Our fire and smoke summer

Where’s there is smoke

The sort of scene Jade Ilana photographed coming towards her horse property in Victoria this weekend is not one anyone wants to sees. Fortunately the wind changed direction and Jade and her horses were safe.

Jade Ilana Photo taken from the back of Yarram 9 Feb 14
Jade Ilana took this pic from the back of Yarram 9 Feb 14

If your horse has been affected by smoke from bushfires near you, two herbs that are easy to get are chamomile and rosehips. This combination will help with associated stresses, not only soothing the nerves but also soothing all the mucus membranes in the respiratory and digestive systems.

With both of these herbs, with most horses they are gentle in their action and unlikely to conflict with other herbs the horse is already on, or medication they may need from your vet.

You don’t always need to make teas with these two herbs but because we are trying to help with any irritation from heat and smoke it would be a good idea to soften with boiling water before pouring the whole contents in any feed.

When they are immediately affected add to any feed:

2 heaped tablespoons of chamomile flowers

2 heaped tablespoons of rosehips granules or shellcut

Cover with boiling water (or very hot water) and once the herbs have softened which only takes a couple of minutes they can add to the feed. You can give this once or up to three times a day.

Once your horse has settled which shouldn’t take too long you can reduce the herbs to once a day and use up what you have left. If it is not convenient to soften the herbs with hot water, you can still give by adding to the feed, you will still benefit from the herbs.

Taking this general approach will calm, soothe and help tissue recover and give you time to assess if your horse needs further support.

If your horse looks like he is straining to eat because the smoke irritated the tissue where he or she swallows, a demulcent herb such as marshmallow root powder can be used as a paste before feeding or added to feed.

Honey is another healing agent you can use. If you have open wounds or burns on the skin  honey will help you fight infections and will promote healing minimising scarring. It will also sooth irritation in the upper respiratory tract. The darker the honey the better, and if you can use unprocessed raw honey even better. Our pantry is always stocked with Manuka honey, just avoid the highly processed honey on the supermarket shelf.

It is important to also talk to your veterinarian at these times, as they will be assisting a lot of horses, and will advise you of any signs to look for in your horse if they have been affected by smoke in a way that requires veterinary attention. The use herbs is not to replace their advice.

If you have to move your horse!

As part of your evacuation kit have some rescue remedy, feeling vulnerable to the environment is not an exclusive human trait, so helping your animals with their stress levels will help keep them healthy through a difficult relocation.

A packet of chamomile tea won’t take up much space and is also a definite necessity in your disaster kit. My favourite supermarket blended tea bag is Natureland’s Night Cup, it contains all the nice calming herbs I like while it helps keep me hydrated and my digestive system calm when I am distracted by a nasty situation. I keep an uptodate packet next to our ‘shake and shine torches’.  A cup of tea for yourself and your horse will help both settle until you have resettled yourselves.

The essential oil to offer a horse after he has been traumatized by bushfires is Sweet Orange. The scent of orange will reassure your horse and every time he is offered a waft of the scent it will be like being given a big warm hug. All you have to do is uncap your body and waft it 10cm/4 inches from the nostrils.

The more you are planned for such events, the easier it will be to respond in the safest way possible for you and your animals.

Don’t forget their feet

Carol Adolf offered some good advice after Victoria’s severe fires in 2009: www.EquineBareHoofCare.org and http://www.EquineSoundness.com

With hooves please be aware that deep burns to the hoof are not always obvious immediately. The outer hoofcapsule does provide insulation for the inner living structures, however, extensive heat over a period of time will cause corium damage. Sole corium and wall lamellae may overheat (literally cook), and tissue will still break-down even if initial visible blisters to bulbs and skin are already healing. Due to the conductivity of metal, shod horses are at greater risk, as the heat will remain longer and is more localized. If internal damage has occurred, the help of a hoofcare specialist is required. Rehabilitation may take at least 8-9 months or more as failure of the suspension apparatus and severe abscessing may be some of the complications.

For burns to the skin and bulbs and coronet please follow initial first aid procedures as recommended by your vet and discuss following alternative treatment methods with him/her to assist the healing process thereafter.

With the heatwaves we have had across Australia this summer, many horse folks have been affected. We all need to be prepared and be logical when our horses are threatened by a bushfire. Then to help our horses after a fire has passed by assisting them to settle and heal from any trauma.

written by Catherine Bird


One thought on “Our fire and smoke summer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s