'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Archive for August, 2019

Essential oils to assist with hoof problems

Essential oils offer natural help for horses with hoof problems. As a component of rehabilitation, the use of these essential oils can be helpful in two ways: There is the direct physical action – such as with external application – to assist with the healing of tissue, and there is the olfactory response – aromatherapy – that assists with identifying and addressing some of the underlying issues that could be contributing to the hoof problems.

Initially I narrow down through knowledge my choice of essential oils to offer the horse. When I am deciding on which application of the oils to use, I believe it is still always wise to offer the horse the scent, no matter how much knowledge I feel I have. If the horse is attracted to the scent, even when selecting a physical application, the oil is likely to be more effective than if I were to impose my will upon the horse with what I think is best to help him heal his body.

If I look simply at the feet, then my choice of essential oils would include but not be limited to:
Tea Tree, Patchouli, Carrot Seed, Yarrow, Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium, Juniper, Sweet Orange.

Some of these you will look at and wonder why, so to give you further insight into the wholistic nature of aromatherapy, this is why I chose these essential oils as an offering:

Tea Tree and Patchouli are highly antifungal, so if my horse selects either or both of these I would consider using them in a carrier to apply directly to the hoof to assist with early stages of thrush. Patchouli also brings awareness and surety to the feet, and if a horse has difficulty feeling the ground beneath him because the health of his hoof does not support his body solidly, then Patchouli will help provide a sense of being more in contact with the earth below him. I have found this very useful with horses such as thoroughbreds that have raced and come away from the track with poor quality hooves.

Carrot Seed is always a good indicator to me to question the utilisation ability of the gut. If a horse with a hoof issue is attracted to this essential oil, I begin to query diet and look at protein levels and the amount of sugar intake.

Yarrow helps me decide if the horse needs herbal support, especially if he has already selected Carrot Seed. Yarrow is a nice gentle anti-inflammatory and also a gentle support to the kidneys and liver. It is a primary herb when dealing with a laminitic horse, so if the horse selects Yarrow essential oil, then I will follow up by suggesting he receive this herb in his feed. Lavender will support this choice as it often indicates heat in the body and helps soothe the body, mind and spirit during times of stress.

Similarly I offer Chamomile, especially in a horse who has suffered chronic feet issues. After a while the discomfort travels up the legs, and muscle tension is carried throughout the body. If the horse’s olfactory response shows attraction to it, Chamomile essential oil applied to these ‘spastic’ muscles will benefit him, as will the dried flowers added to his feed.

Exhibiting an attraction to Geranium often indicates to me that the horse is in pain as it is a mild analgesic, and/or suggests that there may be hormonal involvement. This in turn guides my follow up. Juniper indicates similar issues, and if a horse goes for this essential oil, I often support the liver of such a horse with the herbs dandelion root or milk thistle and gently detoxify the body. Juniper may indicate the presence of drugs or drug residue, or a build up of foodstuffs that have not been able to be assimilated by the horse’s body.

Finally, Sweet Orange is one of my favourite essential oils to offer any horse, and I rarely have a session with a horse and not offer Sweet Orange at some point. I use it in two ways – one as a thank you to him for working with me and allowing me to help him, and secondly to let him know that his issues have not gone unnoticed and we humans are attempting to help him. Sweet Orange is from the peel of the plant and when offered to the olfactory sense, it gives a feeling of a warm sunny hug. It is also a supportive and gently detoxifying, so it assists some of my earlier offerings.

The key to success with using essential oils to assist your horse with hoof problems is to always treat him as the unique individual he is. There are so many elements to healing and many layers to be addressed, and by respecting this and finding what is appropriate to each case brings about a healthy, happy horse who will contribute to a healthy equine society.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 8 Issue 2

Herbs for the Seasons

blends-2A few years ago now Country Park Animal Herbs asked me to design some blends of herbs for them to assist their clients. Initially we looked at common issues and worked on that idea. But using herbs for good health can be quite limited if one becomes fixated on ‘disease’ so the concept was expanded upon and the idea to help you as horse owners get more in touch with the seasonal needs of your horse and in harmony with nature fitted more with the philosophy of going with the flow and taking the path of least resistance so you could gain the maximum benefit from herbs with the least amount of effort.

Following the flow of nature is not a new concept. Many streams of medicine and cultures follow a seasonal healing cycle, from the Amerindians to the ayurvedic practices of the Indian continent and the Toaist of Asia, even primitive tribes in Africa adhere to the flow of seasons. My traditional herbal training is grateful to the ideas of Culpepper and the like who can then be traced back the humours of Hippocrates that were guided by the seasons to help achieve better health.

All living organisms are composites of rhythm, the cycle of heart beats vary in speed in the morning to that of the evening; the cycle of electrical activity of the brain can occur in nanoseconds; breathing is rhythmic and follows a cycle that keeps all of alive, and many hormones are released in pulses that flow with many cycles. Even diseases have a cycle and rhythm to them while other biological activities are synchronised with the cycles of the moon and sun and governed by the earth’s rotation. Annual seasonal rhythms are more noticeable in animals. It is easier to get your horse to concentrate in winter but at the same time, resistance to infection is lower.

Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn

Sometimes the body is a bit out of step with all the changes from one season to another, and this is why the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn blends of herbs are of so much value to the horse owner.

In Winter and you need herbs such as Nettle to maintain physical strength; the body often becomes congested with phlegm which inhibits its ability to flow naturally and needs the support of herbs such as Clivers, Dandelion Leaf and Yarrow to help the body.

In Spring with this phlegm dissolving, the body’s digestive system can be put under extra strain so plenty of exercise assisted with the herbs included in the Spring blend such as Fennel, Rosehips and Yarrow keep your horse in tune with nature.

Once the heat of Summer arrives, the body may again be robbed of some of its strength and become lethargic, cooling herbs such as Marshmallow Root and Calendula assist the body with the extra strain it is under and also strengthen the skin to meet the conditions.

Finally as Autumn comes upon us, dampness can predominate and weaken digestion again, and the blend we designed for this season with herbs such as Peppermint to assist digestion and Echinacea to prepare the body for the next season come into their own in assisting your horse. Thus keeping our horses in tune with Nature.

When following physiomedical herbal practices, it is important to cleanse the body and if you again use the seasonal blends provided by Country Park you can assist your horse in the best way possible:
In Winter the kidneys are your organ of elimination so the Winter blend incorporates Dandelion Leaf to fit with this regimen.

In Spring the primary organ of elimination is the liver, so the Spring blends incorporates the use of herb Vervain.

In Autumn the herbs Licorice Root and Parsley come to your horse’s aid the elimination that is primary within the intestines at this time.
To complete the selection of herbs for each season we have included wonderful tonic herbs in each blend to further maintain the ideal balance within your horse’s body.
The totality of each seasonal blend is so special, you do not need to give more than one blend to your horse at any one time.

As you can see much thought has gone into caring for the health of your horse along with observances of the cycles of nature and its effects on the body. Being in harmony with the seasons affords you and your horse much more enjoyment with good health and mental wellbeing.