Herbs - Heart and Soul
Providing herbs for horses who live and work in unnatural conditions can bring some of Nature to them. Herbs strengthen the heart and soul of the competitive horse.
I have been a practicing human, horse and animal herbal folklorist for 23 years. I know a little, have a lot of experience, and am learning more everyday. Children (I have 6), herbs and horses are my passions in life. I am, to be frank, a horse nut. I was smitten with the horse bug at a very young age and have never recovered. I breed and raise registered Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods and am involved in Equine rescue and PMU foal rescue. As a family we own 5 Thoroughbreds and one Thoroughbred/Belgian cross PMU filly.
I have spent much of my teenage and adult life on and around the racetracks of North America. I truly, and in living color, understand the actual battleground that my hero, the competitive horse, lives and sometimes so tragically dies on. A couple of years ago, an owner of a 2-year-old TB filly in heavy race training called me about getting the filly some herbs. She was so sore and weak behind that they were unable to train her further. She had already won one race and showed potential as a racehorse. He told me she had EPM, was being treated with the drugs prescribed for the disease, and could I suggest some herbs to help her along.
I suggested, for her condition and symptoms, several herbal formulas - some to support the body's immune system and promote mobility, and one to support 2-year-olds in heavy training. These formulas basically included garlic, rose hips, astragalus, schizandra berries, oregano, slippery elm, and St. John's wort.
Excellent results have been seen with EPM horses using garlic, rosehips, oregano, schizandra berries and astragalus. Not only do all these herbs build the immune system, they also cleanse the blood, increase the circulation, act as a tonic, and relieve very many of the symptoms associated with arthritis, inflammation and pain.
The formula designed for young horses (old ones too if needed) who generally are not holding up to race stress, go off their feed, worry, lose weight, become withdrawn and fearful, and develop ulcers or digestive problems contains slippery elm. This formulation acts as a natural buffer and helps normalize the pH in the gut, which is too acid in most EPM cases or too alkaline for other ailments. Slippery elm is high in B vitamins and iron. In the days of the pioneers and ancestors of this continent, if a mother died in childbirth, her newborn was kept alive on slippery elm gruel - very gentle yet highly effective.
The St. John's wort is an herb known anciently for arthritis pain and inflammation, nerve damage, mood swings and many other uses. With these herbal formulas, the gut would be buffered; the protozoa that literally leak through the gut into the blood stream and then travel to the spinal cord to eat the myelin sheath around the spinal cord, thus causing nerve damage, would be stopped.
I believe very many of our horses today are contracting these diseases because of improper balance in the gut caused by overuse of pesticides, over-vaccination, highly processed feeds and supplements, stress, poor water, and not enough of the natural herbage they need to pick and graze on. As humans we are in the same boat - breast cancer is epidemic, as is Lyme disease, arthritis, MS, MD, and the list goes on.
Clean water, fresh air, and simple, natural foods encourage longevity in human and beast. It cannot be stressed enough that natural care and maintenance that work with the body are essential to good health and longevity. The horse, this most noble creature God has given to man as a friend and helper, is no exception.
A few weeks later, the owner called me back to order more herbs. He told me the filly was doing very well and they were preparing to race her within 10 days. I was very surprised and concerned as EPM, and the severe symptoms she had exhibited, take so much time and care to overcome completely. He insisted her training times were good and she was doing well. I asked if I could stop by the barn to see her. "Sure," he said.
When I saw her, she was on the hotwalker, just back from the track. Her back end was wobbly, she appeared sore and stiff, her coat looked OK, but it was obvious she was in a great deal of pain. My heart went out to her. At that point the trainer was out on the track, so I was unable to talk to him. I called the owner and pleaded with him not to race her in a week's time. My fear was that she would not make it alive through the race; it was a distinct feeling that I had. But the owner and trainer insisted she was up for it.
Two weeks later, I ran into the owner on the track and I inquired after the filly. "Oh, such a sad thing," he said, "just after she left the starting gate, her spinal cord separated in her lower back and she literally fell apart on the track."
As I write this, I still get tears in my eyes and feel incredible sadness. I provide herbs for these great heroes and have reflected briefly that perhaps I am a small part of the problem, because what I provide helps keep them going. However most of the ignorance we see in ourselves and others comes from a lack of knowledge, lack of love, lack of value of life. So actually, I am grateful to provide herbs for them; at least they get some of the outdoors (herbs) while they live indoors. Herbs, after all, are a wonderful addition to the diet that can naturally provide nutritional and medicinal benefits, improving the quality of life for the horse in at least one way.
Fortunately, there are very many trainers and owners who treat their horses with the respect they deserve. Some of us treat our animals better than we treat ourselves and other humans. All too often, however, we treat other humans with depravity and coldness. Much of this type of behavior has become the norm in our world. What we do to our animals is a clear reflection of the pulse of our society.
Being a racehorse is a hard life. Many racehorses love to run and are truly good at it; it is what they do best. Many great horses were ridden into battle and showed no fear; many a magnificent, noble steed nowadays jump 6-foot-plus fences with a rider on board, or cross the finish line in record time with a jockey on his back. Perhaps even he had met that jockey for the first time minutes before the race, yet that great beast was willing to give his all, and maybe his life, to almost a total stranger. Many do die daily on the racetracks of the world. One of my favorite scriptures from the Bible is "Greater love hath no man than he who is willing to give his life for his brother." Horses have no hidden agenda; they just do, and are. It is my great privilege to learn these lessons and more from them. My character and my soul will be a little more noble as I journey down life's corridor.
This article is informational only and in no way replaces professional veterinary advice or treatment. Always consult with your veterinarian and equine herbalist before using herbal formulas.
About the author:
Loryhl has been a practicing Herbalist for 23 years. Many of her formulas have been used successfully by horses competing in the top levels of racing, cutting, barrel racing, and show jumping, including the Triple Crown.
She has written articles for, and been featured in, Pet Tribune, Thoroughbred Times, Mid America Harness News, Goodpony Journal, Victoria Magazine, and Sidelines Polo Magazine. She is presently working on a book on alternatives for farm and stable. Loryhl also has a full line of formulas for small animals, including birds. She has lectured for 3 years for Equitana USA and has lectured for EqWest, Herbal Green Pages (Herb Growing and Marketing Network), South Florida Trail Riders, Canadian Cutting Horse Association, and numerous other organizations across North America. Loryhl incorporates the use of North American, Chinese, European and some First Nations herbal knowledge in the formulations she has developed.
Loryhl - Herbalist
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