Aloe Vera for the Horse


By Shari Frederick

Wound healing is only one of the many uses for the amazingly therapeutic aloe plant.


HHH: Aloe vera should always be on hand in the barn, on the trail, and when transporting horses.

This article focuses on the aloe vera found inside the tissue of the leaf's center, NOT the bitter yellow sap laxative. There is a plethora of evidence, to include clinical documentation globally, proving aloe vera's positive impact on health. It has been used for thousands of years. You should know aloe for its remarkable internal aspects along with its more common topical uses. Feed the liquid daily and keep the gel handy in the barn and when transporting your horse. With regular consumption, your horse may experience improved health (especially with digestion), reduction of inflammation, greater alertness and energy, as well as improved coat texture and general well being.

HHH: DON'T just throw a leaf in the blender and feed it to your horse!

You could break open a leaf and squeeze out some of the internal gel for topical uses, but there are toxic substances within the rind (skin) that can be harmful and should be avoided! Fresh aloe vera in its totality contains laxative properties and therefore your horse risks cramping, diarrhea, and gas activity if parts of the skin are consumed. There are several different ways to extract the internal aloe vera gel from the plant which, for internal consumption, should be left up to the professionals. They include hand fillet, mechanical, heat pasteurization, and fractional distillation. The latter of the group is my personal preference. This proprietary "purification" process distills the aloe vera, and removes undesirable elements while capturing and maintaining the valued therapeutic properties.


HHH: All aloe vera products are not alike.

Select products made from organically grown plants. It would be accurate to say that suspiciously low priced products likely contain lesser quality plants, or more water than aloe. Aloe vera should always be listed first on the label, although that may not mean water was not added. Avoid lesser quality choices such as concentrates, freeze dried, and powders. I am also not a fan of whole leaf products due to the processes by which the rind is often removed. Distilled product is not diluted, contains neither preservatives nor additives, and, though low-heated, is 100 percent pure aloe (I like the product Horse Magic, 800-232-2563). Better yet, this distillate tastes like spring water (not bitter or slimy like most aloe liquids), and the sugars are removed to prevent spoilage so there's no need for refrigeration after opening. All these qualities make it an obvious advantage for horse owners. With other aloe vera products you will likely experience reluctance from your horse starting with the Flehmen response, the comical upper lip curl and raised head associated with odd smells, such as the strong pungent odor associated with non-distillate forms. The liquid distillate can be added to feed as well as applied or sprayed directly onto the coat, skin, gums, other mucous membranes, and, if desired, even to wash a mare's perineal area or to clean a male's sheath.


HHH: Aloe vera, used internally, assists in reducing susceptibility to colic.

Aloe vera softens and relieves irritation of the mucous membrane and cleanses digestive membranes to maintain a healthy digestive tract. Colic affects 1 in 5 horses in their lifetime and is the #2 killer of horses. Consider adding two ounces of aloe distillate daily. Liquid distillate can also support post emergency colic surgery.


HHH: Aloe vera distillate has noted immune boosting properties.

Aloe's anti-inflammatory response is thought to enhance the immune system. A recent article, June 2004 ExPlore! For the Professional Vol. 13 #2, "A Study of Aloe Vera", suggests that fractionally distilled aloe vera is bio-pharmaceutically active - it provides specific changes in T cell cultures when compared to baseline and with natural aloe vera juice. The article also noted favorably that aloe distillates contain a more-absorbable form of mucopolysaccharides, which help prevent bacteria and viruses from finding binding sites.


HHH: Performance horses benefit from aloe vera.

Performance horses are highly prone to colic because of the practice of calorie loading and varying diets from week to week, etc. Assistance in digestion and assimilation is clearly important for the performance horse. In addition to the distillate, aloe vera liniment, such as aloe gel plus peppermint, assists competitive horses after a work out - or horses with joint issues. Aloe vera reduces stiff tight muscles and minor inflammation, and peppermint promotes circulation and creates a warming sensation. Although it is a temporary "quick fix" it can bring immediate relief to the arthritic horse in addition to putting the horse on two ounces of distillate per day to assist internal inflammations long term. Use it also as a wash combined with water and gentle massage for aching or swollen joints.


HHH: Aloe vera, used internally, assists in re-hydration.

Aloe vera given internally to your horse is especially beneficial for preventing and remedying dehydration and is therefore a good choice for re-hydrating after stressful situations. Aggressive exercise contributes to dehydration. Note also that horses often consume less water in colder weather.


HHH: The senior horse can benefit from the addition of two ounces of aloe vera distillate with meals.

Aloe vera can help cleanse the digestive tract, aid in the utilization of the nutrients from the food, and balance bowel movements giving regularity to senior horses. It provides relief from arthritis and other old-age difficulties.


HHH: Aloe vera, used internally, assists with inflammation and ulcers.

Inflammation can lead to colic, and is also common with ulcers. Herbalists define aloe vera as cold and moist; therefore it is used for any "itis" (inflammatory disorder). During fever aloe vera can promote cooling of the system by eliminating heat from the intestines. Internal ulcers are more common in horses than most of us realize. A vet whose specialty is equine catastrophic injuries finds aloe vera gel great for ulcer-type open sores other than a wound. She regularly uses it to cleanse and disinfect stumps of prosthetic horses.


HHH: Aloe vera is noted for several topical equine applications, including hooves.

Aloe vera gel clings to skin to protect and assist healing of wounds, deter scarring, and encourage new hair growth, even over old scars. Sores due to poorly fitted saddles or headgear will heal more rapidly and completely. (Replace that tack with comfortable, well-fitted tack!) A horse's skin is thin and easily injured. The irregular wound from barbed wire is unfortunately still a common injury for the horse and is wonderfully supported with the gel of aloe vera. Also hoof injuries, thrush, white line disease, sole penetration, and other hoof problems all are supported by aloe vera gel (and a proper trim). Various essential oils or herbs can be mixed with aloe, which itself is very penetrating.

HHH: Aloe vera is shown to reduce PAIN.

Research has shown that aloe inhibits inflammation caused by a peptide called bradykinin (a small molecule released during the inflammation process). Aloe blocks the release of bradykinin, therefore the symptoms of swelling, redness, dilated blood vessels, and stimulated pain fibers can be eliminated. Aloe vera is noted to increase the production of pain relieving endorphins.


HHH: Aloe vera is highly praised and well documented for its topical skin uses; especially healing for burns.

Aloe increases the replication of skin cells several fold while it re-establishes a normal balance of cell growth, as well as promotes a more rapid growth of new cells. Aloe increases blood flow to areas of burned tissue, causing more of the body's healing resources to concentrate on the affected area. What's more, aloe vera has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which prevent burns from getting infected.


HHH: Hyperpigmentation issues for white horses and light colored breeds may benefit from aloe.

Simply apply the gel to help the skin protect itself from the sun's harmful rays (studies show aloe contains ingredients that are protective in this way). Spray the area as well for a cooling-soothing effect and to resolve itching. Skin issues in horses may include sensitivity from insect stings, bruises, poison ivy, welts, ulcerated skin lesions, hives, rashes, and sunburns; all of which may include itching.


HHH: Improved skin hydration is found with the use of aloe vera.

Aloe vera is great for increasing tissue suppleness by binding moisture into the skin. Equine eczema and psoriasis sufferers benefit greatly from aloe vera used internally and topically. Aloe has a balancing effect on the skin - it promotes healthy tissue growth and removal of dead skin - by stimulating the normal growth of living cells. It provides maximum penetration to protect against dryness and cracking.


HHH: Aloe vera gel is used for equine sweet itch.

Use aloe vera gel for application to sweet itch, along with Roman chamomile to ease itching. Horses can have an allergic reaction, called sweet itch, to the saliva of the fly family Culicoides, a midge. Sensitive horses may have yearly recurrences, which become progressively worse with each occurrence.


HHH: Equine squamous cell carcinomas have been treated successfully with aloe vera.

Dr. Ferguson, DVM, MS treated a tumor around a horse's eye socket with reports of remission with topical application of the aloe gel. He is an avid user of aloe distillate for gastric carcinomas, and has done extensive work with aloe vera, to include use with dogs and cats.


HHH: Aloe vera is beneficial for the horse and plays many important roles in holistic health!

Aloe vera is an excellent base for numerous remedies to assist in penetration and open skin pathways for other ingredients to follow. It works wonderfully on its own, or combined with other ingredients for enhanced healing. The liquid aloe vera, which is generally used for consumption, can also be sprayed or misted topically with or without the addition of tea tree, chamomile and other natural supports to make a fly spray, or for wound care. Make a healing poultice or paste with aloe vera and slippery elm powder as the base. Aloe vera is also a tremendous addition to a massage preparation. Share aloe vera's numerous beneficial qualities with your horse, both internally and topically, by including it in your daily equine routine and first aid kit!



About the author:

Shari Frederick BS, NMD, LE began her love of horses in 1975, showing quarter horses at the Fort Worth, TX stockyards. As a nutritional educator in over 15 countries worldwide over the past 25 years, she is a staunch supporter of "Truth in Labeling" for ALL manufacturers. Shari has a regular column in "Equine Times" and is a Safety-Certified Riding Instructor from the AAHS. She and her horse have proudly served as the Bugler for annual cattle drives at the legendary ( Texas) YO Ranch for over 15 years!