Natural remedies I’ve taken quite a interest in. Having only tried a few out myself I can’t say for sure if they all work or not, however the few that I have tried have given some interesting results, but there are so many natural remedies that you can make for horses just using herbs that can be found yourself.
You can buy herbal mixes for horses that can help with a number of internal or external ailments, but do we actually know what the different herbs do for our horse? The mixes that we buy usually contain a number of different herbs. For example Dodson&Horrell Breathe-Free mix contains white horehound, coltsfoot, hyssop, red clover heads, aniseed and garlic granules. All herbs that when mixed together will benefit your horses respiratory track and immune system. Below are some of the most common herbs used in the equine world.
Every horse owner knows that garlic is a favourite with most horses! Garlic has several actions. Its a antibiotic, expectorant, antihistamine and anti parasitic. The strong scent of garlic are excreted through the horses skin and acts as a fly repellent. It helps horses with respiratory problems such as coughing or bronchitis. Garlic is good for cleansing your horses blood meaning with regular use it is a good preventative measure for horse prone to laminitis, sweet itch, skin and arthritic problems. Not only can garlic be added to your horses diet, crushed up garlic cloves can be used on a poultice and used on infected or dirty wounds! Garlic can be fed fresh (ideally up to 5 cloves a day) but you might find that most horses prefer the garlic as either a powder or the granules. You can also get garlic horse licks which my loan horse Bubbles loves!
A plant that everybody knows and probably hates but nettles are a valuable food and medicine source as they are rich in minerals especially iron, calcium and potassium. The ‘cleansing’ effect is useful for laminitis, arthritis, rheumatism, sweet itch and other skin conditions. The root of the nettle can be heated and boiled to be used externally or internally to improve the condition of the horses mane, tail and coat. Broodmares can benefit from nettles to improve their milk flow and boost their iron levels. Horses don’t really naturally eat nettles, but they can be gathered when flowering and then dried out for use. Just make sure you wear gloves when gathering them!
Most horses will eat dandelions and will love them! Dandelions are rich in potassium and they cleanse the horses blood making them useful in laminitis, skin diseases and rheumatism. They stimulate excretion of water from the body via the kidneys and also act as a liver and digestive tonic. Dandelion is described as bitter therefore it encourages horses to eat more and it can act as a mild laxative. Dandelions are a plant that your horse will love and could benefit him in the long run!
The seeds of this herb help to improve your horses over all hoof and body condition. Combined with garlic this will help the horse with any respiratory problems and the seeds can be used as a poultice as long as they have been dried and crushed first. You can grow Fenugreek yourself but it is mostly the seeds that you will use.
The flower heads of the clover can be used in several ways. They can be fed fresh, dried, crushed or can be made into a syrup. Feeding the clovers fresh will help clean the horses blood which could help treat skin irritations such as sweet itch. They are know to treat bronchitis when fed either fresh, dried or as a syrup. The syrup can be made by boiling sugar and water together and then use a wooden spoon to place the syrup on the horses tongue. Obviously check to make sure it has cooled down before you do so! Nothing worse than a burnt tongue! The clovers can be crushed and rubbed onto insect bites, mud fever and any spots where your horse might have rubbed/itched his skin.
Probably best to purchase this rather than gather it yourself as it can be easily open to a contaminated environment. It’s rich in minerals such as iron, potassium and calcium and is the perfect food accessory for horses that are on poor grazing fields. It is thought to be helpful for horses with arthritis and any rheumatic conditions. Seaweed is a good conditioner for your horses coat and hooves and can help promote the loss of your horses winter coat. One of my old work colleague’s used to feed her 16 year old horse seaweed and he loved it. He had a beautiful coat, it help ease his joints and kept him feeling younger (and he definitely acted it sometimes).
Widely popular in the equine world already, Linseed has many benefits! Linseed oil can be used as a either a mild laxative or for respiratory infections. The seeds can also be crushed and used as a poultice to foment abscesses. Older horses may benefit from Linseed as it helps maintain condition, acts as a anti-inflammatory and eases arthritis. If you are wanting to pick the herb yourself, make sure it is boiled first as they contain prussic acid which is a poison, therefore they must be boiled for about 2 hours before being fed.
These are normally fed to horses for their biotin content. Biotin helps with your horses hoof growth and Rosehips are rich in vitamin C, E and K. They can be used to help a horse with any liver based disease such as laminitis.
Everybody knows what a raspberry plant looks likes and how raspberries taste but they hold so many medicinal benefits! The leaves can be fed to pregnant horses (ideally during the last 8 weeks. It should not be fed during early pregnancy) and after they have given birth to help tone the pelvic and enhances the mares milk production.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a horse that doesn’t love mint. Bubbles loves mint licks, polos and the plant. Mint is a well known favourite amongst most horses. It helps relax the muscles of the digestive tract which could help horses prone to colic. The scent and flavour also encourages any fussy eaters! If you are wanting to use it for a fussy feeder, it is best to be sprinkled on top of a already mixed feed. Peppermint oil has anti-fungal properties meaning it can be useful for horses with ringworm. Fresh mint can also be rubbed on insect bites or bee stings.
The petals of this plant can be used as a anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and can be used to heal wounds. The plant is highly important for horses with liver and digestive problems. You can make a infusion which can be used for thrush, ringworm and for washing wounds. Marigold cream is excellent for wounds and skin conditions. It provides a soothing effect for horses that might be suffering from mud fever and the anti-bacterial properties can help promote recovery. It’s the one plant that every horse owner should have in their garden!
Chamomile is know for it’s calming effect. It can be fed to horses before a competition or before travelling to calm their nerves without having an effect on the horses performance. It can also help horses who suffer from colic due to stress or nervousness to help keep them calm. You can also get Chamomile cream which is useful for skin conditions such as sweet itch and you can also make a compress which can be used for mares who might have a sore udder. When i worked with competition horse, some of them were fed Chamomile before they went to competitions and it was interesting seeing how calm they were before they left. I’ve known a few mares who were fed Chamomile to help them with their ‘mareish’ behaviour.
Obviously it goes without saying, always check with your vet beforehand and if you have any doubts. If you are a regular competitor it is always best to check the rules and regulations to make sure no natural herbs are banned.
Everybody knows that going natural is healthier and in the long run could work out cheaper, whether you believe it or not. Herbs have been used for many, many years. Way before we got all these tablets, injections and what not. Whether you start off buying a herbal mix for your horse, or go straight to growing and picking your own, knowing that you are providing your horse natural products is a lot more satisfying and comforting (for me anyway) and i’m sure your horse will be thankful for the extra herbs.
The sun is shining here, so i’m gonna head off to the yard and make the most of it!
Enjoy your day!
Love you lots,