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A case in which a man was banned from keeping horses for 10 years highlights the importance of clearing ragwort from grazing land.

Alfie Southall from Lye, Worcs, appeared before Kidderminster Magistrates Court on 4 February.

The court heard that a 16-year-old mare had been grazed on a field in Stourport-on-Severn, which was 50-60% weeds, when she was found in June last year.

A vet was called out and diagnosed the horse with severe liver damage, caused by ragwort. She was put down.

Southall pleaded guilty to failing to protect his mare from pain, suffering and disease and by failing to address the signs of ragwort poisoning, as well as allowing her to ingest the weed.

He was also ordered to do 250hr of unpaid work and to pay £1,000 costs.

RSPCA inspector Suzi Smith said: “Ragwort can result in an extremely painful death. This defendant said he knew of the dangers of ragwort for horses, but saw no problem in continuing to let his horses graze on it.”

The RSPCA received 485 calls about ragwort in 2013.

Lee Hackett of the British Horse Society told H&H the organisation had also received more ragwort reports.

“We commend and fully support the RSPCA in taking this prosecution. Complying with legislation should be one motivating factor to encourage people to remove ragwort, but that pales into insignificance when you consider the threat it poses to horses,” he said.

If ragwort is on your land, you must dig it up from the roots (wearing gloves). If you see ragwort growing, report it to your local council.

➤ For more on the health risks of ragwort and other common poisonous plants, don’t miss H&H’s vet report on 13 March

This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (20 February 2014)