Planting an herb garden is a great way to share the joy of gardening with your horse. Horses left in pastures where herbs grow wild will pick and choose the ones their bodies instinctively know they need. You can establish strips or herb patches in your paddocks or pasture that will allow your horse free access to beneficial herbs .
Alternately, you can grow herbs away from your horses, then harvest and add to feed as you desire.
This tasty sampling will give you an idea of where to start as you explore the use of fresh herbs with your horses:
Echinacea – commonly referred to as purple coneflower, the antiviral and anti-bacterial properties of this plant benefit animals of all species. For horses it can be used as a prophylactic to protect them from infections such as strangles, cystitis and urethritis.
Mint – Peppermint and Spearmint have an antispasmodic effect on the digestive system; mint may help to expel gas, for horses prone to colic and also serves as a soothing appetite stimulant. You can grow mint very easily and offer your horse fresh leaves.
Chamomile – The anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions of chamomile are helpful for aches and pains. It acts as a sedative and relaxant.
Calendula – Not only is Calendula oil a wonderful skin healer, it is also known for building the blood and combating stress. Often called Pot Marigold, the flowers possess antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Fennel – The seeds from Fennel have a relaxing effect for gassy, uncomfortable tummies. They can also help with appetite and maintain milk production, especially in the first days following foaling. Fresh Fennel can be used to draw toxins from wounds, bites and allergic skin reactions.
Dandelions - More often considered a weed than an actual herb, the Dandelion has a strong diuretic action and is rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium. For all those owners who have horses with foot problems or whose horses require extra Biotin supplementation, dandelions are an excellent natural source of Vitamin H also known as Biotin.
Ways to “prepare” herbs, whether fresh, wilted or dried, include:
- poultices and compresses
- salves and ointments
- essential oils
- flower essences
Holistic Health consultant, Mary Ann Simonds, has a wonderful DVD on how to prepare herbal poultices, fly sprays and liniments, as well as how to use Aromatherapy with horses. Learn safe and helpful hints for keeping your horse naturally healthy at www.mystichorse.com
Many herbs that we use for human consumption can have adverse effects on horses. Whether you purchase your herbs or grow them, work with knowledgeable practitioners when treating your horses.
HELPFUL PLANTING TIPS
- Plant seeds or transplants in well-cultivated soil in strategically located sites throughout your pasture or garden.
- Choose a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun each day.
- Avoid ground where water stands or runs during heavy rains.
- Compensate for poor drainage with raised beds amended with organic matter or compost.
- Apply balanced organic fertilizers or manure sparingly to leafy, fast-growing herbs. Heavy applications of fertilizer, especially those containing large amounts of nitrogen, will decrease the concentration of essential oils in the lush green growth.
The time and effort to establish and maintain an herb garden for your horses will be worthwhile in the end!