :thud:

That I started trying to find nontoxic plants that are on our land! :shocked:

I know what you mean! Some of the plants they call "toxic" only cause minor digestion upset (diarrhea, for example) and won't necessarily kill a horse unless they stuff themselves on only that one plant. Seems there should be other terms to describe the severity of toxicity so one would know which plants definitely need to be removed and which pose a lesser threat. Seems to me the term toxic is so overused, that one may not realize that a killer plant is there hiding among the lesser culprits.

I'll continue to rely on the county extension agency for most of my information, I think. They are more familiar with the local plants and any potential dangers from them.

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Personally I wouldn't waste my time planting poplars unless you just want them for a "filler" until your other trees grow big. The Poplars do grow very fast but then they don't live very long. They break easy when windy and they're a messy-ugly tree... in my opinion. There are Silver Maples and Ash that make good shade trees that are safe.

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