Herbs for Horses
Herbal medicine is particularly well suited to horses as they are naturally herbivorous animals.
Horses are also often credited with the ability to treat themselves herbally by being able to select their own natural medicine from plants and herbs when in a natural grazing environment.
Herbally based remedies use parts of a plant either fresh or dried in infusions, poultices, decocotions, lotions ointments and salves.
Herbal remedies for horses are similar to those used for similar ailments in humans - and, generally, have the same effect.
The major difference between human and horses is that the horses digestive system is very different to that of a human - this can affect the final substance that enters the bloodstream.
Many horse owners/equine-nutrition/linseed-horse.shtml feed an equine garlic supplement for its insect repelling qualities - the sweat produced by a horse fed on garlic gives out an odour that keeps flies, ticks and midges away - making it a natural fly repellant.
Horse owners also find feeding garlic useful as part of their equine worming program. Regular feeding of Garlic is effective in deterring tapeworms, pinworms and roundworms - but this should not exclude the use of regular wormers.
Garlic can be used used to give relief from the symptons of coughs - it contains a substance that helps to clear mucus in the airways. This cleansing action, together with its ability to reduce inflammation, also benefits the urinary tract.
The recommended amount to feed is half an ounce to 2 ounces per day depending on the horse or pony's size. It comes in several forms for equine use - powder, freeze dried granules and some owners claim freshly grown organic garlic is the best way to feed it.
However feed with care as it is being discovered that there are dangers in feeding too much garlic as it can can cause anemia in horses.
There is a toxic element in Garlic called N-propyl disulfide which can change an enzyme within a horse's red blood cells, it depletes the cell of a chemical known as phosphate dehydrogenase - whose task is to protect the blood cells from damage caused by oxidation
When the level of phosphate dehydrogenase gets too low the hemoglobin in the blood cell oxidizes and forms a bubble. This is seen as being deformed as it passes through the spleen and is removed from the bloodstream. If the blood is consistently poisoned by N-propyl disulfide contained in a garlic supplement more red blood cells are removed and the horse may slowly become anaemic.
Researchers fed a healthy horse 1 lb of onion tops, which also contain N-propyl disulfide, over an 11 day period. By the 11th day the horse had lost almost 60% of his red blood cells and was severely anaemic!
Some vets claim that the toxic effects of garlic are gradual - a low dose fed on a regular basis can result in mild anemia.
However it may be that commercially prepared equine garlic supplements are not dangerous as the active ingredient -allicin - is often destroyed during the manufacturing process when heat dried.
The benefits of garlic are many and if you do decide to feed a garlic supplement just be careful not to overdo it.