Just as in humans your horse’s sense of taste is closely associated with his sense of smell. A horse’s tongue is lined with small, sensitive fleshy projections called papillae that allow him to experience a variety of tastes. These papillae also exist in humans, and work in exactly the same way. Interestingly, the highest concentration of these papillae, which can really be thought of as the taste receptors, are found at the back of the tongue.
Horses are fussy eaters, which is actually to their great benefit, as due to the fact that they are unable to vomit they have to be very careful about what they ingest. Taste, of course, plays a huge role in horse’s selecting what they are going to eat. Their sense of taste is particularly helpful if their diet is lacking in a specific nutrient, as their sense of taste allows them to identify the foods they need in their environment.
It has long been thought that horses would naturally not eat anything poisonous to them. However, in recent years doubt has been cast on this theory, particularly in the domestic setting. A horse’s paddock often has reasonably restricted grazing, especially during our winters, and if your horse is hungry, or there is little else to eat or keep him occupied, the chances of him eating toxic plants is fairly high. It is therefore vital that owners do remove poisonous plants, trees and shrubs from the paddocks, and not just ‘hope’ that their horse will realise the plant is poisonous.