'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

Winter Hints for Horse and Human

For the Horse

Cindy Daigre shared Ferrell Hollow Farm-Senior Horse Sanctuary's Henry

Henry from Ferrell Hollow Farm-Senior Horse Sanctuary in the snow Feb 2014

Winter is a time when your horse will expend more energy to keep warm. How you assist him with this will vary with your local conditions, but there are a few simple things you can do wherever you have a definite “winter” season.

If your horse is still reluctant to drink during the cold weather you can add celery seeds to his feed to encourage your horse to drink more. It is also a good winter supplement as a digestive tonic and assisting with stiffness from arthritic joints in older horses.

A long coat is the horses first line of defence against cold weather. If a horse is rugged or blanketed or kept in a warm barn, he will not grow an adequate length of coat to protect him against the elements. If given the opportunity horses will huddle together and run around to keep warm . Care does have to be taken if your horse has come from a warmer climate and not yet acclimatised or if he gets wet. A wet coat will make it more difficult to stay warm and maintain comfort.

To warm your horse from the inside out, Ginger is my favourite wintertime herb. It brings warmth to both you and your horse when given in feed to warm the gut, and generate warmth that permeates throughout the body. Ginger is also indicated for most illnesses that can be traced back to exposure to a draft or coldness in the body, any respiratory tract imbalance, to musculoskeletal issues.

Fenugreek seeds help keep condition on a horse. They are an appetite stimulant as well as well as helping with any imbalance in the respiratory tract. You only need to add a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds to a feed, however as the seeds are difficult to digest unassisted, steep the seeds in boiling water to soften before adding the seeds and the water to your horse’s feed.

Chamomile is another herb that helps with condition. It helps regulate the immune system in a gentle way, however when it comes to body condition it supports the muscles in the body.

Your horse will appreciate the scent of aromatherapy if stabled in a closed environment. They help cheer up the barn sour horse and also act as negative ion generators to inhibit the spread of airborne pathogens. Grapefruit essential oil is referred to as “brain sunshine” and simply wafting the uncapped bottle under your horse’s nose will lift his spirits. Eucalyptus and Bergamot are antiviral and can be used in the same way to help build your horse’s resistance to ‘cold’ viruses.

The herb rosehip, when added to the feed of a stabled horse will also help to build his resistance to disease and improve recovery time after illness that may have been your reason for accommodating him in a barn.

When working horses in cold weather, warm horses up slowly before asking for serious work. It would also be of benefit to both yourself and your horse to give your horse a good brisk massage to warm you both up before even saddling. Sweeping effleurage and circular frictions will generate heat and warm up the muscles.

Most importantly when you are finished and unsaddled dry your horse off. Your horse needs to be cooled down thoroughly and brushed to stand the hair up so the fluffy hair traps air and keeps your horse warm Flat wet hair clings to the body and lets body heat escape.

One first aid remedy to have handy throughout winter at the first sign of any illness is the biochemic tissue salt Ferr Phos. Remembering the importance of veterinary care, this tissue salt can be administered easily and quickly directly into the mouth at the first sign of fever or runny nose. Garlic is another preventative herb and a tablespoon every second day is enough to bolster the immune system through the colder months, and Echinacea root brewed into a decoction is often good to start your horses on, especially if your horse is new to a cold environment or had a history of respiratory complaints.

Other herbs useful during the winter months are Nettles, Yarrow and Hawthorn Leaf as they improve the circulation to the most parts of the body and provide extra nutritional basics.

A little common sense goes a long way.

During the colder months respiratory tract infections tend to be an issue. Herbs such as Elder, Yarrow, Elecampane and Mullein, Echinacea, and Astragalus are all herbs you need to know how to get hold of if your horse needs this sort of support.

Elder flowers contain tannins and mucilage which are very soothing to irritated mucosal tissue. Elecampane and Mullein are two herbs to consider if your horse is afflicted with a cough. Elecampane while it soothes the respiratory tract also strengthens its ability to eliminate congestion from the lungs. It is very useful for the horse who is irritated by dust in their feed. Mullein is more for the wet coughs, where there is persistent dampness, or where your horse may be sore and irritated in the respiratory tract.

Yarrow helps to dilate the peripheral blood vessels that become contracted in the cold, to assist the body to maintain a healthy warmth as well help address mild fevers or minor circulatory congestion.

If your horse has been unfortunate and fallen to an illness during the colder months you can use herbs to rebuild his immune system and strengthen him for the coming year. Astragalus is a herb that will help strengthen the whole body, and another that is becoming popular is the Bulgarian grown Tribulus. Using either of these herbs or combining them with traditional western herbs such as Licorice will help your horse recover with more strength from within. If this is an approach you need, find a herbalist who can supply you with a blend of the liquid extracts.

The most effective use of herbs with horses is simple and usually three or four herbs in a daily regimen will combine with a nice synergy to help your horse overcome most obstacles the cold weather creates within the body.

For the Human

No matter where you are in the world, the winter months can be a little wearing on the rider, especially when it comes time to get out of bed in the dark to get to your horse and stables, or to go down after a day’s work in the dark, or to try to be cheerful with icy cold hands and feet.

Dried Out Hands

The cold air always seems to dry out and roughen skin more than usual, no matter how much water we drink to stay hydrated. Olive oil can be warming to the body and is a simple moisturiser for the skin. For hands that get dry and rough, try a simple scrub of olive oil and half a teaspoon of white sugar in the palm of your hand. Lightly rub your hands together, then rinse off the sugar. Any residual oil can be worked into your hands. It is one of the simplest ways to help remove dead skin cells from your tired hands and moisturise them. You can add a drop or two of your favourite essential oil to help lift your spirits above the winter blues. (Abraded or irritated skin may be sensitive to strong EOs so try a small test spot first.)

Your Own Brew of Herbs

One of the best ways to stay warm in winter is by warming yourself from the inside. Brew up a warming tea of ginger, peppermint and elder flowers and take it with you to sip throughout the day. It will stay warm for hours in a well-managed thermos.

In the evening, you can make your own mulled wine – add a variation of herbs such as the sweet and fragrant mix of whole pieces of allspice, cassia, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, mandarin peel and cloves to a red wine. Combine the spices and citrus in red wine or a non-alcoholic beverage. Sweeten to taste (up to 1/4 cup sugar). Heat this through for at least 15 minutes, but don’t boil.

Your Daily Cheerful Tissue

Also carry a magic tissue with you throughout the day. The scent of essential oils added to a tissue can help create a barrier by acting like a personal negative ion generator, making it more difficult for viruses to pass through the air and make contact with you.

Bergamot is particularly effective if there is a viral infection going around your area and you have to travel to and from work or the stables on public transport.

Atkinson’s Kick-a-Germ Joy Juice

One old remedy to mix up, if you feel the beginnings of a cold or flu coming on, is this juice. Be warned it is for the heroic ones amongst us, but when I have been brave enough to cook up the ingredients, it has always helped push the bugs out of my system.

(Ref: Modern Naturopathy and Age Old Healers by Russell Frank Atkinson):

“Take four large cloves of garlic. Dice or crush them and put in a stainless steel or ceramic pot with one litre of water (1 ½ pints). If the cloves are not large and fat, make it six. Add three whole lemons, diced, that is skin, pith and all, one teaspoon of ginger and one teaspoon of powdered cinnamon, one nasturtium leaf and stem and let it simmer for fifteen minutes, stirring. Be careful not to let it boil. While cooling, add a dessertspoon or two of raw honey and stir it in. This is then strained and half a cup is taken each few hours. This is a natural antibiotic with no adverse effects, apart from garlic breath.”

A Curry or Composition Powder

For those of you less brave, a simple Thai or Indian curry will suffice. I like this option as it soothes my digestion as well as my soul when I am feeling vulnerable to all the bacteria and viruses waiting out there to take advantage in the cold weather. It follows loosely on from the use of composition powder by the physiomedical herbalist Samuel Thompson. He formulated this blend of herbs in 1846 and it contains barberry bark, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, prickly ash bark, and cloves.

It also makes an enlivening additive to soups during winter. Simply add anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon depending on the size of your pot, and enjoy.

Bedtime

Marjoram is a warming essential oil and very sedative. It can be a useful one to inhale as you drift off to sleep, to help you let go of the worries of the day. If your body clock has trouble adjusting to the shorter days during winter, supplementing low doses of chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus castus) helps the body with the manufacture of its own melatonin and enables the body to readjust quickly. Taking a small dose before bed for a week or so should be sufficient to assist you. Do not take this herb if you are taking hormone replacement therapy.

Stay Warm

Most nasty bugs that thrive during winter thrive on cold, while the human body becomes more vulnerable when it is cold. Wear plenty of layers and keep your body warm so there is less opportunity for viruses and bacteria to invade your personal space.

A Little Morning Sunshine

During the shorter, damper days, the essential oil of grapefruit is considered a little drop of brain sunshine. When you first get into your morning shower, cover the drain hole with your foot, and simply drop three or four drops of this essential oil into the pooling water. This will help lift any dampened mood and start your day with a special brightness that will help you deal with any unwanted exposures – thoughts, pathogens, or otherwise.

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Herbs for waterlogged horses

Dealing with flood waters

When a flood hits an area, there is not always enough warning to get horses out of the way of rising floodwaters.

flood-horse-feed-food-sick1

Firstly don’t panic, a horse can go without feed for a long period of time, and most floodwaters will recede in a couple of days.

Floodwaters often contain sewerage and other pathogens, so it is important once waters do recede you need to be stringent about cleanliness. Disinfect water containers and feed bins, stables need to be hosed out thoroughly.

Some horses may have injuries or wounds from debris that has been in the water, so thoroughly clean any open wounds. Herbs like calendula and rosehips can be added to feed to help build immunity and make the lymphatic system more effective at this time. Calendula made into a tea and used to wash infected cuts and scratches can be very effective.

If your horse develops mud fever, add clivers to your horse’s feed.

A course of probotics would be worth considering in case your horse has ingested a nasty bacteria while standing in water, this will help your horse reestablish healthy gut bacteria.

Horses have been known to suffer hypothermia if left standing in flood waters, so monitor them closely. This is when a thermal blanket comes in handy if available.  One teaspoon of ginger powder added to any feed after standing in chilly water; or a slice or two of fresh ginger root added to a water bucket will also help the older horse warm from within.

If your horse has been without feed for several days, introduce a soft feed slowly. Sometimes without feed horses can develop a sensitive gut, or even esophageal ulcers, so a warm bran mash or softened pellets will not irritate your horse. If the experience has stressed your horse, chamomile flowers added to the soften feed will help with settling his nerves and soothing the gut.

The most important thing is to not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. A local veterinarian will often have seen many horses by the time you call, and will have a good local strategy worked out to assist you.

How much is enough

Working out the right amount of a herb or combination of herbs to give can depend on your intention.

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Why are you giving the herbs?

Is it simply to address a physical issue? Is it to assist with a behaviour block? Are you addressing the spirit of the horse?

Some people like to complicate the procedure by giving many herbs together. This is often out of anxiety in the hope they cover everything, or from their ego thinking how clever they are to have combined so many herbs. Sometimes we just love our horses “too much” and in our hope to heal them we try “everything” we possibly can. This only leads to confusion not only for yourself as you won’t know what worked, but you also confuse the organism ie your horse. His body could become overloaded or unable to utilise all you have given him, sometimes even give components that are antagonistic to each other and then there is a battle within rather than a restoration of harmony.

For me three (3) to five (5) if combined thoughtfully will cover most issues you are trying to address. If you find you want to give more, then maybe your issue are multi-dimensional and you need to layer your approach. This way you are addressing the most immediate layer and once you have smoothed the way through this layer, you can then address the next layer.

Herbs are less refined than medicines, your scope on the amount can vary quite broadly with them, and often more is not always needed. My rule of thumb is my combination of herbs doesn’t usually need to one (1) cup per feed. The level of acuteness will determine how many times a day. If I am addressing an issue from a strictly physical perspective this often achieves the desired results.

When it comes to behavioural issues my approach may vary from this. It is difficult to tell a client how quickly a herb will work. From experience you have a general idea. But the physical response is not the primary factor as herbs are very much connected to the etheric body so their affect the subtle anatomy first and this then filters down to the physical body so the impact is gradual and depends on the unique situation.

When the herbs don’t achieve a result on a physical level then this is where the intent becomes vital. The spiritual aspects of the herbs need to be activated. The owner has to handle the herbs as they add them to the feed, they have to have the intent that the herbs will assist release the negative blocks to the healing process, and most importantly in coming into contact with the herbs themselves that their thought forms that have “infected” their horse be released.

Alice Bailey spoke to the importance of thought forms and how negative thought forms are contagious. It takes a brave owner to take the time and examine what they have contributed to their horse’s dis-ease, what has the horse “caught” from them.

Herbs can assist with one aspect of this, but reclaiming and healing those patterns within yourself then allows your horse to accept the benefits of the herbs.

Sometimes you need to give your horse the herbs you take. This is an interesting paragraph fromGuruda’s The Spiritual Properties of Herbs to consider before my next blog:

When you take an herb, your animals should be offered a little of the same herb so it not to be imbalanced by the effect you experience from the herb. But the animal must be allowed to choose it in such cases. Offer the herb to the animal at least once a week, if you are working with the herb over an extended period of time. If you use the herb only once or twice, provide it to the animal at least once when you first take the herb. Sometimes the animal will recognise the necessity for the herb and take it.

Well worth considering when you next have your herbal tea or tisane.

Travel Hints when Your Horse Doesn’t Want to Drink

drinking water competition celery herbs

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Some horses don’t like to drink away from home.

Suggestion 1

Add a teaspoon of celery seed to their feed the night before and when they are away – celery seed tends to make horse’s a little thirstier and encourages them to drink water.

Suggestion 2

Flavour their water with a small bottle of apple juice – we have all drunk water from a different water tank and know it can taste different – the addition of this small amount of juice can mask that difference and be yummy. If you forget to take juice with you a splash of coke or lemonade is a second-best option.

Suggestion 3

Soak their hay in a large bucket and when they eat their hay from the container they will also slurp up a good quantity of water.

These are just three ideas that have worked for clients in the past – if anyone else has any suggestions – you are most welcome to contribute as what has worked for you may just work for somebody else.

Allergy thoughts

Allergies need a layered approach

Hopefully your horse is not allergic to other valued pets (thanks to the Country Park client for this pic)
horse herbs allergy help

With the seasons not following their usual trend, the incidents of allergies seems to be rising on both sides of the equator.

Identify and Eliminate
If the trigger is environmental it may be hard to eliminate. If your horse is sensitive to one of the components in the feed – eliminate those which could be the trigger. It will vary with each horse and sometimes going down to a basic diet and then rebuilding one part at a time can help too.

Reactions to your emotions
Some of your horse’s reactions can be to the emotions you are generating around you What I often find is allergy reactions in a horse may be because the owner is easily affected or irritated by others. It is worth looking at your own life and see what is affecting your emotional health if herbs don’t help your horse.

Herbs to help
If it is some kind of inflammatory response – try calendula or eyebright.
Puffiness or the lymphatic system needing a gentle flush – clivers.
Rosehips are a good tonic to boost defence against most allergic responses.
Help your horse’s liver along with herbs like st marys thistle or burdock depending on how the allergy manifests.

Last but not least – Keep at it – allergies can be multi layered and it may take time to work through each layer of the issues.

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

Making the Perfect Brew

With the convenience of teabags the art of making an infusion or decoction of herbs has been lost in some households.

calendula-flower from www.hort.wisc.edu

calendula-flower from http://www.hort.wisc.edu

A herbal tea can be an infusion or a decoction. An infusion is made by pouring boiling water over dried or fresh herbs whilst a decoction is made by boiling in water harder plant substances such as bark and roots.

The traditional proportion for an infusion is 30 gm of dried herb to 500 ml of water. You infuse this amount of herb for 15 minutes before drinking. There is no benefit in stewing your herbs, you will have obtained the healing properties in this time. With a decoction use 600 ml of water to 30 gm of dried root or bark. This is brought to the boil and simmered for 15 to 20 minutes.

Herbalists have found chronic conditions require less strong brews. In most texts one dose is a wineglassful. Ideally if you are taking your herbs to help with a health issue, the body responds well to three doses a day. If you have made too much tea for the day, you can keep the reserve in the fridge and warm as you need, though it is best to discard this fluid in 24 hours.

The timing for having your cup of tea will vary. If your digestion is weak, enjoy your herbal tea after a meal. If you are taking herbs as a tonic and general wellbeing, enjoy your tea before meals. Herbs will treat bones or marrow are believed to best taken before bed, whilst female reproductive or liver herbs are better on rising in the morning.

For the management of fevers hot infusions help to bring about therapeutic sweating. A favourite cold and flu brew on my household is peppermint and lemon balm. In between sleeping off the symptoms, a regular cup of tea assisting with recovery.

Mixing flavours of herbs into herbal tea mixtures can be fun. Mix equal parts of the blander chamomile with a tastier herb such as rosehips or for our older readers hawthorn berry to nurture the heart. The rosehips can be pretty in their shell cut form and enhance the appeal to others more enticing if you use a clear glass plunger to make an infusion.

Infusions and decoctions are not as strong as fluid extracts used by herbal practitioners but with most herbs available loose, cut and dried a good cup of tea is a safe way to relax with friends. Infusions are also portable and easy to make at work.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun with making your tea mixes. Mix flavours and colours, and some blends can have up to six herbs in your mix. Then sit back and savour the moment while you do something that is good for you.

When it comes to you horse or dog, simply make your brew 15 to 20 minutes before you offer it to them. For a dog who is fretful while you are away from the home, have a second bowl with chamomile tea available to lap up. For a horse who needs root and bark herbs, brew his tea and pour over his feed, make sure you include the softened herbs when mixing in.

Making up a calendula tea as described you can spray and clean a wound with this yellow tea.

Ask your herbal suppliers if some of their blends can be made into a tea, and while you make a serving for your horse or dog, add a teaspoon of their mix into an infuser for yourself.

 

written by Catherine Bird