When your horse comes up to you with burrs stuck to different parts of its body, it can be really disheartening. Not only are burrs often difficult to remove, but doing so can break the horse's mane and tail hairs. Burrs also can irritate a horse's eyes, ears, and nose. It might be tempting to cut out really awful mats of burrs, but with patience and proper grooming technique, this usually isn't necessary.
Detangling Burrs From Hair
If there are only a few burrs and they’ve been in a short time, you can probably pull them out with your fingers. But really thick mats of burrs might need a more aggressive approach.
The easiest way to break up a mat of burrs is by dowsing the area with a detangler or baby/mineral oil. This is an especially useful grooming tip for addressing the mane and tail areas. Let the oil or detangler sit for a bit to soften the burrs before you start pulling.
Start from the bottom of the mat, and gradually pull apart the hairs while dislodging the burrs. Very gently brush the hairs as you go, being careful not to break them. Don’t be tempted to use a metal comb or rake, as these tend to break the hair. Grooming sprays can help, especially ones containing ingredients that make the hair slippery.
The burrs and grooming products can be irritating to your hands, so keep a good pair of gloves for this job. A close-fitting pair of rubberized gardening gloves can offer enough dexterity while protecting your hands.
Getting Rid of Burr Plants
Once you’ve cleaned all the burrs from your horse, make sure you dispose of them where they won’t sprout. Dumping them on the manure pile or sweeping them out the barn door might land you with a crop of burrs right next to your barn. Don’t put them in a composter either. Instead, throw them in the garbage, or burn them on your next bonfire.
To avoid having to pull burrs again, you’ll need to eradicate the weeds from your paddocks and pastures. The common burdock is a biennial. It grows leaves and roots its first year, and it flowers and goes to seed in its second year before it dies.
There are two times when you can cut down burdock to stop its growth. Early in the spring, use a sharp spade to chop the first leaves popping up at soil level. This should kill the plant. But if the plant already has leaves, cut it down just as it begins to flower. This way, the plant thinks it has produced seeds and shouldn't grow again. If you cut down the plant before it flowers, it will attempt to come back and flower the following year.
You can try chemical herbicides, but these need to be used with great care in horse pastures. Horses typically must be kept away from any sprayed areas until the herbicide is dry.