Herbs for Equines
Nature’s offering: Herbs (leaves, roots, flowers, bark and fruit), used for thousands of years, are prized for their savoury and aromatic properties; globally used for flavour and garnish and relished for their medicinal purposes. The power of the plant should never be underestimated!
Did you know that there are 89 species of plants, 24 different grasses, 54 herbs and 11 types of wood, all providing the equine with the vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain a healthy body? Plants and herbs have many properties and complement each other: for example, peppermint is widely associated with helping digestion, but did you know that it can also be calming? And here’s yet another reason to keep our hedgerows aplenty: Rosehips are associated with healthy hoof growth, but they are also packed full with Vitamin C aiding the immune system; and the blackberry bush – leaves and berries - are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, fantastic for boosting immunity in preparation for those long Winter months; if available, equines will delicately pick these, as needed! And the dainty-daisy? A close cousin of Chamomile, the daisy is known for its soothing properties both digestively and bronchially.
Equines have evolved over millions of years, living on a natural and simple diet. Wild horses (in the UK, this will include the Dartmoor, Exmoor, Fell and New Forest ponies) roam for miles, grazing, foraging, collecting, self-selecting and self-medicating with plants, herbs, bark, fruits, flowers, as they need and according to seasons. Equines have a physiological need to always have a partially full stomach, eating (grass/forage/hay) for approximately 19 – 20 hours; four hours without eating, and the body goes into physiological stress, with possible behavioural reactions to that stress. Chewing does two things: it releases endorphins in the brain, literally creating happy feelings in your horse (I know the feeling!), and it initiates saliva production – 10 – 12 litres a day are produced – from the mandibular, parotid and sublingual glands, which softens and lubricates the food. Unlike in humans and dogs, equines do not create saliva by the smell or sight of food, they have to chew to stimulate it! Saliva contains calcium bicarbonate and therefore is slightly alkaline; saliva is the first defence against offsetting acidity in the stomach.
Variety is the spice of life!
Our paddocks today rarely provide ample space to roam; the herbage to forage; the ability to self-select; nor contain the grass types healthy for horses.
Seasons, age, workload, environment and management all influence your horse and, just like us, their needs frequently change. More often than not, we restrict forage to specific times of the day and give the same feed -grains that are unnatural to the equine, difficult to digest and an overload of sugars and starch, which often create inflammatory responses – 365 days of the year.
Based in science, and training with Sharon Bronsveld, we offer a unique way of testing [in-person or remotely] and measuring for herbs and supplements individualised to your horse, giving an insight into what your horse needs support for, and working towards improving internal health and balance. Together with enough forage (hay and/or grass) the herb mix can be an addition to concentrates or instead of. Alternatively, make a tea from the herbs and, once cooled, pour over the feed and mix well OR simply sprinkle the herbs over your horses’ hay!