'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

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.


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.


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


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