Summer Herbs for Horses
What better time of year to feed fresh or dried herbs to your horse than summer? And if you’re the ambitious type, you can even grow them yourself! Herbs are a great way to treat chronic equine conditions and they’re also a nice way to add a variety of vitamins and minerals in their completely natural form.
So without further ado, here a few herbs you might want to add into your horse’s feed bucket this summer:
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Like many herbs, calendula has a variety of uses. For topical application, it can be made into a tincture by steeping 2-3 handfuls of the flowers in 500 ml of hot water for an hour. This tincture can then be applied to bug or tick bites, wounds, skin irritations, or sunburned skin. If added to a compress, calendula tincture is also great for irritated eyes.
For gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers, calendula can be fed at a rate of 15-20 grams daily.
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Cleavers support the lymphatic system and are helpful in treating urinary infections, especially when combined with calendula. This herb can be fed to horses in order to reduce soft swelling or fluid retention (such as windgalls). Since cleavers are rich in silica, the herb can help sooth skin conditions and it also strengthens the hair coat.
For best results, feed up to one cup of fresh cleavers daily.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Since dandelions are often plentiful in spring and summer, that makes it a great time to collect them fresh and feed them to your horse. This herb is plentiful in vitamins A, B, C, and D, and also rich in potassium, sodium, calcium, biotin, and several other minerals. Medicinally, dandelion stimulates liver function, bile production, and also kidney function. Additionally, it helps clear toxins from the body and purifies the blood. All parts of the dandelion are safe to feed your horse, however if you are going to harvest your own dandelions, make sure you know the difference between them and another plant known as Cat’s Ear, which is toxic to horses.
If adding dandelions into your horse’s ration, feed no more than 40 grams of dandelion for a 500 kg horse, as they are high in fructans.
Nettles (Urtica dioca)
Nettles are rich in iron, potassium, silica, vitamins A and C, and many other minerals. They support the immune, respiratory, urinary, and reproductive systems and can even help the body fight allergic responses (such as skin allergies).
For best results, feed half a cup of dried nettles daily. (If you’re harvesting them yourself, wear gloves to pick them!)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint is a great cooling herb, which makes it perfect for summer. If your horse is prone to digestive issues such as colic, ulcers, or poor appetite consider feeding 15-30 grams of peppermint leaves (for full-sized horse) daily. Alternatively, you can make peppermint tea to pour over his feed. Externally, peppermint essential oil can be added to a carrier oil to act as an insect repellent or reduce itchiness from bug bites and allergic skin conditions.
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
This is another soothing herb and different parts of the marshmallow plant are good for different issues. For example, the root is helpful for gastrointestinal problems, especially ulcers, while the leaves can be used for urinary or respiratory related problems. Marshmallow root tincture can also be used topically for light burns, minor wounds, or skin conditions such as eczema. A marshmallow root poultice has great “drawing” ability, making it a nice option for soft swellings or drawing out infection.
If feeding marshmallow root powder, three teaspoons top-dressed on feed is sufficient. If feeding fresh root or leaves, 1-2 handfuls is advised.
**Important Note** As with many medications, certain herbs aren’t recommended for pregnant or lactating mares, so always check with your veterinarian or an equine herbalist if in question.
Sources and Further Reading