Owners are being urged to share information on the impact of ragwort on their horses as part of a major new research project launched this week (21 July) by the British Horse Society (BHS).

The new survey, which is being supported by Defra, aims to assess the current levels of awareness and concern about the highly poisonous weed that causes extensive liver damage and, in some cases, death.

Lee Hackett from the BHS said: “We know that ragwort is an issue that greatly concerns our members, and indeed all responsible owners, so we are delighted to be working with Defra on this research project.

“Ragwort kills horses every year and there is absolutely no excuse for this — such deaths are completely avoidable. We need everyone who cares about horses to complete our survey so that we can better understand the extent of the problem.The results will also help inform legislation and other measures surrounding ragwort.”

H&H reader Dawn Pattenson, whose horse was put down from liver poisoning after being allowed to graze on the weed while on loan, has welcomed this step.

“It is an absolutely devastating experience to witness a horse poisoned by ragwort,” she told H&H. “I hope with more information it might be possible to bring in stricter regulations on controlling ragwort and harsher punishments for people who allow horses to eat it.”

The online survey is open until 15 August. To complete the survey, visit www.bhs.org.uk/ragwort

First published in Horse & Hound magazine on 24 July 2014