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Horse Herbal Wisdom: Three Natural Solutions for Your Equine's Well-being

Updated: Mar 27

For those of you who have horses - have you ever watched what your equine partner is eating in the field? If you turn them out into a fresh pasture - pay attention to the types of herbs they are choosing. Horses will self-medicate and don't just go for what tastes best (although they do plenty of that, too).


Late last summer, I noticed that Valentine (my senior horse who is not a picky eater), selectively nibbling on red clover in a less grazed area. He did this three evenings in a row. This was not just a matter of taste; it was a clear message. As an herb, red clover has cleansing and anti-inflammatory properties. Watching my horse choose this plant was a signal that something was amiss, perhaps a slight imbalance or inflammation he was instinctively trying to correct. Valentine has arthritis, and the cooler nights meant he had some inflammation in his joints when he went in for the night. Red clover was aiding some of that inflammation reduction.


Black and white horse grazing in a field at sunset

3 Horse friendly herbal solutions to try


Below are three easy ways to use herbs to help your equine partner, especially if your horse doesn't have access to fresh pasture where they can self-select herbs to help. Before introducing these to your horse, you should consult with your veterinarian to make sure they are suitable solutions for your horse and that there are no contraindications with any medications or supplements.


  1. Herbal Worming and the Moon Cycle: When it comes to equine care, moving away from chemical wormers can be a step back into the harmonious rhythms of nature. Chemical wormers, while effective, can be harsh, potentially leading to resistance in parasites and disrupting the delicate balance of the horse's gut microbiome. This shift can affect everything from digestion to immunity. In contrast, embracing herbal remedies for worming aligns with our horses' natural cycles and innate wisdom. Guided by the lunar cycle, particularly around the new moon when parasites are more active, we can use a blend of herbs like Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), Garlic (Allium sativum), Kelp (Ascophyllum), Cascara (Rhamnus purshiananodosum), Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra), Chaparral (Larrea tridentata), Fennel ( Foeniculum vulgare), and Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), and a small addition of diatomaceous earth. This approach not only targets parasites but does so in a way that respects the horse's body and the environment. Incorporating these herbs during specific lunar phases enhances their efficacy and aligns the deworming process with natural rhythms, reducing the need for harsh chemicals. This method nurtures the horse from within, promoting a balanced internal ecosystem.

  2. Bruises and Soft-Tissue Injuries: As horse owners, we know that our friends are prone to injuries like bruises and mild sprains. Two plants stand out for their exceptional properties when it comes to soft tissue injuries: Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and Arnica (Arnica Montana). These herbs are for topical use only. Comfrey, with its deep roots and lush leaves, is celebrated for its allantoin content, a compound that accelerates cell regeneration and wound healing. When applied topically as a poultice, comfrey works wonders on bruises, reducing swelling and promoting the repair of damaged tissues. Arnica, a bright yellow daisy-like flower, is used in herbalism for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Ideal for those initial moments post-injury, arnica helps to diminish bruising and ease the discomfort that often follows equine play and exertion. Whether incorporated into a cooling aloe vera gel or used as part of a warm compress, arnica serves as a gentle, yet powerful, ally in reducing topical equine pain and swelling.

A field of dark green foliage with bright yellow daisy-like arnica fowers
Arnica
Plant with slender grey-green leaves and whorls of pale violet flowers
Comfrey


















3. Healthy coat, mane, and tail: Your equine friend deserves the best for their coat, mane, and tail. In the winter, when ts hard to bathe, or in the summer between baths, a few herbs can be helpful topically. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), can be made into a homemade coat spray that not only promotes a glossy sheen but also ensures cleanliness and skin health.


Fresh and dried chamomile flowers
Chamomile
Fresh sprigs of rosemary
Rosemary

Chamomile, known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory qualities, is more than just a tea for a restless night. It serves as a gentle cleanser for the skin, alleviating irritations and promoting healing from the outside in. If you have a light-colored horse, you might want to skip this one, as the yellow color can cause staining.


Rosemary is another herb that lends its strengths to our equine friends. Known for its antimicrobial properties, rosemary helps to keep the skin free from fungal and bacterial infections, contributing to a healthy, itch-free coat. Additionally, its aromatic oils can deter pests, while promoting circulation, which is essential for the growth of strong, healthy hair.


When combined with prepared witch hazel, a natural astringent that cleanses the skin and tightens pores, these herbs create a potent yet gentle spray that revitalizes and refreshes the horse's coat. Witch hazel's soothing properties help to calm skin irritations, making this spray perfect for a quick reresh without a full bath.


To create this herbal coat spray, steep chamomile and rosemary in boiling water, similar to brewing a very strong tea. Once cooled, strain the mixture and add it to a spray bottle, combining it with equal parts witch hazel. Use this blend to mist your horse’s coat, avoiding the eyes and nose, after grooming or bathing. Not only will it leave your horse smelling fresh, but it will also impart a natural shine. You can also use it on your own hair.


Red roan horse grazing

Incorporating these herbs into your horse's care regimen can provide a natural and effective alternative to synthetic medications or topical treatments. In blending the ancient wisdom of herbal care with modern equine needs, we find a balanced approach to healing that honors the natural resilience and vitality of our cherished equine friends.


If you are interested in learning more, I offer herbal consultations for humans and equines. I'm also teaching a herbal workshop as part of the Working Equitation camp, May 9th and 10th, attached to the May 11th & 12th shows at the Fox Valley Saddle Association. In this workshop, I'll introduce you to more herbs that can support both horse and rider.  We will look at herbal solutions for both topical and internal use and learn how to incorporate herbs as supplements to support common health issues, like managing pain, treating bruises, reducing inflammation, assisting with parasites, and other concerns. For more information about the camp and show, please email workingequitationoregon@gmail.com or register here.


Andrea and Valentine




 

Adhara Alchemy is not a licensed medical professional practice and I am not a licensed medical professional. The information provided in my consultations and blog is intended to support your overall health and wellness and is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. It is important to work with your primary healthcare provider and veterinarian and inform them of any herbs or supplements you or your horse are taking. Herbs may have side effects, cause individual sensitivities, or interact with medications, and it is important to discuss these risks with your healthcare provider.

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