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Survey of issues relating to ragwort and equine management - SCF0204

Common ragwort is one of the so called injurious weeds listed in the Weeds Act 1959. It is considered a cause of huge concern to many horse-owners who believe the plant to be a danger to their horses, and likely to cause liver damage or even the death of the horse. They invest large amounts of resource, both through labour and financial expense, in trying to control the weed. Historically, livestock owners have sought the complete eradication of common ragwort due to the perceived threat it poses to their animals’ lives. However, it is now more widely recognised that common ragwort plays an important part in Britain’s ecosystem and particularly in the lifecycles of a number of invertebrate species. Consequently, there is a need to balance the removal of ragwort to protect grazing animals and its preservation to support the ecosystem. There is a significant lack of knowledge into what this balance should be and this research seeks to improve the evidence base on which policy, educational and environmental messages are based.

This research is needed to update our knowledge about the true impact of Ragwort. Working with Defra and equestrian community contacts, this research will undertake an extensive survey to assess beliefs, the reality of the impact of ragwort toxicity on horses and the prevalence and geographical spread of the plant. The outcomes from the survey and analysis will inform policy development and communication to British Horse Society members. The research will inform measures to ensure appropriate and proportionate use of, for example, the Weeds Act 1959 and Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The British Horse Society (BHS) is the largest equestrian charity in the UK and using approximately 112,000 (80,000 BHS, 32,000 British Riding Club) members, all of whom have an active interest in horses, will provide robust results to enable the provision of sound information and advice around the management of horses. Through access to BHS members and other Equine Sector Council partners, this research will facilitate practical evidence gathering together with ongoing communications to the relevant audiences.
1. Data collection – To understand the gather current information. To include impacts, geographical spread, owners perceptions, land owner perceptions

• Develop a broadly based survey to provide a robust assessment of current perceptions and knowledge gaps within both the policy-makers and the stakeholder groups.

• Agree and build a suitable user-friendly digital survey using existing, off the shelf, survey software and host on the BHS IT framework.

• Actively promote the survey to BHS members and the wider equestrian public through Equine Sector Council member bodies making full use of social media and targeted media and communications activity to encourage high levels of participation.

2. Review and analyse the data - analyselanalyse the data to ensure that information and perceptions are up to date

• Analysis of data and draw up initial findings for discussion
• After agreement on main conclusions and further actions required, use these findings as the basis for a Ragwort evidence discussion

3. Update advice and information - to ensure that the advice made available is up to date and relevant and accessible by relevant stakeholders

• Full report to provide results, methodology and conclusions
• Assess need to update policy guidelines and Ragwort management advice to the equestrian community through various sources including the BHS website.
• Ensure that stakeholders and interested parties are actively directed to this source of information and in particular during the 2015 Ragwort growing season.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : RagwortSurveySummaryReport final   (598k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2014

To: 2015

Cost: £20,835
Contractor / Funded Organisations
The British Horse Society