"Herbs and Horses - The Benefits

"Herbs and Horses - The Benefits

Health & Safety

Herbal remedies have been around for centuries and man has benefited from their healing properties to treat all sorts of health problems. However, when it comes to supplementing a horse's diet with herbal mixtures, this is a relatively new trend and it's one that is definitely worth investigating.

Although herbs should never be used as an alternative to any veterinary medication a horse might need, they can certainly help in the treatment of many conditions and especially during the recovery process. Keeping a horse healthy and fit is important but so is keeping them happy mentally. There are herbal mixtures readily available these days that help settle nervous horses down, and when given as a supplement over time, they can take that “edge” off a horse without affecting its performance in any way whatsoever.

Nervous Horses & Herbs

There are many useful herbs that help nervous horses feel more settled and although the effects of feeding them might not be apparent straight away, if feeds are supplemented with the herbs over a period of 4 weeks or so, the benefits really do become noticeable. Popular herbs many people like to supplement a nervous or “stressy” horses' feed with include the following:

  • Chamomile
  • Valerian
  • Vervain
  • Hops

When looking for a herbal supplement with calming properties makes sure it contains any of the above. Vervain is also extremely useful when fed to mares that have a tendency to suffer from PMT.

Keeping the Immune System Healthy

Echinacea has for a long time been used to supplement a horse's diet and is particularly useful in supporting the immune system. The herb also helps increase the amount of red blood cells found in the blood which makes it very popular with race-horse trainers and other people who ride performance horses. The higher the amount of red cells in the blood – the more oxygen could be carried in the blood which makes it a lot easier for horses in intensive work to recover.

Herbs that Support the Urinary, Digestive and Respiratory Tract

There are herbs that help support the urinary, digestive and respiratory tracts and if these three things are healthy then you can be sure your horse is healthy all round. Supplementing a horse's diet with powdered liquorice root helps reduce inflammation because it contains Glycyrrhizinic Acid. This soothes the airways and can reduce inflammation. Liquorice is particularly good for horses suffering with a cough or any other respiratory issues. As a bonus liquorice helps fight off the viruses that can cause a respiratory problem in the first place.

It has aspirin-like qualities so it is effective when used to relieve a fever and has shown to be particularly useful at easing any stress especially after surgery, making it a great choice of supplements to feed to a horse that's in recovery after surgery or an illness.

Another very useful herb is fenugreek which is particularly effective when used as a digestive tonic because it helps a horse's system make the most of the food they eat. As a result a bad doer will do very well if this herb is added as a supplement in their feed, helping them to gain weight. The beauty of fenugreek is that it's composition is very much like that of cod liver oil with the seeds being extremely rich in valuable vitamins as well as being extremely nutritious too.

Fenugreek has proved to be very useful in the treatment of gastric ulcers and at soothing inflamed intestines making it a valuable herb to give a horse who has suffered from a colic. The herb is also very effective at helping a horse recover from any sort of lung infection or sinus congestion.

The more common herbs which are often found in meadows and even back gardens that are useful at supporting digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts include the following:

  • Calendula
  • Mint
  • Rosehips
  • Dandelion
  • Nettles
  • Goosegrass
  • Hawthorn

Cutting these and offering them to a horse is a great way of testing out whether or not your horse will eat them – the chances are they will. However, herbal mixtures containing calendula (marigold) are particularly good as the flowers contain effective antiseptic properties which means they are very good at fighting off infections.

Slippery elm powder is another great herb that's rich in so many ways especially mucilage. It can be given to horses either as a medicine or as a food. The herb soothes any inflammation both internally and externally which makes it a fantastic base for poultices. This is especially useful when there's an infection or a splinter that needs drawing out of the wound.

Foal scour can be treated with slippery elm powder although the herb is also good for older horses with digestive problems too. Mixed with honey or live yoghurt, slippery elm powders is a great treatment for ulceration and colitis.

What About Horses with Respiratory Problems?

Many horse owners have to deal with a respiratory problem at some time or another because there are many causes for the condition both in ponies and horses. There are effective blends of herbs on the market that treat respiratory issues whether they are chronic or other. When you look for a mixture make sure they contain any or all of the following herbs:

  • garlic
  • hyssop
  • boneset
  • white horehound
  • chamomile

All of these herbs when combined can be extremely useful when treating the symptoms of chronic respiratory diseases seen in horses and ponies.

Arthritis: A Debilitating Condition

Anyone who suffers from arthritis knows how debilitating the condition can be, Horses suffer just as humans do with many animals being afflicted with it at a very early age – some equines can get arthritis at three years old. The following herbs are particularly useful in helping the condition when fed as a supplement to horses:

  • dandelion
  • comfrey
  • burdock
  • nettle
  • devil's claw

All of the herbs listed above when combined can be really good at alleviating any discomfort a horse might be feeling due to arthritis, and although it takes a while for the herbs to make a difference, feeding them to a horse over a period of a few weeks, you will certainly see a marked difference in how your horse moves.

At the end of the day, horse owners want the best for the mounts at all times. Feeding herbal supplements when combined with a well balanced diet that includes plenty of fibre and regular exercise, is the key to having a healthy, relaxed and happy horse.

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