Herbs have always played an important role in keeping horses healthy, both in the form of remedies and as part of natural grazing. Today, they can be used successfully alongside modern medicine for everything from respiratory or arthritic conditions to temperament problems.
However, herbal experts stress that if your horse has a problem you should always start by consulting your vet and checking everything from his teeth to the fit of his tack. If your horse is uptight because a badly-fitting bit is causing him discomfort, you can’t expect a herbal calmer to put things right.
Nor should you assume that because a herbal product is “natural”, it can’t do any harm.
There are certain contraindications, such as parsley, which shouldn’t be given to pregnant mares as it stimulates the uterus.
“You’ve got to be just as careful with herbs as with anything else,” says Richard Cleeve, of Natural Animal Feeds. “Some herbal nutritional supplements can be very strong.”
He suggests the following guidelines:
- Don’t exceed recommended feeding rates as it is possible to overdose on herbs.
- If you think you need to use more than one product, check with the manufacturers first.
Products added to the feed can be in either liquid, powder or dried herb form. Liquids are popular as they are easy to mix in and ensure the horse gets the same amount of each ingredient every time.
WARNING: If you are competing ‘under rules’ check the product you are using does not contain any banned substances and be extra careful not to exceed the recommended dose. This applies particularly to products marketed as an alternative to bute.