A WELL-RESPECTED High-land animal aid worker has made a heartfelt appeal to the unknown owner of a horse in Sutherland she thinks might be in danger of ragwort poisoning.
Iona Nicol spotted the light coloured Highland pony grazing on a strip of ground in the centre of Spinningdale on Tuesday.
Mrs Nicol founded the registered charity Munlochy Animal Aid 34 years ago, along with her late mother, Margaret MacDonald.
She said: “I was really concerned to see that the field in which the pony was grazing was covered in yellow ragwort which is poisonous to horses.”
A biennial plant, flowering in its second year, ragwort has clusters of yellow, flattened flower heads, and leaves that are much divided, almost looking feathery.
Horses suffer liver damage after ingesting it, with the toxic effect building up over time.
Animals get just as ill from eating small amounts over a long period of time as they would from eating a large amount at the one time.
Affected animals stop eating, suffer stomach pains and lose weight and then co-ordination.
They also struggle to breathe and eventually go blind.
Mrs Nicol has personal experience of caring for a rescue horse with ragwort poisoning.
“I was really horrified to see the pony at Spinningdale because we have lost a horse ourselves,” she said.
“We put a lot of effort and hard work and tried everything, including homeopathic treatments, to save the pony, but it was all to no avail.”
An anxious Mrs Nicol said she does not have many contacts in Sutherland so decided to make an appeal through The Northern Times.
But she stresses she is not making any judgement calls or apportioning any blame.
“It did upset me, but I don’t know the circumstances and I don’t know who owns the pony,” she said.
“I just think that perhaps the person looking after it doesn’t realise just how lethal the plant can be or how dangerous a situation the horse is in. There did not appear to be much grazing in the ground and horses will start eating ragwort if there is nothing else.
“I want to make a direct appeal to whoever is involved. Please be aware that the horrible yellow weed is lethal to your pony. Get your pony out of there and then lift the ragwort and burn it.”
She added: “Losing an animal is so distressing but it is even worse when it is preventable.”