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HERBS FOR HORSES
Why do horses need herbs?
When horses roamed in the wild they had access to a varied diet which included many plants and herbs. They had an in-built self-awareness, it seems, of what was harmful to eat and also what was good to eat. Self-medication is a phrase commonly used to explain how horses selected different plants at different times to meet their individual dietary and health needs.
A horse is a strong animal with lots of stamina which is used to travelling long distances for its forage when necessary. Today, horses which have been domesticated lead a much more settled life often mirroring their human owners less peripatetic life-styles; their access to a naturally varied diet sufficient to suit individual needs has been severely restricted. The days of horses enjoying herb-rich meadows or original uncultivated downland are long past.
So where’s the problem?
Domesticated horses appear to have largely lost this innate ability to choose what’s good for them, having to make do with what humans provide. Although most horse owners love their animals to distraction and will do anything to keep them fit, healthy and happy, the fact is that, try as we may, we get the feeding needs wrong from time to time and impose, without realising it, a stressful regimen which may cause illness.
The Immune System
Your horse has an amazing defence system against bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites. It’s called the Immune System.
The skin is the primary boundary between germs and the body.
When an insect bites your horse and penetrates the skin a red, itchy bump of some sort will occur. This is the Immune System protecting your horse in very much the same way your own Immune System protects you against a mosquito bite.
The Immune System is degraded by stress, toxins (food, environmental and drugs), allergens, over exposure to UV, viral/ bacterial infections, bad dietary habits, ageing and genetics.
Herbs support the proper working of your horse’s Immune System. So they play a vital role in your horse’s health.
Study your horse’s body language and get to know when it is stressed.
Make a point of studying the situations which create stress for your horse, and then take steps to remove or reduce them.
Even when your horse appears healthy include immune support herbal products in his diet; but don’t force him to eat anything he doesn’t seem to like. Your horse knows best what suits him. Learn to notice and understand his foody needs – he can’t speak to you!
The Role of Herbs.
Herbs play an important role in a horse’s behaviour, digestion, breathing, skin, joints, muscles, tendons and hooves.
Breathing – use a special herbal respiratory product to keep airways clean and to help with pollutants such a traffic emissions, and pollen from cultivated crops like Rape. Depending on the condition, support these principal formulae with other herbal products. If in doubt, consult your online veterinary herbalist.
Behaviour - use a herbal calming formula for a horse under stress, or which is head tossing, showing signs of nervousness; or overactive geldings and stallions and mares in the breeding season.
Digestion - use a liver tonic and detoxifier on a regular basis. This will ensure your horse has a healthy liver and digestion, enabling it to make the best use of its food. In turn this directly effects your horse’s performance and general health and fitness.
Skin – use special preparations for lumps, itching, & muddy conditions; a herbal shampoo for the horse’s coat, herbal gel for the hoof, sole and heel. There are also products which keep flies away (fly sprays) and internal fly repellents.
Joints, muscles, hooves, and tendons - if you horse’s health is below par wear and tear to muscles, joints and ligaments occurs faster than your horse’s ability to repair the damage. Herbs help to bring the body back into balance, ease pain and facilitate movement.
If you need advice on your horse’s health, or not sure of the best herbal products to use, please phone Stephen Ashdown or a member of his team at the Advice Centre in Chichester, West Sussex. National/International and mobile phone numbers are available on that site.
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