Fields of Buttercups

Travelling along, looking out of the window, have you ever wondered why…

One field is full of buttercups, then in the adjacent field there are none at all?

I have, so I tried to find out why?

It turns out that the golden field of buttercups, has most likely been overgrazed by horses!

Horses “scissor like” grazing action allows them to graze very close to the soil.

Horses have 5 points of contact with the ground, 4 hooves and their mouth. As they walk about grazing they are continually compacting the ground, so imagine the damage a herd can do.

The grass becomes stressed and the soil beneath compacted. If bare patches appear, it provides the perfect opportunity for the invasive buttercup to take hold. Wet compacted soil, they love it!

Good pasture management is the best way to try and get buttercups under control.

Rotational grazing of fields/paddocks, mowing/harrowing are all good practice.

If you have to resort  to spraying, consider an organic option as commercial sprays can be harmful to your horse. Do not allow horses back on to the land for several weeks after spraying, to stay safe.

The best time to kill buttercups is when they are growing, but before they flower. In the northern hemisphere, around March time. Buttercups germinate late autumn, so by this time healthy pastures from good land management should prevent the weed from spreading.

Do not relax your management efforts over the winter period though.

Overgrazed pastures will lead to more buttercups in the spring!

They are a tenacious perennial, so It is hard to eradicate them completely.

Buttercups are a weed and are toxic to all livestock. They can cause blistering of the mouth and muzzle, which may be misinterpreted as sunburn. Also ingested buttercups may cause diarrhoea/colic. Buttercups are unpalatable, so providing that horses have access to other forage, they would choose not to eat them.

Ideally horses should be removed from a field of buttercups, but if this is not an option, it is advisable to give them free choice hay in the field.

It is important to know that when grass is cut for hay, the toxin in the buttercups is deactivated so the hay is safe for horses.

“Turnout” In Livery

First let’s discuss “Turnout”, as there is a lot to consider. Quite simply it is where the horse is “turned out” into a field/paddock or on tracks for recreation/grazing/browsing and just being a horse.

“Turnout” will most likely be a large field where your horse runs in a herd. The herd will be either all mares/all geldings, although some yards offer mixed gender turnout.


Another possibility is “turnout” in individual paddocks. The big field is divided into smaller paddocks with temporary electric fencing and your horse lives there alone or perhaps with a buddy if you have more than one horse. You may also agree with another horse owner on the yard to share a paddock. Some yard owners will allocate 2 paddocks so that you can rotate them. Graze one, rest the other, then visa versa.


Track systems” are becoming more and more popular world wide and we are now seeing more “Natural Livery Yards” in the Uk. “Tracks” mimic the way horses live and move naturally. (The humans that favour them are known as “trackies”!) Your horse will need to be “barefoot” to live on tracks. He/she will have a constant supply of “mixed meadow grass”, quality hay, situated at various stations around the tracks. A fresh water supply and free choice salt/mineral blocks too. There will be shelter by way of a “run in barn”, “field shelter” and/or a wooded area/trees. He/she will “live out” 24/7, year round. On tracks there will be different surfaces to wear the horse’s hooves, as nature intended. A sand rolling pit and/or pond would be a bonus. The credit for this forward thinking concept belongs to Jaime Jackson. His book “Paddock Paradise” makes engaging reading and explains it “straight from the horse’s mouth”.


Otherwise, “winter turnout” in traditional yards refers to the option of putting your horse in a field/paddock during the winter months. If you have previously kept your horse at home, it might come as a shock to you that very many livery yards impose 24/7 stabling throughout wet winter months. If you haven’t thought to ask the question, “Do you allow winter turnout”, you may be happily settled into the yard, before you find out there is none! You struggle through and make a promise to your horse that you will find a more “horse friendly” place, before the next season.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both fields and paddocks, then there is personal preference! It will be quite obvious to you as soon as you set foot at the yard, by the messy configuration of temporary electric fencing, if it is paddocks.

But don’t take anything for granted, ask the question!


It is more natural for the horse to run in a herd, to interact, groom each other etc. These are the positive sides to “field” life. However there is often too much grass in the spring or too little grass in the autumn, both of which can play havoc with their digestive system. Common illnesses may be triggered, that could otherwise have been prevented.

The paddock on the other hand, gives you the possibility of putting hay nets out for your horse. The roughage from a belly full of hay, rather than a belly full of grass (most likely fertilised) will reduce the risks of your horse suffering from such illnesses… laminitis, colic and ulcers etc.

“Track systems” offer the safest environment for your equine friend. The concept has taken into consideration all the horse needs to reach and maintain optimum health.

Your horse, your choice, or is it!?

In Livery for Better or Worse

There must be as many different kinds of livery yards as there are people that run them. Of course you don’t know this until you put your horse in livery. Even then, you need to move on once, twice or even more, to fully appreciate this fact.


The yard you visit, is the nearest to your home. You would rather spend less time on the road and more time with your horse, that’s only natural. Do you make an appointment or you just show up? The latter is a better option so that you see the yard as it functions going about it’s daily routine.

You have a few questions in mind, perhaps even jotted on a piece of paper. No need to give it too much thought though… after all the yard owner/manager is a professional and is going to take care of your horse as if his/her own. Nice thought but sadly not always the case!

It’s Saturday, mid morning. You step out of your car and approach the first person you see. Are you the owner/manager, you ask? Oh no they reply, I haven’t seen him/her this morning, I am just a DIY livery, can I help you? Thinking to oneself, what the heck is DIY? (I thought that was something my husband did at the week-end!) and already you are away having a guided tour of the yard.

By the time the owner/manager shows up, you have seen the stable available for you, the paddock allotted to your horse and a seemingly happy enough client. You are advised on a price for Full Livery, an all inclusive package and then a date they will come and collect your horse for a fee of £25.00.

Job sorted. Nothing more to discuss then…or is there!?

Twister’s illness… “Glyphosate” poisoning.

Having been in the dark for 7 years over Twister’s mysterious illness, new light has been shed. I feel compelled to share his story to bring awareness to horse owners that “glyphosate” exposure to horses can cause chronic illness. “Glyphosate” is a toxic chemical found in the widely sprayed herbicide/weed killer “Round Up”.

Despite the pain of reliving his suffering, I do at last have closure. twister

I couldn’t have known back then, but this was the last time I hacked out on my beautiful grey Appaloosa, Twister. We did the full day’s ride with picnic and I hold this memory very dear. He was destined for showing as a stallion, but it became apparent at his first show there were issues with his movement. He was therefore gelded and I was able to ride him for the first time. I fell madly, deeply, passionately in love with this horse. If I tell you that we sold our home and business, to buy land and build, to enable us to have Twister at home…it is no exaggeration!


He had good days and bad days. We would set off on a ride and he could be fine. Then suddenly he could barely put one foot in front of the other, he seemed to have stiffened up. I remember sitting on the ground in front of him, crying and pleading with him to move. I don’t remember how we got back that day, but we went on to have more good days. When I think back to it now, I must have been in denial. Deep down I knew that all was not well with him.

Still I wasn’t prepared for that phone call from the livery yard. He was out at grass, down by the stream and hadn’t got up for several hours. When they went to check him, he simply couldn’t get up. When they did eventually get him up, he couldn’t walk. It took some time to get him to the stable, the vet was on his way and we arrived at the same time as he did. Our vet concluded it was poisoning, but he had absolutely no idea from what. Perhaps he had drunk from the stream? He knew Twister’s history and suggested that we put him to sleep to prevent further suffering. With hindsight, I wish we had followed his advice, but we weren’t ready to give up. I still believed in a miracle.


So began his treatment of anti inflammatory’s, antibiotics, pain killers etc. We pumped him with chemicals…and then he foundered!

We now had a specialist vet/physiotherapist working with the farrier and they were definitely concentrating on the laminitis, doing invasive work on Twister’s feet, remedial shoes and so on and so forth. I began to feel very ill at ease with this treatment, but they seemed to take over and I felt out of control. Unable to diagnose the problem, they put Twister’s initial symptoms on the back burner. Now that he had laminitis, they knew what they were dealing with. They were back in their comfort zone.

We bought Twister a solarium and used it daily, hoping to give some relief to the tension in his muscles. We got through the winter, but still he could only hobble, a very large awkward movement of one front leg followed by the other, dragging his hinds. He had developed terrible bed sores and a huge abscess under his forearm. He must have been in terrible pain and we were getting quite desperate. My husband, David did research on the Internet and discovered Jaime Jackson’s book “Paddock Paradise” a whole new concept of keeping horse’s naturally. He ordered it and we both read it. It just made sense. We would build this for Twister, Starlet and Dream Girl on our land, then all would be well, wouldn’t it?


Going into the spring, with no signs of improvement, it was time to take back  responsibility for Twister’s health and say to the vet and farrier, “no more treatment.” We called on an equine homeopath and took a more holistic approach for a while. No more chemicals, no more shoes…but I think we were just too late. Twister never responded to any of the treatment he was given over a period of 8 months. When I saw how the flies attacked his wounds, I knew we wouldn’t make it through the summer. The decision was helped along by a friend passing his stable and seeing me pondering him. “You know Carol, the kindest thing you could do for Twister, would be to let him go.” Once again I had been given permission to do the unthinkable. I am forever grateful to her because, not feeling strong enough myself she stayed with him, when our own vet came to put him out of his suffering.


“The love of horses knows not it’s own depth until the hour of separation”

When I said good bye to Twister, although still munching his hay, he looked at me as if to say, it’s ok, I’m ready. He was the bravest of horse’s with the biggest heart.

It has been 7 years now and only very recently on reading Linda Chamberlain’s blog post about “Otto”, did I find the answer to what had ailed Twister back then. I have no scientific evidence, but my instinct tell’s me that, like Otto his suffering was caused by “glyphosate” poisoning.

We were socialising with the owner of the livery yard, a couple of weeks ago and David asked her if she thought this could be a possibility.” Oh yes,” she said, “very definitely it could be. Our neighbouring farmer sprays the surrounding fields regularly with “Round Up” and he is fully aware of the dangers, as they wear full face masks whilst spraying.” She has asked him to stop on several occasions, but he won’t.

Horse’s are often out grazing in close proximity to agricultural activity, as Twister was. This makes them especially vulnerable to “glyphosate” exposure. I guess that some horse’s, like Otto and Twister are just more sensitive to it than other’s. Nevertheless it should be taken seriously as the spraying season is soon to begin. Ask your neighbouring farmers to tell you when they are going to spray, then bring your horse’s inside.

For your information, Holland has already banned “Round Up” and all products containing “glyphosate”. France and Brazil are to follow. Please sign all petitions to ban it in all countries and share, share, share to raise awareness of the damage this chemical can cause to you, your loved ones and your surroundings.


Are our Horses “Surviving” or “Thriving”?

I believe that this is a question we should all be asking ourselves.

Most of us, including myself, learnt traditional horse management and classical riding, from the moment we began our love affair with horses. We will all have had different experiences too. There are so many ways to enjoy our equine friends whether it is hacking out, showing, endurance, driving, hunting, dressage, cross country, racing, show jumping or horse agility. Continue reading →