There has been an enormous amount of publicity about the danger that Ragwort poses to horses (and other grazing animals), yet every year the BHS responds to dozens of calls reporting horses grazing in fields infested with the yellow flower.

In some areas of the country it is only necessary to drive a short distance to find fields full of Ragwort, so it is clear there is still much work to be done.

For many years, The British Horse Society has campaigned on the issue of Ragwort and we continue to strive to educate horse and landowners of the dangers Ragwort poses to grazing animals. Among our notable successes was the instrumental and essential role that the BHS played in the instigation of the Control of Ragwort Act (2003).

It is vital that plants are removed before they seed and spread the weed further. As part of Ragwort Awareness Weeks the BHS has given away hundreds of Rag Forks, targeted local authorities and held a successful conference to highlight landowners’ responsibilities.

The BHS is not looking to completely eradicate Ragwort but simply to control it when it is growing close to, or on, grazing land. Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) contains potentially deadly pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These toxic compounds principally cause damage to the liver that can lead to death. Horses are particularly susceptible to the effects of Ragwort poisoning, but it is also important that humans take precautions when handling the plant.

The control of Ragwort comes under two government acts, The Weeds Act (1959) and The Control of Ragwort Act (2003). Responsibility for controlling Ragwort rests with the occupier of the land on which it is growing. However, it is expected that all landowners, occupiers and managers will co-operate and take collective responsibility for ensuring that effective control of the spread of Ragwort is achieved. 

The BHS Welfare Department can provide free advice, advisory literature and posters on the control and dangers of Ragwort. Contact welfare@bhs.org.uk or call on 02476 840571 or 02476 840573.

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