As herbivores, it is natural for horses to seek out and eat herbs, such as comfrey, red clover, garlic, dandelion and nettle, which have healing properties in their seeds, flowers, roots, stems or leaves.
Feeding herbs requires common sense, patience and a degree of observation and monitoring – always consult your vet before offering a specific herb as treatment for any condition.
Some Commonly Used Herbs Found Locally
Rich in vitamin C, iron, sodium, chlorophyll, protein and dietary fibre, nettles are a useful addition to feed if chopped and left to wilt, or – when made into a spring tonic – as a blood cleanser and conditioner to ward off skin ailments, such as sweet itch. The recommended daily dosage is 40-50g added to feed.
Boasting great eliminative properties through liver and kidney, the plant is beneficial in the absorption of iron, making it useful in the veterinary treatment of anaemia.
Nettles also help stimulate circulation, which is useful in cases of laminitis, rheumatism and arthritis.
Occasionally, the plant may cause urticaria, an allergic skin rash resembling welts, even when taken internally, so it is best avoided if a reaction occurs.
Dandelions are a good source of potassium, calcium, iron and beta-carotene. Efficient at stimulating appetite and boosting digestion.
As well as being a mild laxative, this plant is also used to cleanse the blood of impurities, and for rheumatism, arthritis and laminitis. All parts of the plant are safe and effective to use.
Garlic is one of the most popular herbs, whose most common uses are repelling flies, aiding digestion, preventing coughs and worms and maintaining all-round good health, as it is an excellent antioxidant.
Garlic is rich in vitamin C, thiamine and potassium, and also contains sulphur, which is a recognised blood cleanser.
This bulb helps to reduce blood pressure in excitable horses and those competing, and has a positive effect on respiratory disorders.
A good winter-warming remedy, garlic can be fed as a pure herb or in powder, oil, granulated or shredded form. As a general additive, two cloves of garlic can be put in your horse’s feed daily. For those suffering from a viral infection, feed four cloves per day.
The root is used in herbal preparations as a sedative to relieve nervous tension – such as when a horse arrives at a new paddock – or to calm over-excitable horses, without affecting performance.
Valerian combines extremely well with other relaxing herbs, such as chamomile and hops, to make a general calming blend, and can be helpful in settling the digestive system.
It is also said to be a good treatment for cramps, colic, bronchial spasm, flatulence, nervous exhaustion and cases of constipation.
Although valerian is a non-addictive herb without side effects, it is a natural tranquilizer and can cause drowsiness, so you should always consult your vet before using it. It is also a banned substance under competition rules.
Research Credit: Horse & Hound