What your stable could tell you about your horse
A lot of activity can go on in a stable overnight. Careful observation of the messages your horse has left will help you develop and understand these hints and what to do to assist your horse’s wellbeing.
A pile of manure has a story to tell. A simple examination may visibly identify a worm infestation. It may be time to do a faecal test and see if your horse needs to be wormed. Worm deterring herbs may not be strong enough to shift an established worm burden, however they can help the horse be a less hospitable host. Two popular herbs used to keep worm counts down are pumpkin seed and garlic. If you are concerned using a chemical wormer, test first to see if needed complete the worming protocol then follow on with liver herbs such as St Marys thistle and turmeric together to cover both stages of liver detoxification.
Taking the time to do a morning manure check, will give you early signals if your horse needs a dental visit. Larger pieces of feed in the manure could mean your horse is not able to chew the feed effectively. Having good dental care is one of your first lines of defence against ulcers, if the feed is masticated well and goes to the stomach with plenty of saliva, this support the digestive process.
A change of consistency of manure can signal gut sensitivity and possibly ulcers. If your veterinarian suspects ulcers there are many herbs that can be used. If the manure has become loose, marshmallow root will help firm most loose stools with soothing the gut. If the manure has become dry, or hard, licorice root powder can be combined with other herbs will support the rehydration of the hind gut while soothing and protecting sensitive tissue.
The stinky manure pile or sloppy sticky manure often indicates liver involvement. Sometimes a change to yellow can also mean the liver needs some support. The liver has many roles in the body and a change in feed or stress can unsettle the function. Often other clinical signs will be present to help you decide what liver herb to give. For example, If the skin is flaky burdock root is helpful; if the horse is recovering from an illness, dandelion root and rosehips are good pick-me-ups.
Calming herbs are usually gut settling herbs and when loose manure is stress related, chamomile and lemon balm are often helpful. If the manure becomes watery and stinky, then hops. Just remember most calming herbs are noted as prohibited at competitions.
Frothy urine can simply be your horse has waiting until the bladder is full, if it is more concentrated check for signs of dehydration and the water bucket to see how much water has been consumed overnight. If the frothiness continues, then veterinary investigation is warranted as this can be a sign of too much protein in the urine and suggests a kidney issue. With any kidney issue it is important to consult with your veterinarian, there are some wonderful kidney herbs but if the kidneys are compromised it is best to have a diagnosis confirmed before adding herbs.
For the horse that doesn’t drink as much as they should with the change of weather or stress, a teaspoon of celery seed can encourage thirst; if you already know your horse is prone to azoturia, dandelion root and leaf are a useful combination to help with management of the muscle health.
Bugs around feed bucket
Uninvited guest in the stable can nibble on your horse overnight. Adding some brewers yeast or garlic to the feed can help make the blood less tasty to biting insects. If your horse suffers a skin complaint from the bites, calendula petals and nettles can be helpful with reactive and itchy skin. If signs of headshaking or head sensitivity then wood betony can be added to the mix.
If your horse doesn’t eat as well when the weather is hot, try pouring some peppermint leaves that have been steeped in hot water for ten minutes over the feed. Peppermint is an appetite stimulant and a cooling herb during summer heat. In winter, a teaspoon of ginger powder can warm the older horse’s gut and joints.
With a windsucking horse there are a couple of options. If it is a new behaviour it is worth checking gut health and herbs like meadowsweet and white willow bark can be helpful if pain is factor. If the windsucking is an entrenched habit, you can give the same herbs and also look at calming herbs which may help lessen the horse’s level of stress but herbs may not stop the habit completely.
If your horse has rolled about and messed up the bedding, make sure it is not a sign of colic. If healthy, the horse may have been self-massaging. When the horse leaves the stable note if any sawdust or straw has stuck to one the body, this may be where your horse has been trying to apply pressure to relief muscle tightness. Another indicator that a muscle may be sore, if your horse has been rugged and has a consistent sweat patch when the rug is removed have a feel and you may be invited to massage that area. Chamomile with a high magnesium content is a useful herb after massage.
Even when greeting your horse first thing in the morning and comes out of the stable subdued. Inflammation anywhere in the body can affect demeanour. Do a quick once over to make sure there is not the beginnings of something more serious. Turmeric is a good herb low grade inflammation; rosehips are a nice tonic herb; while lemon balm is a useful anti-depressant. For a confined horse who is bored, chamomile and dandelion root can be useful.
Reading the messages your horse leaves behind each morning can help you decide if you want to add a handful of dried herbs or tablespoons of powdered herbs to the feed to help with what goes on in the stable overnight. Sometimes one herb is enough, other times a combination of up to five herbs covers most needs. You have the flexibility to decide and adjust your approach as you see how your horse responds, which in turn helps you better understand what you can do to help your horse.