Friday, August 31, 2012

Herbal Support for Aging Horses

During the “golden years” the process of aging usually means there will gradually be a slowing down and the bodily  functions will be less effective. Supportive herbs along with nutrition and proper exercise can really help to balance the process of aging, helping to keep older horses healthy and sprightly.


Below in preferential order you will find the herbs most suitable for an elderly horse. An example treatment would be to choose at least one herb from each category and blend them together. Feed about 40g daily to a horse (25g for a pony) of the blend, and it shouldn’t be too long before you see a difference and results!

Category 1) Circulatory stimulants. These herbs will help with thermoregulation they also encourage blood flow  to the extremities. They are an immense ally in the support of balancing bodily function, and will aid in relieving conditions like arthritis. They also encourage hair and hoof growth by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles, corium and deep into the joints. Efficient circulation will also assist in regulating the body temperature. Healing herbs in this category are Nettle (which is a particularly good blood cleanser, stimulant and hair tonic) and Hawthorn (a superior herbal cardiac tonic for horses, that is rich in healthy bioflavenoids).

Category 2) Equine Digestive Support. Even with regular expert dental care the older horse may still have trouble digesting his food correctly, and this can create many related health problems, including equine laminitis. There are many herbs that could fall within this category’s description but for the purpose of assisting elderly horses in general I’ve created two sub-categories (S-C) in this group. When making a blend be sure to pick one herb from each sub-category. S-C (i) Bitters. These herbs support the liver and stimulate enzyme production and bile flow so are great digestive stimulants. The first pick should be Devil’s Claw, as it is also an excellent anti-inflammatory, so will also help reduce stiffness throughout the body. Burdock root is also a bitters. S-C (ii) Demulcents. These herbs soothe and protect the gastric lining thus encouraging efficient assimilation. They are usually also very nutritive. My choice would be Fenugreek seed which helps to increase the appetite and is an excellent source of vitamin E; other good choices would be Slippery Elm bark powder, Licorice root and Comfrey leaf (which is also a great source of vitamin B12).

Category 3) General Health Maintenance. These herbs are healthy for any horse on a regular basis; elderly horses are certainly no exception! Rose hips are a great tonic. They are a particularly rich source of copper, vitamin C and bioflavenoids. Garlic and Green Pumpkin seed are traditionally used to reduce worm burdens in the gut (ground pumpkin seeds will also keep your dog worm free), and Garlic is very well known for its use as an immune support. Kelp is very nourishing and contains a wealth of easily assimilable minerals, vitamins, iodine and amino-acids and will keep the thyroid in tune.

Category 4) Diuretics. These herbs assist the kidneys and increase the flow of urine, thus helping to remove toxins from the body. They also encourage regular water intake. They work well in combination with bitter herb to aid in cleansing the body and restoring proper function. Dandelion is the best choice as it helps to replace and maintain the potassium, sodium and silica levels that would otherwise be leached out of the body (medical diuretics do not, hence they have the potential to cause kidney damage and heart malfunction). A combination of celery seed with equal proportions of juniper berries is also a natural balanced diuretic. These herbs can be alternated in their use.

You will find that a combination of herbs from these categories, will work synergistically together, to help an aging horse to attain greater mobility, improve disease resistance and maintain a healthy weight and improve thermoregulation. Given the right fuel, aging horses can still have the dignity of a glossy coat, bright eyes, better digestion and a spring in their step!

For more information on natural equine health care and herbal treatments for horses visit Pet Remedy Chart: http://petremedycharts.com/Horse%20Charts/Horse.html


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