If your horses graze or exercise in a field with trees, you should establish the species of trees in the field as some trees are poisonous to horses. Here's an overview of three species of tree that are toxic to horses and your options for having dangerous trees removed:
Both the leaves and berries of the yew tree are poisonous to horses. It contains the alkaloid taxine, which causes cardiac arrest, and ingesting even a small amount of the foliage can be lethal. You can identify yew trees by their needle-like leaves, which grow two rows to a twig, and the unique red berries that remain open at the tip. The bark is reddish-brown and looks like it is peeling away from the trunk.
Oak trees are a risk during the autumn months when their acorns are falling. Horses seem to love snacking on acorns, but they cause gastric upset, bleeding in the urinary tract and low mood. Oak trees have lobed leaves and the branches form a domed canopy. The flowers that develop into acorns appear in sprays across the tree and are pale yellow or cream in colour.
Sycamore saplings and seeds, often referred to as helicopters due to their propeller-like appearance, cause horses to develop atypical myopathy. This is a muscle disease that can be fatal, and symptoms include muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate and sweating. Sycamores can be identified by their leaves, which have red stalks and five lobes. The bark is grey with pink undertones and small green flowers hang in spikes.
If you have to have a tree removed from your field, a tree surgeon will use a technique known as lopping to remove the side branches before removing the crown of the tree in sections. Once the tree has been cut back to the stump, you have a few options for removing it.
The stumps of young trees can often be dug out, with the majority of the roots being pulled out with the stump. Alternatively, a stump grinder can be used to cut the stump to below ground level, and the root system will be left in place. A chemical stump remover can also be used to soften the wood, which will then decompose. However, you'll have to keep your horse away from the tree stump while it's being treated to prevent them ingesting any of the stump remover.
If you're not sure what species of trees you have in your field, ask a tree surgeon to identify them for you. They'll be able to advise you on whether your trees pose a risk to your horses, if tree removal is necessary and how to identify signs of disease that could spread to other trees on your land.