'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Posts tagged ‘herbs’

Natural support for allergies and skin conditions

get-itch-outZelda, and eight-year-old Arabian, had a beautiful coat when Barbara acquired the mare late in the fall. However, as summer arrived and temperatures began to rise, Zelda broke out in hives. The poor horse itched so badly she rubbed herself raw. Barbara suspected Zelda’s skin problems were due to allergies but when she phoned her local practitioner about getting help, she could almost hear him cringing on the other end of the line. “I knew then that I had my work cut out for me,” she said.

While more horses than ever before suffer from allergies, there is no one shot cure that takes care of the problem. Each case is so individual and what works on one horse may have no benefit to the next. As you consider the information I have to offer here, please remember that if one approach does not work for you, do not give up on your horse. Allergies and skin conditions are multi-layered and, although it may appear your approach is not working sometimes, your horse’s body may just be peeling away at an invisible layer, enabling your next level of treatment to be more effective.

What is an allergy?

The Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary defines an allergy as “an acquired hypersensitivity to a substance (allergen) that does not normally cause a reaction. It is essentially a disorder of the immune system resulting in an antibody-antigen reaction; manifestations most commonly involve the respiratory tract or the skin.”

An allergen can include pollen, dust, feathers, drugs, insect bites and feedstuffs, so your first priority is to eliminate what you suspect may be causing your horse’s allergy. If the allergens cannot be avoided, your veterinarian may suggest antihistamines or corticosteroids. These can provide temporary relief, but in the long term you do need to address your horse’s immune and elimination systems. Natural therapies can help you with this process.

Herbs for the inside and outside

Your horse’s first line of defence is the liver, so any protocol should include supporting this gland. If you believe there is a toxicity or poison present in the body, you’ll want to help the liver detoxify using my two favorite herbs, milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)*. Milk thistle seed helps cleanse the liver, assists with the regeneration of liver cells and protects these cells against the action of liver poisons. Add rosemary in the next phase of treatment as it is a complete herbal antioxidant, a secondary liver cleanser and also hepatoprotective. The powdered forms of these herbs are commonly used.

From a naturopathic perspective, most skin issues reflect an inhibition or dysfunction of one of the other major elimination organs. Look at the liver first, but also consider the kidneys, digestive system and respiratory tract.

If there are breathing difficulties or the presence of catarrh, your horse could benefit from supporting his immune system. My preferred species is Echinacea angustifolia in either its powdered root or liquid extract form. I find I can give these forms long term effectively, whereas the dried leaf does not seem to maintain its potency or efficacy as well and is better suited to short term use.

As your horse’s body begins to detoxify with the liver herbs, Echinacea can fight off secondary infections and help your horse rebuild her immune defences to the allergens. In addition, since Echinacea is traditionally used as a blood cleanser and purifier, it supports the milk thistle and rosemary. These three really make a great team.

*Rosemary should not be given to pregnant mares.

Internal systems are interconnected

Any issues with the lungs lead us to the digestive system. If your horse has a runny nose or gluggy ears in response to the allergens, it could indicate an internal reaction to feedstuffs. My favourite herb to address this with is marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) and I prefer the powdered herb in this situation. In severe cases, paste your horse with one or two tablespoons of herb mixed with water before feeding (use a syringe) or, in milder cases, simply mix it into a wet feed. By addressing the gut in this way, you will soothe the mucosal layer of the digestive tract, which in turn will alleviate the clinical symptoms – the dry and pruritic skin conditions.

Could it be his kidneys? 
If your horse’s urine is irregular, his sweat patterns vary, or your horse has sensitive ears, you may find his allergic conditions respond well to flushing the kidneys. A gentle yet very potent approach to this is adding some freshly picked parsley (Petroselinum crispum) – a nice handful each day – to his feed for about a month. You can use the dried leaf as well; in this case usually one or two heaped tablespoons are sufficient. Parsley also calms the nervous system and serves as a carminative (relieves gas) and digestive tonic, supporting the use of marshmallow root.

You may observe as I work through the body’s elimination processes, that the herbs I select overlap in their functions across each of these body systems. So, as you assist your horse through the various stages of his “line of cure”, your emphasis may shift between any of these systems. You can vary and substitute herbs to further individualize your approach; any bitters including burdock or dandelion root will replace my liver suggestions; immune support such as astragalus or olive leaf could continue on from Echinacea; slippery elm or plantain could address the gut, and mullein or elecampane may help the respiratory tract. Dandelion leaf serves as an easy substitute for parsley.

The emotional toll

If your horse has suffered from a chronic allergy condition, you may also need to address the nervous system. Allergies can really wear on the soul, and after a while most horses become agitated and short-tempered by the constant physical irritation. Again, parsley may assist here as it can be very calming to several body systems. You could also use any of the calming herbs such as sweet flag, lemon balm or chamomile for the same purpose.

Creams, oils and rinses

Topically, you have a wide selection of herbs and essential oils to choose from. I usually recommend calendula (Calendula officinalis), sometimes known as pot marigold, which is an effective local tissue healer when applied in a cream, balm or infused oil to itchy skin. You can also administer it internally to help the body’s inflammatory response come back into balance. Other herbs include aloe vera gel and a rinse made from chamomile flowers.

Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is antipruritic (anti itch), and when applied to a very small section ‘neat’ or diluted into a carrier such as aloe vera gel, this essential oil will take the itch out of most skin irritations. It is safely combined with lavender (Lavendula officinalis) which is cytophylactic (able to stimulate new cells) so the skin repairs quickly. Manuka (Leptospermum scoparlum), another essential oil very effective in healing the skin, has anti fungal and anti bacterial properties and works well with the other two essential oils.

Nutritional support

Once your horse’s body has begun the process of elimination, you can take the next step by supporting her nutritionally. Rosehips (Rosa canina), an inexpensive additive to any feed, is high in flavonoids which nourish the skin and assists our previous herbs with addressing mild infections and soothing gastric inflammation. Clivers or cleavers (Galium aparine) contains high amounts of silica to support the skin, and is a very effective lymphatic cleanser and remedy for skin eruptions, especially where associated with tissue oedema.

Essential oils and aromatherapy

We often think of massage when we talk about aromatherapy, but essential oils can help with allergies and skin problems too. If you are having difficulty in deciding what approach to take with your horse, offer her a selection of essential oils to give you some insights as to where to start your protocol. At the same time, this approach will stimulate and tune up her endocrine system to help rebalance some of the issues that may be underlying the allergic conditions.

My first essential oil of choice is carrot seed (Daucus carota). The scent is an immune stimulator and can indicate if your horse’s digestive system needs addressing. If she shows an intense interest in the scent, your horse can safely lick this one from your hand. This can have a catalytic affect throughout the body to help trigger the liver into action. A horse that goes for this scent may have sluggish digestion, be burdened with worms or need support from liver herbs. This essential oil’s action is so strong, that I check too see if the horse is still attracted to the scent 24 hours later. Often the initial scent and taste will be enough for the body to adjust and restore its own homeostasis.

Addressing your own emotions with Bach flowers and tissue salts

It’s possible that irritating issues in your own life may be contributing energetically to your horse’s condition. Clearing these emotions will most certainly help you but may also help your horse to heal. To this end, I like to include simple flower essences such as the Bach flower essence, Crabapple.

To support this approach, I also include the use of biochemic tissue salts. Kali Sulph (Potassium Sulphate) is a skin nutrient, and is well supported by Silica. If there is a nervous component I may include Kali Phos (Potassium Phosphate), or if my focus herbally is that of cleansing the body, Calc Sulph (Calcium Sulphate).

There are 12 tissue salts in this therapy that follow basic homeopathic principles and each may be employed at various stages throughout dealing with allergies and skin issues. An experienced homeopath could certainly guide you here.

As Barbara discovered when she started working with Zelda, addressing allergies and skin conditions takes a personal approach. Depending on your horse’s condition, it can be simple or be multi-layered. When it’s multi-layered, the key to your success is patience and a keen observance so you know when the next layer of the issue is available for healing. Hopefully, I’ve provided some direction to follow if your horse is unfortunate enough to be inflicted with allergies or skin conditions.

HINT: Another indicator that your horse’s stomach may need assistance is if the flies aggregate around his eyes. In Chinese medicine, the eyes are closely linked to the stomach.

HINT: Add carrot seed essential oil to your calendula cream to give it that little extra range of healing. If I suspect the horse needs further detoxification, I will offer her the scent of juniperberry (Juniperus communis). Juniper will indicate the need to cleanse; it supports the elimination of any toxic build-up and indicates if the horse needs assistance with liver herbs.

 

By: Catherine Bird

First Published in: Equine Wellness Magazine Vol. 1 Issue 1 (pic from their edition)

 

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Summer relief

As the weather warms and we thaw out from the winter cold, your horse’s body can be sensitive to their environment. With our weather becoming more extreme it can be hostile to horses.

Herbs can support and strengthen your horse’s body from invasion, making it more difficult for the body’s protective barrier to be compromised.

By addressing the internal health of the horse you will have more success in dealing with this Summer’s allergies and common discomforts such as itch, photosensitivity, headshaking, and annoying bugs.

Relief

With many of these conditions, the herbs a herbalist may suggestion for each condition may cross over and cover other Summer conditions. This helps keep your selection of support to a focused minimum, and address conditions that may be linked.

A Summer herbal dispensary could include these herbs:

Burdock root, calendula flowers, cleavers, echinacea, eyebright, garlic, lemon balm, licorice root, lime tree blossom, marshmallow root, mullein, nettle, rosehips, wood betony, yarrow.

Which herbs to use?

When you first start selecting herbs for your horse, it can be difficult to narrow down the choice. People often think more is better, when two or three herbs will cover off on most of the clinical signs your horse is presenting. If your selection is kept to five herbs or less, you are more likely to achieve a result. It means you have enough of each herb to have them activate in the body. If you select more than five herbs to give your horse at one time, you can be dispersing the properties and in doing so not achieving the relief you are looking for. Look more closely at your selection and see which of your selected herbs is duplicating another herb’s action, giving only one of these duplicated herbs can be enough. Because ‘healing’ is a dynamic process, you can always substitute those other herbs as you see how your horse responds.

How much to give?

For the purpose of this article I am focusing on dried herbs, they are easier for the horse owner to obtain and most easily added to a feed. If you are giving five or less herbs, then the amount of each herb you are giving is most likely to be 1 to 2 tablespoons daily. This will vary with some herbs and some conditions, so use this as a general guide. If you end up selecting only one herb, give up to 1 cup daily. Any more and your horse will not be utilising all that you give, and your money is being wasted.

 

Thinking through your approach

Using herbs is a creative process. You can work through each of your horse’s clinical signs individually and see what herbs address each of these symptoms and where the actions of the herbs overlap. However, when you do this, do not limit yourself to the immediate signs, to be truly effective you need to consider the ‘whole’ horse. Sometimes the key element that helps trigger the healing process is not necessarily the herb you have chosen to heal inflamed skin, it may be the herb that helps the horse’s distress at being uncomfortable.

Itch

Henry at Ferrell Hollow Horse Sanctuary 'scratching his itch'

Henry at Ferrell Hollow Farm Senior Horse Sanctuary ‘scratching his itch’

 

A veterinarian may suggest an antihistamine to help your horse’s own inflammatory response. Calendula flowers have a histamine-like action which can be used for this sort of body condition. If your horse develops hives or hot spots with his itch, then nettles could be the herb you choose. If he wants to be left alone, settle his nerves with vervain.

This may be enough to start with, and apart for the reason they were initially selected, the calendula flowers will cleanse the skin via the lymphatic system; the nettles will strengthen the circulatory system and supports several glands within the body; vervain is a gentle liver and kidney cleanses tuning up these organs so they can better support the skin while his nervous system is settled by vervain’s nervine properties.

This way you are addressing the whole horse!

Photosensitivity

This is where your clinical signs and herb selection begin to overlap. Calendula is again a good herb to chose but this time supported with cleavers to emphasise the cleansing of the lymphatic system, especially if greasy heal is one aspect. This time you may want to support the liver and if the skin is also itchy, burdock root could be your next herb as it cleanses the blood and with its very bitter element wakes the liver up, and the liver can often be linked to photosensitivity.

Headshaking

Headshaking may be associated with an allergy or another aspect of the horse’s photosensitivity. If your horse has photosensitivity and you have read the previous article and decided on those herbs fit your horse, then wood betony may be the fourth herb you use with this horse. Wood betony has nervine properties that help relax tension held in the head and poll. Wood betony can also be selected for allergies which now links us into allergies.

Allergies

Allergies can many and varied and this is where your own insights of your own horse become the key to selecting what herbs to use. They may be a separate entity in themselves, or also be an expression of one of the previous issues. The intricacies of allergies they can be difficult to resolve, so you adapt your approach as you address each aspect with patience and thoughtfulness.

If your horse suffers from runny, watery eyes in Summer. Eyebright is astringent and also has an antibiotic-like action to help cleanse the eye. Eye problems can often be linked to digestion. You may have selected calendula for its histamine-like action, and in doing so it will be astringent and cleansing to the gut.

A cough may be the primary sign of an allergy with your horse, so then demulcent herbs such as marshmallow root powder may be the key herb you select and then with how your ‘whole’ horse determine what herbs you use to support. If your horse is stressed with coughing, lime tree blossom or lemon balm address upper respiratory inflammation and settle distress. Then you may add rosehips, although not noted as a liver herb, rosehip’s vitamin C content nudges the liver’s defences to help with inflammatory responses in the body, and is then a tonic to tissue that is healing.

Bugs

Summer wakes all creatures, and bugs are no exception. The saliva from their bites may be what your horse is allergic to, or they may simply irritate a watery eye. The person who develops a long term effective bug repellent will be the richest person on the planet.

Meanwhile, you can make your horse less tasty to bugs. If you have kept your selection of herbs above low, there is room to add one of these suggestions.

The sulphur in garlic is what repels the bugs when they get a whiff of it coming through the skin. If your horse is in strenuous work, needs medications, or has a sensitive stomach this may not be the best herb to give.

Brewers yeast is an alternate, being high in vitamin B. The theory being, if a body is low or deficient in vitamin B, their blood chemistry is more attractive to bugs that bite. Brewers yeast can also be good for the horse who needs his nervous system settled because to the vitamin B content.

Keep it simple

Keep your approach simple and stay focused so that you are responsive to the dynamic of the healing processes your horse’s body is working through. As you help your horse, your knowledge will grow.

 

First published Natural Horse Magazine 2014

Each horse needs a unique approach

How you approach the management of your horse’s health depends very much on individual filters. Every situation requires individual assessment.

For example, I may get two requests for a supportive program for a horse with laminitis.

Horse 1 is in extreme pain and under the care of veterinarian as well as a hoofcare specialist. The herbs I suggest to support the healing process need to complement and not be in opposition to the prescribed veterinary care. To philosophically insist that all veterinary prescriptions be ceased and the horse wholly rely on herbs and essential oils could challenge the owner’s mental wellbeing, and the owner’s stress would undermine the effectiveness of the program I am asking them to adhere to. For this horse it is best to work with what is in place.

Horse 2 may have chronic laminitis that the owner has been managing but needs advice on a sudden acute flare up of the condition. With this owner, as they have a higher level of trust in natural therapies so supporting them rely on herbs with the caveat that they have their veterinarian on standby if required, is empowering for them. For this owner to be completely reliant on pharmaceutical drugs for recovery could cause distress and their concerns could block the effectiveness of both the drugs and herbs.

Drugs and herbs do not need to be exclusive of the other, and the best approach on the day is the one that supports both the horse and owner in a way they can experience the least amount of stress and feel safe in their decisions.

In some countries, owners will not have a choice. It is legislation that determines who can assist the horse.

With ongoing chronic issues such as arthritic joints, herbs and essential oils, homeopathics and bodywork are much easier on the horse and body systems. Then if there is an injury or a painful flare up of the condition your veterinarian can intervene and once the nasty aspects are manageable again you can resume ‘naturally’. This is having the best of both approaches.

The same occurs with parasites. Over the years we have overused or used the wrong worming products. No single approach can guarantee you the best coverage with parasite management. However, sensible practices can limit the reliance on drugs. Using herbs that make the gut less hospitable to worms, then checking the worm count before worming helps in reducing the frequency you worm and to select the most effective product, when needed.

Stomach ulcers can be managed with natural products but if a stressful event causes a flare up a return to the proprietary product the horse has previously been responsive to can help restore a balance and then herbal maintenance can resume mending and strengthening. Using nervine you are supporting and strengthening the nervous system so that the horse is less and less reactive the stressors, and with time the gut is less irritated and you no longer need the herbs or the products.

Endocrine issues can be difficult to work with as once the horse is on a pharmaceutical product that regulates reproductive cycles or endocrine diseases, the herbs that would be appropriate could clash within the body with these medications and these are medications that need veterinarian supervision if discontinuing. The pharmaceutical approach is not completely exclusive as to what herbs you can use to support secondary issues, but you have to be very careful what herbs you do choose.

With the competition horse prohibited substances and the possibility of herbs and essential oils testing positive or being deemed unsportsmanlike, the competitor has to rely on substances that have a defined withholding period so as not to be disciplined or affect their professional reputation. With herbs available information is anecdotal not reliable, and even with available drugs the studies have been conducted on small numbers of horses, but at least documented for veterinarians to rely on.

Pharmaceutical companies are investing less in acute relief and focusing on the chronic conditions where they get more of a financial return for their research dollar. Bacterial strains becoming resistant to current antibiotics and fewer new antibiotic products being developed means strengthening the immune system with herbs is a sensible approach for both human and horse.

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Simple ‘preventatives’ can assist. One favourite for horses is to attach an Aromawearable tag to their collar so that they inhale immune system enhancing or digestive essential oils with their evening feed. Or for the nervous agitated horse travelling home with a tag impregnated with calming aromatherapy. Both options have the horse more settled and less vulnerable to physical issues.

 

It is a juggle between which approaches to take, what is important to remember is that both are appropriate if you understand and consider all options so that you can sensibly decide what is best with you and your horse.

Herbs to support Seedy Toe

A naturopathic approach to seedy toe will layer the approach with herbs; your first layer is to cleanse, and the next layer is to restore tone and repair the affected tissue, leaving the body stronger and less vulnerable to reoccurrence.

Pic from http://beckiemabbutt.squarespace.com/recent-news/?currentPage=15 - a blog worth reading on hoofcare

Pic from http://beckiemabbutt.squarespace.com/recent-news/?currentPage=15 – a blog worth reading on hoofcare

This can be done very simply. You can build your individual approach using some key herbs, and then adapt your approach as your horse responds. The core herbs suggested here are herbs that will help with both the cleansing as well as the restorative phases.

The lymphatic herbs such as clivers and calendula are key to the cleansing phase and with cleaning the tissue. Clivers internally, is one of the most nutritional herbs available and once cleansed, can then continue on to support with the restorative phase. Clivers is especially indicated if there is a history of abscesses.

Calendula flowers can be used internally if there is a large amount of infection, but its main use here is externally in a wash made with 5% tea tree essential oils added to a 50/50 mix of calendula tea and apple cider vinegar. Combine your ingredients use a squeezie bottleor use a large syringe body (no needle) and squirt to rinse the affected area.

Rosehips will also help with strengthening the horse’s immune system and support the clivers with rebuilding the foot.

Yarrow is a mild anti-inflammatory and also helps cleanse the body by improving circulation to the limbs, and gently flushing the kidneys and liver. It will assist with the discomfort and keeping a good healthy circulation to the foot.

This overall approach can be safely given long term and it is worth giving clivers and rosehips for a couple of months after the seedy toe has resolved to ensure the hoof remains strong.

As a guide, initially you will be giving 1 to 2 heaped tablespoons of each herb, i.e.clivers, calendula (if needed), rosehips and yarrow; once or twice a day. Then depending on your own horse you will tweak with any additional herbs.

I am focusing on dried herbs, they are easier for the horse owner to obtain and add to a feed. If you are giving five or less herbs, then the amount of each herb you are giving is most likely to be 1 to 2 tablespoons daily. This will vary with some herbs and the stage of the condition, so use this as a general guide. If you end up selecting only one herb, give up to 1 cup daily. Any more and your horse will not be utilising all that you give, and your money is being wasted.

Other herbs can be used, depending on how your horse is and his overall wellbeing will determine the combination of herbs that best work each time.

 

 

I’ve tried everything but nothing has worked!

I’ve tried everything but nothing has worked!

From freefoto.com

From freefoto.com

When a new client makes an exclamation like this, a therapist’s response may vary from “well I won’t be able to help you either” – through a range of thoughts – from seeing this client as their next great challenge and/or wanting to be competitive with the series of therapists the client has seen; and any where in-between these responses.

It will depend on how this exclamation is made to me as to what my response is on that day. So in today’s blog I am just throwing around some ideas for pondering upon. I am happy if anyone wants to comment or discuss some of these points.

Because healing is multidimensional and mercurial in nature, it is often difficult to make such a claim. Often what the client has tried, has worked in some way.

Many of us on a mass consciousness level have been indoctrinated into a ‘quick fix’ mentality where we believe an aspirin will take away every ill and dis-ease. Healing is not like that, it is an evolving process that needs to be adjusted as each horse responds to what is being done to rectify an issue.

For example with massaging a horse: A client may have had another therapist seeing to that horse for a period of time, but they identified different issues. Just because I come along and then identify another area, does not make either of us wrong. The previous therapist may have addressed one area, and rightly so. If they had not massaged the area they had, I may not have been able to identify the next area to address.

On a bad day a practitioner of any ilk, may be a little off with their approach. They may not have listened fully to the client or they may have their own attitudes and belief systems they hold strongly too.

Have you told the practitioner everything, sometimes what you think is of no consequence may just be the key to unlocking the solution.

I believe the key to effective healing is finding the practitioner who is the best fit for you and your horse at whatever stage you are at. Don’t make the mistake that if you had a bad massage experience, a bad veterinary diagnosis, or a weird energy healer that all practitioners working under that banner are going to also be ‘bad’.

A truly gifted healing experience may comes down to the intention of the practitioner and/or the client, and no matter what modality they used on the day, it was simply to conjute to achieve the result.

I’ve sometimes thought my own practitioner’s have walked on water one week, and then the next week had that illusion shattered quite dramatically. The alchemy between you, the practitioner and your horse are vital to any healing process. If you or your horses don’t meld with the practitioner, negative thoughts can block or inhibit any healing process.

Then there are life’s lessons. If your horse is not responding to treatment, is your horse supposed to? What do you have to learn from this experience? Many good practitioners found their passion when they couldn’t help one of their own horses the traditional way, it began a life long quest of their own, that many now get to benefit from.

Sometimes it may be the practitioner who needs to learn humility or be tested outside of their comfort zone. Arrogance can manifest at any time.

What could the karma between you and that practitioner be? Have you ever had a friend rave about their farrier, think he is the only one to ever touch a horse’s hoof and then you book that farrier and he cripples your horse? Could you be repaying a karmic debt for something you did to that farrier a few lifetimes ago, or could it be that your friend had a better karmic relationship with the farrier?

With acute and life threatening issues, your veterinarian is always the primary practitioner. In some parts of the world it is mandated by law that your veterinarian is the primary practitioner for any condition. Unfortunately in some cases even deemed the only legal entity. That’s another story for another blog.

A well worn analogy in most healing circles is to ask the client to see their horse (and themselves) as an onion, with layers, and that there is a progression where the onion needs to be peeled away, each layer after each layer, until you get to the root cause of the discomfort and address it.

Another example that was a theme over the last few weeks has been clients coming to me and saying that their horse had been on a certain medication and that the medications had not worked. Now, I will often mentally probe this. They may have worked, but not met the client’s expectation. Then they try the herbs I suggest, and fantastic, the infection or cough or whatever goes away. But, would the herbs have worked so well if the medication their veterinarian had prescribed had not been given first?

I don’t know.

I do know that if I have a serious issue, I want a veterinarian to make the call as to what that issue is (ie provide the diagnosis), and then if there is a need, the horse be given the first level of treatment. Yes, your horse may get sensitivity from the drugs, but after the medication has helped the horse begin the healing process the herbs can then help re-balance the body and continue the process. You may not completely ‘fix’ (oops there is that need for a quick fix again) initially, but you have saved your horse’s life or spared yourself months of long term repair identifying the issue quickly so that you understood what you were trying to heal.

Be cautious about being adamant that your horse has a certain condition and refuse to contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis. This can either make the ‘real’ issue worse; or damage a friendship because you took the advice of a well meaning friend and that advice had negative consequences. If you are not feeling right about a diagnosis, you can also seek a second opinion.

Often when you think something has not worked, it is worth going back to that practitioner and discussing this with them. Your expectations may have been unrealistic. When you go back to that practitioner, as you discuss the issue, more information may be exchanged and together you find a solution.

Hopefully not, but it may be that the practitioner thinks that what they are doing is working because they never hear from their clients and get the feedback they need, they may continue with poor practices.

And sometimes – it is a bad mesh for whatever reason, and you do need to get a second opinion or move on to another therapy.

Even practitioners in the same field will have a different approach – that is part of the art of healing. I will have studied different herbal philosophies to another practitioner, that does not make one of us any better than the other. What I encourage with my students is they take what I am teaching as a foundation, and then what they make of it and create from that – is their approach. The ones who end up being successful have really stepped into their own expression of what I have given them.

 Because healing is such a dynamic process, you cannot afford to be rigid.

I may be completely wrong. I may look back on this blog in 6 months or 6 years time and cringe at my thoughts. But today as I hit the send button, they are valid for me.

 

written by Catherine Bird

Repelling Insects, Naturally

Lily peering through her fly mask from Katy Wicks

Lily peering through her fly mask from Katy Wicks

Bugs, flies, midges, mosquitoes; why are our horses plagued by them? Whether we like it or not, insects are just another part of nature. But each horse that is pestered by these little beasties can, thanks to nature, also enjoy some relief. Essential oils (natural aromatic essences from flowers and plants) provide a unique approach and are chosen to complement the individual. Also helpful are herbs and supplemental nutrients.

While no horse will be – or should be – totally free from biting insects, a healthy horse tends to be less tasty and appealing to them. A healthy horse is also less susceptible to the problems these pests could cause. So your first line of defence is to keep your horse’s insides working properly. If your horse is not at his optimum health, he can give off detectable odours that attract bugs, similar to how odors of decay alert and attract bugs.

It is important to minimise the intake of feeds high in chemical residues and unnatural feed supplements; these slow the horse’s metabolism. The topical use of cortisone based drugs eventually weakens the skin and leaves horses even more vulnerable to attack. You may have to use them in an emergency, but long term use is best avoided.

Rosehips are a very versatile herb, and adding the granules to your feed daily can assist your horse to be less attractive. Rosehips are high in vitamin C in a form that assists the liver to detoxify, which in turn encourages a clean internal system. They are also high in copper, and one theory developed by Pat Coleby (author of Natural Horse Care) suggests a copper deficiency is more likely in darker horses, so if your horse is attracting a few too many bugs this summer, he may benefit from supplementing rosehips.

Coleby goes on to say “Horses receiving the correct amount of copper and other minerals do not have trouble with bots, and in most cases they do not even lay eggs at all.” Other herbs that are rich sources of copper are skullcap, sage leaves, white oak bark, yucca root and gotu kola. Some of these herbs could also be utilised in an herbal strip along your horse’s fence line.

Two other supplements that can be useful as feed additives that are high in copper and useful when your intention is to repel bugs are brewers yeast and pumpkin seeds. You can also add apple cider vinegar to help balance your horse’s pH levels and it can also be added to a wash or spray as an external repellent.

Garlic is another popular herb people use to repel bugs. It is high in sulphur which has its health benefits and sometimes less desirable side effects. When giving garlic many owners give too much, and in some cases when they give garlic at the same time as drugs prescribed by their vet, or they have been giving large doses long term, a vulnerable horse can develop a sensitivity to this herb. With that in mind, I find a heaped tablespoon every second day is usually sufficient with most horses to achieve a bug repelling scent from your horse’s pores. In the situation where you inherit a horse with a lice infection, you can increase this dose up to two tablespoons a day (providing the horse does not have ulcers in his gut) to help get rid of the lice, and then return to the recommended dose.

Itch from midges is one infestation that is almost impossible to help. The owner with a horse with sweet itch has to vary the approach as the bugs seem to figure out the strategy very quickly and soon return in many cases. Herbs that help the skin, worth trialing, are cleavers, nettles, burdock, pau d’arco, astragalus, seaweed, or echinacea. Your horse’s reaction to the midges is a simple allergic reaction, so your focus in dealing with this issue is to build a healthy immune system with the use of alterative herbs such as these.

Robert McDowell (author of Natural Horsekeeping) suggests aloe vera to relieve itches and stinging bites. You can use the inside of the cut fresh plant or buy a pure gel from a health food store. Dock leaves are acidic and will neutralise alkaline stings such as that of a wasp to crush a fresh leaf in your hand then rub onto the bite, whereas bee stings are acidic and are relieved by alkaline substances such as bicarbonate of soda. For itchy skin, he suggests rubbing in freshly crushed chickweed or the use of a chickweed balm.

Topical application leads us to the use of aromatherapy. In most cases, quality essential oils are safe, but their effectiveness depends upon the individual horse. How much the horse sweats and the scent of his own sweat can have a bearing on how long the scent of the essential oil continues to repel an insect, and in some cases what repels a fly on one horse may attract the same fly on a different horse. Whether it be the scent of your horse, his tasty blood chemistry or his environment, what works for your horse may not work well for your neighbour’s horse.

Some people do mix up generic chemical products and use the ‘fools’ measure, that extra sloosh just for luck, and this is where you can get toxicity problems or skin reactions. Do not add essential oil blends to chemical or other fly repellents; this can also cause horses to get sick or have severe reactions.

You don’t need a lot of the essential oil; a 3 to 5% dilution of essential oils in your carrier is enough. However the evaporation rate is fairly quick with essential oils, which leads to the necessity of regularly applications. Sometimes adding a little shampoo or vegetable oil to the liquid will slow down the evaporation rate of your essential oil blend. As each essential oil has its own evaporation rate, some evaporate in ten minutes while others may take up to four hours. This is where the art of blending can extend the life of your application. Some people like to use balm rather than a spray to also slow down the evaporation rate.

A horse’s olfactory sense does not fatigue like ours does, so your repellent mix will be inhaled by your horse constantly and smelling for its duration, so it is polite to ask the horse if he likes it.

Caroline Ingraham (author of Aromatherapy for Animals) makes an interesting observation with horses and flies. She observed that flies would hang around the area of the horse that had stagnant energy, if flies gravitate to the stomach area she looks at clearing blocks in the stomach meridian; if they are mainly around the eyes she connects this with the liver and offers the horse essential oils to support the liver. This further supports the individuality of horses, and why one essential oil may work on one horse and not on another.

She noted that horses treated with aromatics, either orally (please only do so under a trained aromatherapist’s supervision) or by inhalation that flies would often disappear.

Essential oils with repelling qualities include any of your citrus essential oils (but be careful if exposing your horse to sunlight as most of these are photosensitive); eucalyptus and lavender, or an essential oil high in sharp tones like basil, geranium, marjoram, frankincense, palmarosa, and any your horse selects to balance his internal health that day. Keep your selection simple as you may have to vary your application each day.

I don’t use citronella; there are too many contraindications such as photosensitivity and skin reactions in susceptible horses and in some cases blistering. I suggest if you choose to include citronella in a blend to repel insects that you keep the dilution much lower than is seen in many blends shown on the internet for instance; often 20 drops in a pint of carrier is sufficient.

Tea tree essential oil is one to keep handy if your horse does get bitten by bugs. It is anti pruritic, which means it will take the itch out of most annoying skin irritations. Don’t overuse this essential oil – a 1% dilution is often enough to bring relief. For the more cautious owner, chamomile tea washed over the affected area will bring relief.

Joey is the Appaloosa and Lily, managing flies with their masks from Katy Wicks

Joey is the Appaloosa and Lily, managing flies with their masks from Katy Wicks

Finally, good management deters biting insects. In some cases we may have to compromise the ideal and rug our horse with a light mesh rug when the bugs are excessive in the biting season; some owners also make up a shade-cloth boot for their horses’ legs. It is essential to clean manure from the paddock or yard to discourage flies from breeding. Plant herbs like garlic, tansy, citrus scented geraniums, lavender, rue and wormwood around your barn.

First published – Natural Horse Magazine Vol 8 Issue 3  written by Catherine Bird

 

 

 

Herbs, Oils and a Pinch of Love

Catherine BirdOur horses become a very special part of our lives. With the speeding up of time we are busy rushing here and there, looking for quick fixes and generally compounding any issue we have in our lives due to our own haste. When we start to look within and spend quality time with our horses, the insights we can learn from them can open up a new exploration of the world around us.One way to take time is to look at how we can work with our horses naturally. With domestication and our hectic routines our horses are close to losing touch with their ancient roots. We can reintroduce into their lives a selection of herbs and aromas from essential oils that will help all of us get back to a natural state of being.

Herbs

Herbs can be traced back to their use with several American Indian tribes and the Romani Gypsies of Europe. Both these cultures had accomplished horsemen and women who combined their training methods with the use of herbs. Even using herbs can be seen in the works of Xenophon in his book The Art of Horsemanship where is notes the importance of adding herbs to horses bran of an evening.

The use of herbs for me conjures up a romantic image, of times gone by where we were more connected with the earth, and its cycles. When I read veterinary or stock care books from the 1880s their training methods were severe. I tend to wonder if it was because the natural products they relied upon in these texts contributed to the horses behaviour so severe handling was needed. The use of opium and cannabis-based products was high.

Today the herbalists avoid herbs such as these or those that require a more than heroic effect to endure so one heals. The use of cathartic or purgative herbs is limited and rarely used with horses. We have gone back to the use of gentle herbs, when used wisely are unlikely to have adverse effects.

These are quite often the herbs that you would find growing across paddocks or along roadsides. Where in the past horses that had free-range of a healthy grassed paddock could graze upon if the need arose. These days to get the benefit of herbs we need to supplement. You dont necessarily have to give your horse buckets full of herbs to get this benefit, often a combination of cut and sifted herbs can have an effect within the body in cupful doses. If the herbs are powdered you may not need to use more than two tablespoons to help the body heal itself.

Aromatherapy

With many of our horses being stabled and not able to get out often due to our land restriction, essential oils can bring a touch of brain sunshine into their lives.

Aromatherapy is a relatively new therapy. The use of essential oils can be documented throughout the ages, but its modern application is less than one hundred years. The beauty of aromatherapy is your horse can assist you with the selection of what he considers is most appropriate.

Essentials have a special quality where they can act on the body when inhaled. Some of the constituents can then enter the bloodstream via the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and the scent can be read by the olfactory receptors, which in turn has a cascade effect throughout the body. Emotions and memories can be accessed that have been stored within the limbic system and neurochemicals get releases through out the body to help instil a state of wellbeing.

When using aromatherapy with your horse, you also gain the benefits from inhaling the essential oils that your horse selects while using them with him or her. That way if some of the emotional issues your horse needs to clear from his body belong to you, you are less likely to regenerated that particular tone and keep stocking him up with your imbalances.

The Pinch of Love

These therapies are useful in their own right, however when they are done with love and intention the increased effect can be ten-fold.

There is an energetic interaction between a horse and their human. The day to day working together sees an interesting mingling of energies. Over the years the original use of the horse to help us plough our fields, fight our wars, and even provide us with a meal has no longer been needed. However the genetic memory held in his body triggers him into being of service to us in some way.

This unconditional love sees him often take on the energy of our illnesses or emotional and mental imbalances and if we are wise enough to spot when an issue is truly ours and take responsibility for it and address it, then our horse has served us and can heal.

In a way when we take the time to help him with herbs and essential oils the act of caring for our horses with natural means completes the cycle.

This does not mean that herbs and essential oils replace veterinarian care. They simply give the owner and the horse is more intimate way of relating and accessing a healing on a deeper level. I tend to prefer that veterinarian care be administered first to deal with what has developed in the physical body safely and with supervision. Then once the process has began then introduce the herbs and essential oils to facilitate healing on the mental and emotional levels so the physical manifestation is less likely to develop again.

 

written by Catherine Bird