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Feeding the horse a Christmas tree? Beware of colic!

Tanja Dietz


2 Min. Lesezeit

It can still decorate our living rooms for a few more days and create a cosy atmosphere. But what to do with the Christmas fir when it starts needling and it's time to throw it out again?

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You often see horse owners throwing their Christmas trees onto the paddock or pasture to give their four-legged partners a treat and a little change from the dull winter routine. Once they have got over the initial shock of the "new guest", most horses are happy to accept this offer, nibble on the branches with relish or even start playing with the Christmas tree and romping around the paddock with it.

Should I feed fir to my horse?

Here it depends a little on which Christmas tree we have brought into the living room or now want to present to our horses. As over 90 % of households buy a Nordmann fir or Norway spruce Christmas tree, it could almost be considered a generally valid statement that it is better not to dispose of the Christmas tree with the horses. Nordmann firs in particular contain alkaloid levels that should not be underestimated. Around three quarters of the alkaloids contained in the fir trees are poisonous and have a severely damaging effect on the kidneys, liver and digestive tract.

Why is turpentine particularly problematic for horses with sensitive stomachs?

By eating the tree bark, horses ingest turpentine (a balsamic oil contained in the tree bark), which can have an irritating effect on the stomach and intestinal mucosa. If the horse already has a sensitive stomach or a damaged stomach lining, the ingestion of turpentine can lead to acute irritation of the mucous membrane. In such horses, nibbling on the Christmas tree can often quickly lead to colic.

How high is the risk of injury to the horse from pine needles?

Another criticism of presenting the Christmas tree to horses is the risk of injury from the needles. In nature, the main purpose of the needles is to protect the tree from predators. The more or less sharp needles can cause the horses to injure their mouths while eating or hurt their eyes while playing.

Conclusion: It is better not to dispose of the Christmas tree with the horses!

As there are no known figures on how much turpentine and alkaloids horses can tolerate and it is not possible to predict how differently each horse will react to them, it is better not to dispose of the Christmas tree with the horses as a precaution, but to put it on the street for collection or to utilise it in some other way.

Anyone who has imagined the Christmas tree as a varied activity for their horse should therefore think about a better alternative that they can possibly even use for their horses all year round.

More on the topic

On our topic page about feeding horses with stomach problems, you can find a wealth of additional information about horse nutrition.

Colic in Horses - An Overview of the Key Facts and Information on Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention of Colic in Horses.

Equine 74 Gastric

The long-term solution

Buffers the excess acid in the horse's stomach instead of blocking it.

Equine 74 Stomach Calm Relax

In case of acute stress

Supports the nervous horse stomach in stressful situations.