Alternatives for Competitive
Horses with EIPH
There are many reasons why a horse may have EIPH, Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage. The newest research, done in England, shows that some horses impact the ground harder than others. This causes a ripple effect in the chest cavity, and thus, hemorrhage in the lungs can occur. Other reasons can be genetics, shoeing, overuse of drugs, scar tissue from lung infection, diet and stress. There have been various statistics printed indicating that 75 - 95% of all horses actively racing have EIPH. Barrel racers have the next highest incidence of EIPH, then the show horse. EIPH is seldom seen in the pleasure horse.
Many of these brave and, in my opinion, most noble of God's creatures, have better care than their owners provide for themselves: supplements, expensive shoeing, regular - sometimes daily - veterinary care, grooming, exercise, etc. Yet, while all these things may be good and often necessary, are they really getting the job done? In spite of efforts, there are many problems that arise - not only EIPH, but immune disorders, arthritis, tying up, joint problems, sterility, behavioral difficulties, EPM, herpes, Lyme disease, heaves and other respiratory problems and more. The list is long.
My experience is mainly with the competitive horse. I have owned them, trained them and seen success, great tragedy and personal loss, including the loss of life, both human and horse, on the racetracks and show rings of North America. What can we do to help the competitive horse live a healthy, happy, and safe life while he is enduring this demanding lifestyle? More specifically, what can we do for the horses who suffer from EIPH? The answers are pretty much the same. I will first list what I have seen 'wrong' and then some things that I can suggest be done to minimize or alleviate the pain and suffering involved. Working on the root causes of EIPH, in particular, especially using natural and holistic methods, will positively affect other afflictions and beneficially influence the competing horse in general.
1) Shoeing: I am an advocate of the shoeless horse, especially when there is proper care and trimming by a professional who is qualified and experienced with the rigors of competition. A shod horse impacts the ground at a significantly harder percentage than an unshod horse. This can contribute to or even cause EIPH. It can also cause joint pain and other problems. There are several states where horses are allowed to race shoeless, and the ones running 'barefoot' are doing well. The owners of these 'barefoot athletes' are also meticulous about hoof care. They usually follow natural hoof trim protocols. This involves seeking the natural trim that is best for the competitive horse and perhaps soaking the feet daily. Shoes are used temporarily and only when required by the laws governing individual tracks. I might add that there are some great new shoes out there now, lightweight and not as damaging to the hoof, for use where shoeing is still mandatory. Feeding quality herbs and supplements will also ensure hoof health and strength.
2) Overuse of drugs: 'On-the-track drugs', including vaccinations. Get ethical. Go on the internet and research for yourself the side effects of every drug before allowing its use. Reduce drug usage by using better nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, massage, Bioscan, and other complementary methods. Herbs are big with me, because I am an herbalist, and horses are herbivores. I have had so many experiences attesting to the benefits of adding herbs to the diet, for both the competitive and the pleasure horse. Especially bleeders - the typical treatment is Salix/Lasix, a heavy diuretic, which increases urine production and decreases the amount of fluid within tissues and organs of the body. This is usually combined with no food or water several hours before the race. The idea is to reduce the blood volume so that less hemorrhage takes place. I have personally seen horses develop the 'thumps' from overexertion and depletion of electrolytes.
Herbs can help to eliminate EIPH and ensure that the horse races to potential and comes back less stressed and depleted. Herbs, with their multiplicity of symbiotic micronutrients, work to nourish and strengthen the body in ways man will never be able to duplicate. Drugs could still be used, but always be sure to work closely with your vet. Horses can die from kidney and heart failure, from toxic shock from drugs, and from depletion and overexertion. I have seen it, and my heart breaks harder each time.
Instead of routine vaccinations, have your vet draw blood and take titers. Titers can be taken every 6 months to see if immunity is still high enough in the body. Though titer amounts vary depending on what is being tested for, they do eliminate the need to vaccinate needlessly. For example, titers need only be taken once a year for tetanus. I was recently told by a veterinarian that 110-164 is generally good on titer results. This indicates that there is still enough immunity to protect the horse.
Live vaccines should be avoided whenever possible. All vaccines should be given singly, instead of in combinations or even worse, 4 or 5 given in one day. Giving 4 or 5 different vaccine injections in a single day drastically compromises the immune system. They should be spaced out to every 2 weeks until the necessary vaccination protocol is complete. This will minimize the stress on the immune system and will give it a chance to recover and build strong immunity between vaccinations.
3) High pesticide grains and hay: We have been purchasing over-processed feeds and supplements without thinking about it for generations now. We are beginning to feel the backlash of our thoughtlessness. Many are full of chemical dyes, sugars and fillers that are allergens and toxins to both man and beast. We must learn to feed a natural diet complemented by herbs, which are nature's own supplements and medicines. We encourage you to make every effort to buy organic and biodynamic feed and to support sustainable farming. Say NO to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, preservatives, dyes, artificial colorings and flavorings. Read the labels - what's in it? How processed is it? Many of the supplement and feed companies can get away with using fillers by putting in or leaving out key words. ASK QUESTIONS.
Holistic practitioners are finding that some horses are sensitive or allergic to oats. We tend to over-feed oats. In the wild a horse would not eat 2-6 quarts of grain in one feeding! Instead, add high quality herbs and/or supplements, as needed, to your horse's diet. Read, consult your holistic vet, your traditional vet, your herbalist, other trainers or owners. Knowledge is power.
4) Over-training and overexertion of the competitive horse: Doing too much, too soon. Over-working the horse when he is too young. There are lots of theories on this. In Europe, it is not common to race horses as 2-year-olds. Most of our US 2-year-olds are bleeders, arthritics, or have ulcers by the time they are 3. Wait until they grow up and their bones are developed. Slow down in training and avoid rushing it. AVOID DRUGS THAT MASK PAIN. Give them herbs, natural care, good veterinary attention and use common sense. Prevention is the key.
5) Unnatural lifestyle and toxic environment: A more 'natural' lifestyle is desperately needed for the competitive horse. Stalls and confinement work against health and soundness. They contribute to stress. In taking Dr. Strasser's basic trim course, I was very impressed how, in a small amount of clinic space, she has been able to work out an active lifestyle and a workable, natural environment for many horses at the same time. Utilize paddocks and turnout. Provide sunlight, fresh, clean air, fresh, clean food and water, room to move and companions as part of a healthier lifestyle and environment. Horses are herd animals. They thrive on companionship and when forced to live without other equines, they will turn to some very different animals in search of the company they need. They will also develop bad habits, including cribbing, stall weaving and aggressive behavior.
Avoiding toxins and pollution is essential for good health, but unfortunately, huge amounts of toxins exist in populated urban water sources. Furthermore, toxic dumps are often found near racetracks, and air-borne pollutants are found everywhere. Read Dr. Strasser's "A Lifetime of Soundness", Jaime Jackson's "Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care", Pat Coleby's "Natural Horse Care and Juliette de Bairacli Levy's book, "Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable".
6) Disrespect for life: Life is sacred, both human and animal. We need to learn to respect this. We can all do without the harsh and sometimes bitter treatment we give animals and each other - greed, lack of compassion, disregard for decency, mostly in the name of money and power. All of that sounds pretty negative, but it's the truth. What to do and where to start? The negatives can be replaced with ethical and decent behavior and respect for animals and each other and life in general. Competition should never become 'win at any cost'. Respect life, stop and smell the roses, do random acts of kindness, look for the sanctity of life in all things. Consider how you would feel, in the same situation, man or beast; walk a mile in their shoes.
What can you do, on a personal level, to improve things? There are many decent people in the world. The more we befriend each other, the greater are our chances of becoming kinder, more considerate and more respectful of life. Furthermore, in our efforts to become better people, it follows that we will become MORE successful, not less. We are then able to impact the lives of others - man, animal and our Mother Earth - in hugely positive, though sometimes subtle and unnoticed, ways. We then attract less negativity and when life's trials happen, we have better tools to deal more positively and powerfully with them.
I have often thought - when a horse is running a race to his full potential, perhaps even winning, and all of a sudden, he throws up his head and stops - how frightening it must be for him. His throat and lungs are filling with blood and he cannot breathe. He literally begins to drown in his own blood. I have seen racehorses who, after they bleed, are afraid to extend themselves thereafter, in fear of the consequences. It is absolutely horrifying to consider. Do you have empathy for that animal? If it happens to your horse, do you feel for him or is he just another machine that has let you down? Think about it.
MY personal experience is that if a horse has a chronic weakness, every organ and system in the body is involved. Your horse's lungs are not operating in a jar on the shelf. Good herbal formulas use compatible herbs that accentuate, complement and heal the body as a whole.
Garlic is a great herb for most horses. In competition, the lungs work hard. They are exposed to many different viruses and other invading organisms that are common in a show ring or barn. Garlic builds the immune system, helps expel excess mucus, increases cardiovascular health and circulation, as well as contributing to overall health and beauty. If the horse is a serious bleeder, over 5 on a scale of 1 - 10, then reduce garlic to a minimum 2 days prior to racing, as it does lower blood pressure slightly. I blend a gourmet quality garlic, rosehips, (the rosehips are certified organic) and high-oil oregano. We call this 'Garlic 'N Roses'. We have seen thousands of horses in competition benefit from it. If you wish to give garlic fresh, 4 to 6 crushed garlic cloves in the feed daily is very beneficial. Fresh is best, whenever dealing with herbs, but because of life's fast pace, a pre-blended quality formula of dried herbs is next to best.
I have developed a formula for bleeders and it can be used safely with pharmaceuticals, if your veterinarian approves. Many of the herbs come from Europe and China and have been used traditionally for lung health and to stop internal hemorrhage from the lungs (gui zhi, jie geng, huang qui, dan sheng, nan sha shen, bei sha shen, chuan jiao, and others). This formula is a daily tonic mainly to strengthen the heart, lungs and kidneys. It also contains herbs for every other organ and system of the body. Some of these are yarrow, nettle, jujube dates, parsley, sage, beet root and dandelion root and leaf. For example, slippery elm bark is included for coating the lining of the lungs to heal them and reduce damage caused by scarring. Burdock root, dandelion root and milk thistle seed are used as liver cleansers and detoxifiers. Burdock, dandelion, and milk thistle are mild but necessary in a formula that is designed to benefit the whole body. We also use herbal diuretics, mucus movers and anti-arthritics that are compatible with traditional veterinary treatment. The feeding of herbs should be guided by your veterinarian to avoid any interactions with drugs or medications.
May your path to knowledge and the use of herbs and alternatives for your horse be one of great reward and satisfaction as you realize you are making the world a better place on your life's journey.
Please feel free to contact us for any questions or information we can provide. We consider ourselves a resource and a referral center as well as an herb business.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace veterinary care.
Herbs of the World, Inc.
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Freehold, New Jersey 07728
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About the author:
Loryhl Goodman has been a practicing Herbalist for 24 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, "The Horse's Hoof", "NJ Thoroughbred", "Pet Tribune", "Thoroughbred Times", "Mid America Harness News", "Goodpony Journal", "Victoria Magazine" and "Sidelines Polo and Equestrian Newspaper". 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 4 years for Equitana USA and has lectured for 4H clubs, EqExpo, Timonium Horseworld Expo, NJ Horse Expo, 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 and Herbs of the World have been, and are, actively involved in the rescue of PMU foals and registered Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds taken from the slaughterhouse to be rehabilitated, for breeding and/or riding.