Holistic Care for Uveitis

The following post on holistic care for uveitis is written by holistic veterinarian, Dr. Madalyn Ward.  You can learn more about Dr. Ward as well as view her many other articles at Holistic Horsekeeping




Uveitis is also sometimes referred to as periodic ophthalmia or moon blindness. This condition is a chronic inflammation of the internal structures of the eye. Symptoms include pain, swelling, cloudiness of the cornea, pus in the anterior chamber of the eye, and contraction of the pupil.

Initial episodes and subsequent flare-ups will often respond to steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and atropine, but relapse occurs within weeks to months after treatment is stopped. Each attack causes more damage to the eye, eventually leading to blindness. The inflammation generally starts in one eye but moves to the other eye, causing complete blindness.

Several causative factors have been suggested for anterior uveitis. Some horses with uveitis will have elevated titers to leptospira, an organism which affects cattle primarily. B-vitamin deficiency has also been considered. The bottom line is that this is an autoimmune disease which means the immune system is out of balance and is attacking the horse’s own eye tissue.

After many frustrating years of treating this condition with Western medicine, I have moved away from drugs to focus more on rebalancing the immune system. When I am consulted about a horse with an acute flare-up, my first focus is to control the pain and inflammation.

I have had good results with a solution of half hypericum tincture and half calendula tincture diluted at the ratio of ten drops tincture to one ounce of water or saline solution. A gauze sponge is soaked with this solution and placed as a poultice over the eye. I do not try to get the solution into the eye directly. Horses seem to experience excellent relief with this treatment and will often lower their heads and become very relaxed. This application can be repeated four to six times a day.

I find frequent attempts to force medications into the eye can cause more inflammation and create great resistance in the horse. An exception would be if the horse has an actual ulcer of the cornea that might require antibiotic treatment. Rather than using systemic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, I have had some good success with B-L solution, which is a mixture of devil’s claw and yucca.

I also start these horses on a product from Standard Process called Oculotrophin. This product is made from eye tissue which has been treated to extract the antigen to which the immune system is reacting. The theory is that by feeding this protomorphogen, the immune system will be occupied with the eye antigen in the bloodstream and not attack the eye itself.

Once the horse’s eye has had time to heal it will not continue to attract the immune system as it did when it was in constant inflammation. I find the Oculotrophin needs to be fed continuously for 6-12 months in some cases.

To address any nutrient deficiencies I feed large amounts of a SimplexityT product called Sprouts & Algae. This product is very high in beta-carotene and supplies the body with natural concentrated nutrients to make super-oxide dismutase – a potent anti-oxidant.

Once the acute flare-up has quieted down, I start with constitutional treatment to balance the immune system. I generally use homeopathy and take a full history to include other health issues that the horse has experienced.

I suggest vaccinations be discontinued because they can trigger attacks by stimulating the immune system. I suggest blue-green algae be added to the diet because of its high chlorophyll. I warn owners to expect further flare-ups as this condition is very difficult to treat but the attacks should gradually become less frequent and less severe.



About the Author

Madalyn Ward, DVM, owns Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas. She is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy and Equine Osteopathy. Memberships include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy. She has authored several books and publishes at her blog.

Mountain Rose Herbs for Horses

When I started The Naturally Healthy Horse several years ago, I swore I wasn’t going to sell any products on the website.  It was strictly a way for me to write about what I enjoy and share information.  And although I still stand by the original purpose of the blog,  I’ve also realized that it takes quite a bit of work (and some money) to keep a blog going.  So I’ve had to make some ‘business’ decisions along the way.

On top of offering advertising to like-minded companies and signing up with Google Adsense, I chose to become an Amazon affiliate (I love Amazon!) to help me afford to keep the blog going.  As an affiliate, I don’t sell products directly, but I do make a small percentage when people make purchases through links on my site.

But recently, I came across another company that really piqued my interest.  It’s an Oregon-based company called Mountain Rose Herbs which sells not only herbs, but also spices, essential oils, and many other natural care products.  After researching this company a bit, I decided to become an affiliate for them as well.

You might wonder why I would pick this particular company over others, but what I like about Mountain Rose Herbs is the fact that they sell certified organic, fair trade and ethically harvested products.  The company also supports many different non-profit organizations which are dedicated to the health of the environment, people, and wildlife–all of which are very important to me (you can read more here.)

Another reason I like this company is the wide variety of herbs and essential oils that they sell.  If you’re looking for a specific herb or oil, chances are they have it.  They also have a lot of other cool products that are worth checking out.

I like to feed herbs to my horses for chronic conditions and I recently ordered slippery elm bark powder for McCoy, who is showing some signs of unhealed gastric ulcers.  I was very pleased with the quality of the product and I plan to order more herbs and oils from them as well.


slippery elm


If you are interested in stocking a few basic herbs for your own horses, here are some of my suggestions:

Note: Always consult your vet or equine nutritionist if you have questions about feeding herbs.  It is also wise to do your own research!  Some herbs should not be fed in conjunction with other medications.

And as for essential oils, here are a few of my favorites to use with horses:

If you’d like to learn more about using essential oils with horses, here are several posts on that:

Essential Oils for Horses

Essential Oils for Horse Hooves

Essential Oils for Equine Allergies


Mountain Rose Herbs also sells carrier oils and amber glass bottles if you like to make your own oil blends like I do.

Anyways, I just wanted to introduce you to this awesome company if you aren’t already familiar with them.  I also wanted to let you know that you can help support my blog by making purchases from Mountain Rose Herbs (or Amazon) through the links or ads on my site.  I would definitely appreciate your support!




Stress in Horses

One thing I’ve been working on lately is reducing stress in my life.  Of course this is often easier said than done but I’m a firm believer in this quote:


what happens quote


Speaking from my own experience, I think we often become stressed because of how we react to situations, including our negative thoughts about what may have occurred.   It can be a difficult habit to change, but it’s one worth working on. (By the way, yoga really helps!)

Most of us know that too much stress is just plain bad for us.  It can affect many different  things, including our heart, our muscles, our immune system, our mental health, and basically our overall well-being.

For example, a few weeks ago, I came down with the flu for perhaps only the second time ever in my entire life.  And what was going on in my life the day I got sick?  I was feeling stressed (and not remembering the aforementioned quote!)

I was trying to get my house clean because friends were coming in from out-of-state and I was also trying to get ready for the upcoming Pete Ramey workshop.  And that particular morning, my four-year-old daughter opened a big package UPS had brought and dumped the styrofoam peanuts all over the living room.  They stuck to her clothes and hair, the carpet, the furniture, and pretty much anything else with which they came in contact.

I have no one but myself to blame, but I lost it when I looked over the balcony and saw this mess. I didn’t have time to deal with it the moment and you probably know how four-year-olds are when it comes to cleaning up. . .

Not even an hour later, I felt the first signs of the flu coming on (although I didn’t know it was the flu at first).  My reaction to what had happened affected my whole body and this was likely just the window of opportunity the flu bug had been looking for.  It just marched right on in.

But the purpose of this post isn’t to talk about me getting the flu. . . What I really want to discuss is stress in horses–what causes it, how it affects them,  and most importantly, how we can make a difference.

Horses aren’t like us for the most part (thank goodness!)  They tend to live in the present moment and don’t stew and fret over situations from the past.  But they do still experience stress.

Some stress is normal and a part of everyday life for horses (such as bad weather), but much of  it is caused by us–their caretakers.  Even though we may have nothing but the best intentions for our equine friends, we often don’t allow them to live like horses and this, in turn, causes stress.

Here are a few other common causes of stress for horses:

  • Poor diet;
  • Transport;
  • Heavy exercise;
  • Showing;
  • Confinement;
  • Injury/ pain;
  • Environmental toxins; and
  • Social environment.


How Stress Affects Horses

When a horses experiences stress, their cortisol levels rise.  If it’s just a short-term situation, the cortisol levels will return to normal fairly quickly.  But when it’s chronic stress, cortisol levels stay elevated, and this creates a problem and can make horses sick.

An example that is similar to my flu story is called Shipping Fever.  This is a respiratory illness that horses can develop during or right after a long trip when stress causes a suppression of the immune system.

Another very common condition brought on by chronic stress is gastric ulcers.  In fact, it’s thought to affect the majority of performance horses.  There are several reasons for this–but high-grain diets, lack of access to forage, confinement, and the stress of exercise and showing are all major factors.

Other issues that can be caused by chronic stress include:

  • colic;
  • diarrhea;
  • skin infections;
  • behavioral changes;
  • tense muscles;
  • cribbing or weaving; and
  • weight loss or gain.


Reducing Stress for Our Horses

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but I think creating the most natural lifestyle possible is the key for healthy and non-stressed horses.  We have to think about how horses were designed to live.

Here are several ways you can help to reduce stress for your horses:

Provide continual access to forage:  If you can make any change at all for your horses, I would place a very high priority on this.  Lack of forage causes a great deal of stress for the horse! If you can’t turn your horses out on pasture, at least increase the frequency of hay feeding, or better yet, use slow feeders so they never run out of hay.  And don’t forget about night time–just because you’re asleep doesn’t mean your horse is.  They need to eat through the night as well (especially important if it’s cold outside).




Feed a forage-based diet:  You might wonder what the heck this has to do with stress, but again it goes back to providing the most natural lifestyle possible.  Horses’ digestive systems aren’t meant to digest large amounts of concentrates (grains) and doing so creates stress on the body.  I highly recommend you look into feeding more forage and less concentrates–and yes, even for performance horses. (Forage-Only Diet for Performance Horses Evaluated)

Allow horses to live with a buddy, or even better yet, a herd: Horses are herd animals and crave social interaction.  Please don’t make your horse live alone.  Having a buddy or two to live with can go a long ways for their health.   (See this post for more on the benefits of allowing horses to live as a herd.)  If a horse must be separated for some reason, make sure he can see other horses at all times.




Turnout:  I’ll just go ahead and say it.  I’m not a fan of stalling horses.  I know that many people board their horses, but please, try to find a way where they can have as much turnout time as possible.  Of course, 24/7 is best, but if this can’t be managed, then any increase in turnout time will help.

Keep a Routine:  I know this can be difficult with our hectic lifestyles, but try to feed your horses around the same time each day–especially if you feed a concentrate.   If you need to make changes, do so slowly over an extended period of time.  Our horses get used to being fed at certain times and sudden changes can create stress.


So the point of this post was to at least get you thinking.  I know that some stress is inevitable both in our own lives and also in the lives of our horses, but I think it’s so important to recognize stressors and work to reduce or eliminate them.  Our horses are worth it, aren’t they?




Sources and Further Reading

Are you ‘Stressing Out’ your Horse?

Managing Stress in your Horse’s Environment

How Can I Tell if my Horse is Stressed?

Stress in Horses

Encore’s Second Chance

Well, January was chock full of busy-ness and also illness for me.  I had wanted to share this horse’s story last month, but it just didn’t happen!  So instead, Encore will be featured as my February Horse of the Month.  If you’ve watched a show called Free Rein, you may know his story.  It’s one that really tugged at my heart strings.  



(Photo by Graceful Horses)

We don’t know much about the history of a seven-year old Clydesdale cross named Prospero’s Encore, but we do know that he ended up at an auction in Ontario, Canada last summer.   He was in poor condition, and would have likely been bought for slaughter had Jessica Fobert and her team from the show Free Rein not come across him.

“When we saw Encore in the pens, we knew he would have no chance of going to a home just by looking at his physical condition. He was underweight and a little lethargic, so we figured we would bid on him, and hopefully give him an opportunity to be saved from a certain stressful end of life,” said Jessica.

Jessica sensed right away that there was something special about Encore.  Even in a small pen with strange horses, he remained passive and did his best to avoid conflict.

“At one point a man opened the gate of the pen to assess another horse and Encore got pinned between the man and another horse who started brutally kicking him. Encore did every possible to avoid stepping on the man , and took a beating in the process,” she said.

So Jessica bought Encore and brought him home where she began the slow process of bringing him back to health.  She soon learned that it was not going to be easy.  He had some serious health issues to contend with, including a bacterial respiratory infection that proved resistant to several different antibiotics.

“It took several trial and error combinations for the vet to find the right combination of antibiotics that would successfully kill off the infection. During all of this, we also found out he was battling e coli, digestive ulcers, and pneumonia,” Jessica said.


encore and jess

(Photo by Philip Zoratto Photography)


encore and Jess2

(Photo by Takumi Furuichi Photography)


Encore continued to prove that he was indeed a gentle giant.  He remained calm and well-mannered as the vet performed many uncomfortable procedures on him, including scoping his upper respiratory system, even without a sedative.

It took weeks to treat Encore’s infections with antibiotics and Jessica knew that the harsh drugs were also taking a toll on his body.

“A major part of his healing was assisted by several herbal remedies and homeopathy that were suggested by Marijke van de Water, an equine health practitioner who formulated Riva’s Remedies. Encore needed a lot of nutritional and supplemental support in developing a healthy immune system after being chronically  sick. We have a lot of thanks to give to Marijke for making herself available to help Encore become a healthy horse again,” said Jessica.

Putting weight on Encore was a slow process as well, but he eventually began to fill out on a diet of 24/7 access to grass hay and two beet pulp mashes per day.  Once Encore did gain some weight, Jessica put a saddle and bridle on him,  just to see how he’d do.

“He took to all of the equipment very well, but we have not started any formal training with him yet, so his exact level of knowledge is not known. He does however lead on a halter very well, ties without issue, and is very good for having his rather large hooves picked out and trimmed. It’s obvious that someone at some point did spend the time to teach this horse something,” she said.


encore after


While Encore was recovering from his illnesses, he had to be quarantined, but after he was given a clean bill of health, he was introduced to a new pasture mate.  He now happily lives with a mare friend during the day, but must be separated at night since he needs to eat quite a bit more hay than she does.  His pen is next to several other horses though, so he can feel close to the herd.


Encore currently lives in a foster home, patiently waiting to be adopted into a forever home.  His health is good, but Jessica noted that he could still use some chiropractic work to re-balance his body.

As for rescuing a horse from an auction, Jessica said, “I don’t suggest others go looking for a horse in such poor health unless they have the proper finances, education, experience, and a good team of help to back them up, as I do.”

You can watch the Free Rein episode about Encore here.  Also, if you are interested in adopting him, you can apply here.  You can learn more about the show Free Rein by visiting their website or by following the show on twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @FREEREINHD.

Learning from Pete Ramey

It’s not every day that you get to have Pete Ramey out to your place to teach you about barefoot trimming, but that’s just what happened earlier this week.  I have to say that the workshop I hosted was awesome!  Pete really did an outstanding job and I highly recommend attending one if you get a chance.

Of course, I wasn’t even sure at first if I would get to participate in my own workshop after coming down with the flu late last week.  Ugh!  Luckily, I felt better just in time.  My head probably wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but I did take some notes and tried to listen as best I could (through clogged ears!).

Probably the most exciting part for me was just getting Pete to evaluate and trim two of my horses–Lee Lee and Hershey.  I was eager to see what he thought about their feet, both which have had continual issues.  I’ll get to that a little bit later though.

First I’d just like to tell you a bit how our day went.  The workshop began at 9:00 a.m. with all the attendees crowding into my barn.  Pete began by talking about the hoof and the importance of diet before starting his first trim on a horse about forty-five minutes later.




Before he trimmed each of the eight participating horses, he talked about the issues he saw in the feet (or elsewhere in the body) and we watched the horse move to see how they were landing (toe-first, heel-first, or flat-footed).  Then he trimmed the horse and explained what he was doing step-by-step.  All the while, participants could ask any questions they might have had.




Pete also fitted horses with boots if he thought it was necessary and if the owner so desired.  He did this by heating Easyboot Gloves to custom fit each horse.






We ended the day with another question and answer session and the workshop ended somewhere around 6:30 p.m.




Of course, I’ve learned nearly everything I know about barefoot trimming from Pete.  His books, dvds, and articles have been tremendously helpful.  But there’s nothing quite like being able to actually watch him in action and ask him whatever question comes to mind.

I’d like to share just a few of the things I jotted down at the workshop.  These are just little tidbits of information or advice Pete gave throughout the day:


1. Look for things to leave alone.  Pete said this several times throughout the day.  I can see the brilliance in this statement because so often we are looking for what’s wrong and what we can correct.  Instead, it’s important to look for what is right or even what may be just okay and leave that part be.  We may be doing more harm than good by taking an aggressive approach.

2. If the heels are long and aren’t quite ready to be taken down, rocker them.  Pete did this on probably about half of the horses he trimmed at the workshop.  By rasping a slight rocker (bevel) on the back of the heels, we’re facilitating better movement for these horses.

3. Don’t try to make the hooves match–try to make the horse move in a more balanced way.  I think many of us get caught up in trying to make pretty hooves.  The goal shouldn’t be pretty (although that’s a plus)–it should be balance and getting correct movement.

4.) Be a stickler for maintaining hind end break over.  In other words, don’t neglect the hind feet.  Keep breakover back where it should be.  This will help with many other issues you might see (soreness in the hips, stifles, etc.)

5.)  Our goal with trimming is to improve the movement of the horse.  This statement is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s not something we may not have in mind when trimming.  It’s very true though.  If we’re not improving movement, then what is the purpose of trimming?


As for my own two horses that Pete trimmed, I did learn some things that I need to be doing differently.

For Lee Lee, who toes in on the front end, I need to be a little more aggressive in trimming the medial side of her hoof wall to achieve balance.  I also need to maintain a shorter breakover in the hind end–her toes were too long.




For Hershey, my problem-foot horse, Pete suggested I let his walls grow out a tad more (but keep the toes short) to make him more comfortable.  He suspects extensive P3 remodeling and because of this, it may be impossible to grow out his flares and cracks. (Double UGH!) I’ve never had x-rays taken of his feet and I’m not sure I want to at this point–I’m fairly certain he’ll never be a riding horse again.  I do want to keep him as comfortable as possible though so I will heed Pete’s advice.




I also need to keep treating for thrush which Lee Lee and Hershey both have in certain feet. (I do really good for a while and then slack off!)  One thing that will help is getting a  syringe with a long narrow tip to really get it down into the deepest part of the crevice.  Pete said you can get these from your dentist.

So there you have it–a  synopsis of how my Pete Ramey workshop went.  By the way, the most amazing transformation was this hoof on a 34 year old horse:


IMG_1306 IMG_1310


And here’s one last picture of me and my dear friend, Summer with Pete. :-)




See Pete’s website to see how you can sign up to attend or host a workshop yourself.