With the poisonous plant ragwort emerging now and ready to flower in July, World Horse Welfare is reminding British owners to take steps to remove any plants from fields and paddocks that their horses have access to.

Chief Field Officer Claire Gordon is urging owners to remove the plant which, if eaten, can cause irreparable liver damage to horses.

“It’s vital that your horse doesn’t eat ragwort, and you can’t assume they will choose not to eat it,” she says. “Spraying in April and early May while the plant is growing is the most effective way to eradicate it from your pasture, but you must be able to rest the field after spraying.”

Gordon says pulling the whole plant up—including the roots—is the next best option for owners without access to other grazing areas.

“It’s best to do this at the seedling or rosette stage, before the plant flowers and while the ground is still soft,” she says, “so the sooner you act, the better.

“Seeds can remain in the ground for 15 years before germination, so even if you’ve removed ragwort in previous years, it’s important to do it again every year,” she adds.