Spring Herbs for Horses
Last year, you may recall that I planted a few different herbs in my pasture. I wrote about it in this post. It’s great to have a variety of herbs available in your horse pasture, but this spring, I’ve decided to go ahead and feed a few specific herbs mixed in with their daily feed buckets.
Herbs can provide many important vitamins and minerals, and they also have unique medicinal qualities. Since spring is a time of rejuvenation, it’s also a great time to feed certain herbs, specifically ones that help to clear toxins and aid in recovery from the stress of winter. If you think about it, many herbs (like dandelions) are the first plants to appear in the spring. Wild horses will naturally seek them out, but our domesticated horses may not do this. So you may want to consider feeding them instead.
You can collect the plants yourself if you have them nearby or if not, you can buy them from a reputable company. Mountain Rose Herbs is one of my favorite places to get dried herbs.
For measuring out your herbs, I highly recommend buying a small scale such as this one. I keep one in the barn for measuring out supplements.
Here are a few herbs which can be beneficial to feed in the spring:
Milk Thistle: A master detoxifier, this is considered one of the best springtime herbs to feed. Milk thistle helps to detoxify, protect, and regenerate the liver. It also regulates female hormonal balance. Feed 10-20 grams of seeds daily. Can grind sees in coffee grinder or purchase powdered form. Recommended to be fed for four to six weeks.
Calendula (Marigold): Excellent herb for the lymphatic and urinary systems. The flowers are rich in sulfur and helps to reduce inflammation. Also great for preventing fungal infections, treating skin conditions, and even gastric issues such as ulcers. Often fed in conjunction with cleavers or nettle. Feed 15-20 grams of flowers daily.
Cleavers (Clivers): Can be used to support the lymphatic system and helpful for urinary tract infections. A mild diuretic, the leaf and stem of cleavers help to reduce soft swelling and fluid retention. Cleavers are also rich in silica will help strengthen coat and hair. Feed 2-3 handfuls of fresh herb or 20-30 grams of dried herb daily. Best if fed in conjunction with calendula.
Kelp: Rich in iodine, kelp is great for building strong hooves and balancing the thyroid. It also contains Calcium, Copper, Iron and Magnesium. Feed 15-30 grams per day. (I get my kelp from The Holistic Horse.)
Burdock: A ‘blood purifier’, the roots of burdock are used to clear toxins in the blood and tissues. This herb also acts as a diuretic, helping your horse to shed excess water. It is a strong antioxidant and also helps support the digestive system. Additionally, it can be used topically for easing skin issues. Feed 10-20 grams daily. (Best if fed in conjunction with cleavers or nettle.)
Dandelion: The entire dandelion plant is edible, but the leaves and roots are best to feed. Dandelion is high in vitamins A, B, C, and D. They are also a ‘natural electrolyte, since they are high in potassium, magnesium, and calcium. The root can help to eliminate toxins and treat liver congestion. Feed several handfuls of fresh leaves, 30 grams of the dried leaf, 4-5 fresh roots, or 20 grams dried roots daily.
Rosehips: A great source of Vitamin C and Copper. In addition to promoting good health with a boost of Vitamin C, rosehips have been found to increase hoof quality and prevent Scratches. Feed 15-20 grams of chopped rosehip shells per day or can use to make a tea and pour over feed.
Nettle (dried): Rich source of iron, calcium, folic acid, and Vitamin K. Nettle strengthens many body systems including the kidneys and adrenals. Feed about 20-30 grams of cut, dried herb daily. (see this post for more info. on nettle)
Happy Spring Horse Lovers!
Sources and Further Reading:
A Modern Horse Herbal (book)
Equine Herbs and Healing (book)