Planting Herbs for Horses


Herbs are one of my favorite things to supplement for many different equine conditions. For example, I’ve fed chaste tree berry for Cushing’s symptoms, slippery elm for gastric ulcers, turmeric for arthritis, a Chinese herb called jiaogulan to increase circulation after a ligament injury (to name a few).  But, last winter, I got a brilliant idea–why not just plant some herbs in my pasture so that my horses can have access to them when they are needed?  Duh!

Of course, uncultivated pastures may already contain several beneficial herbs already.  Many times, what we think of as ‘weeds’ are actually herbs that can have medicinal value for horses and other animals.   For example–did you know that the good old dandelion is actually beneficial for the liver, gallbladder, and digestive tract?  We need to get away from the idea that our pastures should be perfectly manicured and weed-free.   It’s much better for the horses if they’re not, actually.  (Of course, an overgrazed pasture full of true weeds isn’t healthy either though. . . )

But I encourage you to pay attention to what may already be growing in your horse pasture and find out if some of the ‘weeds’ are actually beneficial for your horse.  And of course, you can also plant additional herbs for your horses to eat as needed.  (This is called zoopharmacognosy, and it is super interesting.)

After a little research, I ordered my herb seeds from two different companies: Burpee and Horizon Herbs.  I haven’t planted them just yet, but plan to do so soon.

Here are the herbs I bought:

 

seeds

 

Spearmint: Both peppermint (which I couldn’t find) and Spearmint have an antispasmodic effect on the digestive system.   Mint may help to expel gas and also works as an appetite stimulant as well.

Mint-leaves-2007

 

Rosemary:  This herb has anti-inflammatory properties and is used as an anti-bacterial and anti-microbial herb. Rosemary leaves have an internal vermifuge effect and will come through the pores of the skin to make the horse less appealing to external parasites.   Because of this, it can also be used in a homemade insect repellant.

 

rosemary

 

Parsley: Parsley is natural diuretic (promotes production of urine). It also works on the adrenal glands, is beneficial for optic and brain nerves, as well as the whole sympathetic nervous system.  Can benefit horses with coughs and arthritis, too.

parsley

 

Chamomile:  Anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-killer) which acts as a sedative and relaxant.

chamomile

 

Stinging Nettles:  Though they sound a bit scary, stinging nettles actually provide an abundance of minerals including iron, lime, potassium, sodium, sulphur, as well as protein.  Nettles are a very good blood cooler/cleanser and they are helpful in cases of arthritis. Nettles can also aid in hemorrhaging, anemia, laminitis, sweet itch, allergies, milk production, appetite, coat and skin.  

nettles

 

Thyme: Thyme is very beneficial for the lungs and is particularly useful for coughs. Also helpful for digestive issues.

thyme

 

Comfrey:  Speeds the healing and growing of cells, good for coughs since it soothes and heals the  inflamed tissue of the respiratory system.

comfrey

 

Marshmallow: Marshmallow root is commonly used for digestive disorders and the leaf can benefit respiratory or urinary problems as well.

marshmallow

 

Milk Thistle: This herb is valuable in the treatment of any liver disorder.

milk thistle

 

Of course, there are many more herbs that you can plant, but those are a few.  I would like to find some echinacea, too.  If you plan to plant herbs in your pasture as well, just make sure you do your research to make sure they are indeed safe.  Also, be sure to read the package directions for planting.  Some herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, and spearmint need to be started indoors.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how my herb ‘garden’ turns out.  Will keep you updated.

 

Ta-ta,

Casie


Sources and Further Reading:

Plant a Medicinal Herb Garden for Your Horses

Rosemary

The Herbal Horse–Using Rosemary for Horses

Herbs for Horses

Thyme

Marshmallow–Athea officinalis

Chinese Herbs for Horses 

 

 

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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5 Responses

  1. Timothy says:

    Good idea. I too got very frustrated with the “clean fields” policy of the owner of the meadows where my horse used to stand. All Rye grass and well manicured and fertilized.
    And when the dandelions appeared, his first reaction was “I’ll spray them” – lucky I was in time because Fleur loves dandelions… within days, they were gone!
    Just one point to note, the nettle is indeed high in iron – but this is one mineral a horse never needs supplementing (unless of course there is an actual anaemic disorder). Therefore, if you are supplementing with other things, make sure there is no iron in them.

    • Casie says:

      Yes–I look at dandelions in a completely different light now. 🙂 And as for the iron–yes, there can be issues with iron overload. I’ve written about this several times before. I’m much more comfortable having it available in it’s natural form though. Supplementing iron intentionally is almost never necessary though!

  2. Deb Creten says:

    I have burdock and nettles growing naturally in my horse corrals – and I’ve routinely pulled it out over the years. Last year, a Navajo Medicine Man showed me how to crush the nettles and dry them for use later. I’ve never seen my horses eating the actual plants, though.

  3. Jody Webb says:

    I was reading this article (which is great by the way!) and was wondering where seeds can be bought for Nettle. I used to hate the stuff! (being raised in the woods in Washington and having bad reactions to it) but now as an herbalist, I find it invaluable! I think in the wild, and as a live plant, animals only eat it seasonally as they have many other “tamer” choices for nutrients. However as a dried supplement (and picked at the choice time) horses routinely choose it as part of their dietary needs. I also was pondering the iron issue. As a person who lives in the NorthWest and having to regularly take both Iron AND vitamin D, I wonder if part of horses regularly choosing Nettle goes hand in hand with our weather. Iron deficiency is very common in both humans and horses in our area, and many horses are kept inside most of the winter (especially this one which is having record breaking rains!) No one thinks to check a horse’s D levels, but plenty of horses are iron deficient! Doing a search on the internet shows the inter-dependency of D and Iron, and so its entirely possible that our lack of regular sun is leading not only to lack of Iron in our horses, but lack of D! By the way, the best time to pick nettle is in the spring, before it is a foot tall and has formed all its “stingers”. That is also mostly likely the only time a horse is going to nibble on the live plant, unless other options are just not available.

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