Horse owners and managers are consistently made aware of the beneficial qualities herbs have for horses. However you do not need to be a trained herbalist to include benefiting herbs into your horse’s diet. The easiest way to incorporate herbs into a horse’s diet is by planting herbal areas for grazing within your pastures.
Establishing these strips or herb patches in your paddocks or pasture will allow your horse or pony free access to beneficial herbs, allowing them to consume them as and when required.
We took a look at the most commonly included herbs in the paddock or pasture and why you should look into including them into your horse’s diet.
The Oldest and Most Common Planted Herbs
Lucern is not often fed to horses fresh. It is however, a herb that is commonly fed to horses as hay or chaff – which is mixed into feed rations. It is high in protein and calcium with a great amount of digestible fibre, especially the first cut. When fed green it acts as a laxative and is good for horses undergoing rehabilitation. Fed in large quantities (more than two kilos) whilst fresh, it can cause a horse to bloat and develop gastric colic.
Clover and Red Clover. Trifolium or Trefoil
Clover has for many years been planted with ryegrass. It is, and has been used to balance out the grazing ration with ryegrass being high in phosphorus low in calcium. A relation of Alfalfa, it is however safe to feed fresh. It is also high in calcium and protein. But it does not grow well in acidic soil.
Dandelions Taraxacum officinale and Taxaxcum erythrospermum
Dandelions are more often considered a weed than an actual herb. They are also often confused with Hawksbeard. Dandilions are more well known for their natural diretic properties. They are also very useful for detoxification and the reduction of inflamation.
As a horse owner, if there is one medicinal herb you should encourage your horse to eat it is this one.
Dandelion leaves have abundant amounts of vitamins and minirals, especially vitamins A,C and K. They are high in calcium, potasium, iron and magnisium. They also provide a signifacant source of beta carotine (prodominantly found in carrots and chickweed). And this is the big one, for all those owners who have horses with foot problems or whose horses require extra Biotin supplementation. (yes very expensive we know) Dandelions are an exellent natural soure of Vitamin H also known as Biotin.
We foresee a great number owners participating in the planting Dandelion fields this coming spring.
Camomile is also a very well known little flower, and has seen a marked increase in its use with horses. Known mostly for it’s calming properties it is fed to nervous and excitable horses. Very few are aware of Camomile’s anti-inflammatory qualities. Especially found in the German Camomile or Matricaria Recutiti. However ensure that you are not contravening any drug regulations prior to feeding it.
Purpose Planted Herbs
Chicory Cichorium intybus
Another useful little plant, Chicory has long been known to help with the reduction of intestinal parasites (worms). All parts of the plant are edible and contain the oil responsible for worm reduction, however the root enjoys the greatest concentration.
Echinacea Echinacea angustifloraThe Echinacea is often referred to as the purple coneflower. It is known to strengthen the immune system and helps fight off infections. However long term usage results in marked decreases of its effectiveness.
Fennel foeniculum vulgare
Fennel is a wonderful herb to have around, more particularly so if you breed horses or have lactating mares. Fennel is known to assist with milk quality and production. Horses prone to gastric colic also benefit from fennel when available.
Strawberries Fragaria vesca
Strawberries are not only a good source of vitamin C phosphorus and potassium, the leaves of this plant are of particular interest to breeders and owners of pregnant mares, as they are known to help with the prevention of abortion. Not to mention that the family will love you for farming strawberries for them.
Fenugreek trigonella foenumgraecum
Fenugreek is most known for its assistance and aid of digestion. A very palatable plant that is readily consumed by horses. Because it aids with digestion and nutritional uptake, it has proven to be a useful aid with the conditioning of horses. Fenugreek has proven itself especially helpful in situations where horses have been neglected, or have suffered from poor digestion and nutrition.
Devil’s Claw Harpagophytum procumbens
Not commonly found in New Zealand (usually in powdered form), this little plant is native to Southern Africa. It grows best in harsh dry conditions.
The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia has recognised Devil’s Claw as having analgesic (pain reducing), sedtive and duretic properties. Initally seen as a weed it was extensivly weeded until recently. It is now cultivated. Devil’s claw is known to help in the treatment of diseases found in the liver, kidneys and bladder. It also relieves and improves conditions such as arthrites and rheumatism. It has also been known to improve the vitality of joints. Other effects include the stimulation of appitite and aiding of digestion.
Devils Claw is considered by many as an alternative treatment for phenalbutazone also known as Bute
These are some of the practical and useful herbs that everyone should include in their gardens or pastures. They are easy to grow, with many already naturally present in our pastures. With a little effort and encouragement from us, they will help our horses flourish.
Please Remember: Although planting herbs and herb patches, and by allowing for the grazing of such areas are benificial for our horses, it is important to keep in mind that herbs are not meant to subsitute hay and or grazing -they should therefore be regarded as feeding aids and supplements, not food