Horse-Safe Gardening Solutions

By Laura Miller | May 20, 2022
Image by Kirkikis
by Laura Miller
May 20, 2022

When I look out my back window, what I see can best be described as ugly. Sure, the notion of having two horses playing in the backyard conjures up beautiful images of white split-rail fencing and miles of lush, green pastures, but that’s not the reality of suburban horse ownership.

My horse fence is designed not only to keep my horses safely inside the pasture, but also to keep other creatures out. This wood and wire barricade prevents anything from stray dogs and coyotes to an unsupervised toddler safely away from my horses. The fence is functional, but not what one would call beautiful.

As gardeners, we know thoughtful landscaping can hide or conceal unsightly areas of the yard. And to be honest, someday I’d like to improve the looks of my backyard pasture area by adding shrubs and flowering plants in front of the fence. Unfortunately, so many of our beautiful landscaping plants are toxic to horses.  

Plants Toxic to Horses And Pets

Poisonous plants are a common problem for homeowners with pets and small children as well. This doesn’t mean gardeners can’t use these plants in the landscaping, it means we must be careful where we place them. For me, this means not growing toxic plants in or around the barn and pastures. Here are a few ornamental plants which are best kept inaccessible to horses, pets and young children:

  • Chinese Lantern
  • Daffodil
  • Easter lily
  • Elephant ear
  • Foxglove
  • Hydrangea
  • Larkspur
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Moonflower
  • Mountain laurel
  • Oleander
  • Rhododendron
  • Yew

Locating these plants near my house, such as the flowerbeds in the front yard, are a wonderful opportunity for me to include these beautiful plants in my landscaping. But it leaves me with the question of what can I plant in the stable area of the backyard? 

Horse Safe Plants

A little research shows that the following plants are considered safer choices should my horses nibble on them. (This doesn’t mean these plants may not cause health issues if consumed in large quantities.) 

  • Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)
  • Banana (Musa spp.)
  • Cockscomb (Celosia plumosa)
  • Coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea)
  • Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Gerber Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
  • Hens and chickens (Echeveria elegans)
  • Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
  • Marigold (Calendula officinalis
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) 
  • Petunia (Petunia spp.)
  • Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)
  • Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus )
  • Sunflower (helianthus angustifolius )
  • Zinnia (Zinnia spp.)

Additionally, many herb and vegetable garden plants are considered safe for horses to consume in small amounts. These include some of my garden favorites:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chervil
  • Cilantro
  • Cucumbers
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Melons
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Squash
  • Swiss Chard
  • Thyme
  • Zucchini

Whatever plants I choose for the stable area, one thing is for sure. I’ll be sure to double-check my choices with both my county extension agent and my veterinarian before planting!

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