Australian Riding Pony
Credit: By Cgoodwin (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

Holistic Healing For Horses

 With the interest of the public in all things holistic and natural, horses can now be treated with a number of healthy herbal supplements which are believed to assist health and performance in specific circumstances. The following will hopefully be useful to horse and pony owners. However, if your horse is sick, a veterinarian should always be consulted.


 The following has been written in good faith, and after much research, to inform owners of herbal treatments which are in common use and which may benefit their horse/s. Self-diagnosis and treatment of your pets is a dangerous practice. Particularly in situations where there is a serious issue, consult your local vet and/or holistic horse health therapist for their advice. Always heed their advice as it may be absolutely critical in situations of life and death.

Complete Holistic Care and Healing for Horses: The Owner's Veterinary Guide to Alternative Methods and Remedies
Amazon Price: $90.00 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 29, 2013)
This is a well-organised book with
a handy A-Z guide of common
horse ailments.

Herbal Approach

There are many books available which detail methods of holistically helping your horse to better health. One is the Complete Holistic Care and Healing for Horses (see above). The author is a veterinarian and dressage rider and presents many case studies from her own practice. All aspects of stable management are covered in this comprehensive manual.

 The herbal approach to medicine is to look at the symptoms of a disorder, determine which organs are in imbalance and seek to address that imbalance. This allows the body to begin its own healing.  It is usually of little use to treat the outward signs or suppress the symptoms. This often results in an outbreak, often more serious, in some other part of the body.  For example, allergic skin conditions would conventionally be treated with antihistamines and/or anti-inflammatories. The herbal approach would be to boost the immune system and cleanse the blood thus treating the cause and not the symptoms.

A Modern Horse Herbal
Amazon Price: $34.95 $17.55 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 29, 2013)
This is a very comprehensive manual
on medicinal herbs. Many common
ailments and conditions are discussed.
Herbal fly repellents, coat conditioners,
disinfectants and shampoos
are also discussed.

Horse-owners are busy people and many don't have the time or the inclination to grow a variety of different herbs for their equine friends. However, a few selected herbs, planted in tubs near the stables and close to water, can supply valuable additives to your horse's feed.

Equine Herbs & Healing: An Earth Lodge Guide to Horse Wellness
Amazon Price: $19.95 $17.67 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 29, 2013)
The Earth Lodge Guide to Horse Wellness:
Equine Herbs and Healing give information
on how to make salves, tinctures, sprays
and braces which can be used to benefit
your horse.

How To Feed Herbs

Many herbs are used by placing flowers, leaves and/or stems in hot water. These are left to steep until cool and the resultant 'tea' can be used in feeds or given as a drench on the tongue. Some herbs are given as seeds, again in a feed. If the horse smells the herbs and refuses to eat his feed because he doesn't like the smell or taste, use a weak solution of molasses and water to dampen the feed. Molasses is a safe, effective product which will mask other flavours and aromas. For finicky horses that won't drink when away from home, getting them used to drinking water which has had a little molasses added to it will pay dividends. They will then drink better when at competitions or events where the water tastes, to them, 'different'.

Salves, sprays, compresses are bracing linaments are other products which can be made from herbs.

Bach Flower Remedies for Your Horse: Reducing Stress and Alleviating Symptoms
Amazon Price: $37.95 $20.22 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 29, 2013)
Read about the 38 Bach Flower remedies
and how they can help alleviate stress in
your horse.

Commonly Used Herbs

  • Parsley has many medicinal uses both for us and our horses. Its Latin name is Petroselinum crispum. The two types mostly commonly used are Italian parsley and common parsley. It is biennial or perennial and is easy to grow. Soil needs to be rich with plenty of organic matter. Parsley likes plenty of nitrogen. It will grow in sun or partial shade and prefers to be kept moist. Cut off the seed heads to keep it growing longer.

    Parsley contains vitamins A, B and C. It is rich in iron and has small amounts of calcium, sodium and magnesium. It is known as a tonic herb but shouldn't be taken in large amounts. A sprig added to your horse's feed a couple of times a week will be beneficial. It has been used for kidney disorders, flatulence, fluid retention, arthritis and rheumatism. It can be dried in a lukewarm oven and crumpled between the fingers and stored. Parsley is not recommended for pregnant mares, pet rabbits or birds.

  • Mint (Mentha piperita, mentha spicata) is best grown in a pot or where its growth can be restricted. It is a great digestive aid, often used to discourage fussy eaters. In herbal medicines, peppermint and spearmint are the most commonly used of the thirty or so types available. The action is that of a stimulant, anti-spasmodic, calmative and anti-inflammatory.

    The volatile oil in mint is anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic. Mint will help dry up the milk supply of nursing mares and may be useful during weaning. Twenty grams of mint added to feed may help prevent colic in those horses prone to attacks. Fresh mint will relieve the itch of insect bites and stings. An infusion will help relieve sweet itch.

    Fresh mint is preferred as some of the benefits are lost through the drying process. Give one or two handfuls of fresh mint leaves in the feed or add to any herb tea that you use. Any herb should be introduced gradually. Watch for allergic reactions and do not feed for too long without a break.

    A large pot, good soil and drainage are all that is needed to grow mint. Add plenty of organic matter and a little dolomite for best results. It will grow in sun or partial shade. The varieties are best kept separate as they will inter-pollinate.

  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is hardy. It is considered an all-round tonic. Most herbalists place it in the top 20 of useful herbs. Rheumatism, arthritis, fevers, cystitis, low energy, catarrh, hay fever, indigestion, bleeding and poor appetite all benefit from yarrow. It also improves circulation and is often prescribed for navicular syndrome. Other names are Old Man's Pepper, Nose Bleed, and Milfoil. It will enhance your stable area with its pretty spring and summer flowers. A number of colours are available. It likes a sunny position.

    It can be used either fresh or dried. To dry, collect the flowers and leaves, place on a rack to dry then store in paper bags or sealed glass containers. Mix a few fresh leaves or flowers in a feed or add 25 grams of dried yarrow. Some recommend that it not be fed in large doses to pregnant mares. Livestock will graze yarrow if it is growing in paddocks. To stem bleeding, make a compress by pouring a cup of boiling water over 3 teaspoonsful of the dried herb. Let stand till cool. Always introduce new additions to feed a little at a time and watch for allergic reactions.

  • Dandelion is a powerful liver tonic. In Australia, there is little need to grow it specifically as it can be found in almost all pastures. The leaves can be used dried or fresh. Dried roots are also used. Or fresh leaves can be fed as needed.
Veteran Horse Herbal
Amazon Price: $48.50 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 29, 2013)
This interesting and informative volume was
written by the founder of Hilton Herbs. Its focus
is on the benefit of herbs to older horses and

There is no doubt that healthy herbal supplements can affect a horse in a very positive manner. All horses, from foals to the elderly, can benefit from the addition of relevant herbs to their diet. As a horse ages, his needs change. The Veteran Horse Herbal gives a detailed guide to herbs and their uses, particularly in regards to older equines.

Consult a holistic practitioner if you would like more information on this fascinating subject.