Perfect plants for paddocks and pastures: Horse-friendly hedging and Trees

hedging for horses

As if all the other benefits of trees and hedging to the landscape aren’t already enough, they’re a godsend to horses, too!  In amongst the hedgerows is also a good source of forage for them and can provide variety in their diet… but be careful what you plant as some can be harmful.

So, what should you look for when planning new planting in your paddocks or pastures?

  1. Keep it native:  A mixed native hedge containing a variety of native species creates a more attractive and varied boundary, blends with the natural landscape and will contain nothing nasty to spoil your horse’s day.
  2. Shade, shelter or boundary: In the summer, trees and hedges provide a welcome respite from the sun, giving shade and relief from flies.  In winter, they provide invaluable shelter spots for horses to protect themselves from wind and rain.

HEDGING – Safe for horses, great for boundaries

TREES– Shade for horses, great for shelter

  1. Choose plants for your horse’s safety:  There are several species that are poisonous to horses such as yew, laurel and privet.  There is no need to remove any pre-existing oaks, one of our most valuable species, but beware that the acorns can also be poisonous to your equine friends, to rake them up and remove them or consider temporary fencing when they fall in the autumn.


  1. Manage and maintain your hedge well – it will soon provide a thick screen if looked after.
  2. Blend in: Try and look at old established hedging in the area and replicate the species and proportions used to help blend your new hedgerow into the landscape, too.
  3. How will you plant it?   A new boundary hedge should be planted in at least double lines, about 30cm wide with 5 plants per metre.  The lines should be staggered, but parallel.  In about 5 years, your hedge will be established, with minimal replacement where gaps may occur.
  4. Protect, protect, PROTECT!  Make sure you protect your new hedging plants with tree protection – not only to stave off any horseplay, but to protect and promote good growth in your hedge’s early months.
  5. Fence it off:  Be sure to fence off your pasture from the growing hedge, as your horse will more than likely love any tasty young buds – and may try and pull off tree protection for their own amusement! Fencing out trees and hedges will protect but remember, horses and ponies have a long reach – fences should be at least 2 metres away from newly planted hedges.
  6. Avoid dung tipping:  Don’t tip fresh dung into hedge bottoms and woodlands as it can kill hedging and wildflowers as they are less likely to thrive in overly-rich soils.  Well-rotted manure is fine for hedging plants, just not the fresh kind!

As well as being suitable plants to use around horses and livestock, we also know from our recent blogs, planting native species of trees and hedging not only contributes to the local landscape quality, but it provides great benefit to birds, mammals and insects.  The “wildlife corridor” a hedgerow creates enables animals to move between habitats.

To find out more about planting trees and hedging for boundaries and shade cover for horses, visit the British Horse Society website and download their Pasture Management document.

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14 Responses to “Perfect plants for paddocks and pastures: Horse-friendly hedging and Trees”

  1. Jenny Crouch says:

    Please can you update your list of Plants that are poisonous to horses, it should include the Sycamore Maple – Acer pseudoplatanus

    • Trees & Hedging Team says:

      Thank you, Jenny. Duly noted and our recommendations updated to include this. Regards, the Trees and Hedging Team

  2. Hannah Cowdry says:

    Please also remove field maple from your “suitable ” lists, there seems to be a possibility that ANY maple, as well as sycamore, may be involved in atypical myopathy cases.

    • Trees & Hedging Team says:

      Hannah, thanks for your note and taking the time to inform us of this. We have removed all reference to maples on that piece and will update our advice accordingly. The Trees and Hedging Team

  3. Nicola says:

    What about beech? That’s native and much used in my area but not mentioned on your safe list. Is beech ok for use around horses?

    • Trees & Hedging Team says:

      Thank your for your question. We do not include Fagus sylvatica (Beech)in our safe list as the nuts of the tree are highly toxic to horses. Regards, the Trees and Hedging team

  4. Michelle Moorhead says:

    Is there a tall evergreen that is safe to plant as a windbreak within reach of horses please?

    • Trees & Hedging Team says:

      Western Red Cedar is the only option really and appears to be safe for horses but evidence is not 100% conclusive. Regards, The Trees & Hedging Team

  5. Cassy says:

    Hello, I’m looking to plant a hedge as a windbreak for horses and I see that quickthorn is good. It’s a really windy area so do I need to protect the plants from the wind until they establish? We have many pines on the property with wind burn. Thanks

    • Trees & Hedging Team says:

      Hi Cassy, we would suggest a 0.6m x 38/50mm spiral (depending on age of plant, 1 yr. 38mm, 2 year + 50mm) and a 0.9 x 14/16 cane. This will protect the plant sufficiently for the first few years, until established. Kind regards, The Trees & Hedging Team

  6. Krista says:

    We have an existing pittosporum hedge. What are your thoughts on this plant as a hedge in the horse enclosure?


    • Trees & Hedging Team says:

      Krista, pittosporum is widely quoted as being poisonous to horses so it is inadvisable to allow any access to it by your horses. Please note this is not one of the plant varieties we stock. Regards, the Trees and Hedging team.

  7. Millie says:

    Hi, I have recently bought a house with land for my horses and the previous owners planned lots of conifers (Leylandi) for a wind break. Would you be able to tell me if they poisonous for horses?

    • Trees & Hedging Team says:

      Millie, all the research we have seen indicates there is a potential risk to horses if digested. Definitely worth considering fencing to ensure direct contact is prevented. Regards, The Trees and Hedging Team

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