Nov. 30, 2018 (Flint Hill, Va.)— It’s the season for giving! Why not give the gift of natural nutrition to your horse this season by diversifying his pasture with healthy herbs?
“Horses are designed to graze up to 20 hours a day on diversified forage types, including herbs they instinctively know they need,” said holistic veterinarian and founder/owner of Harmany Equine Dr. Joyce Harman. “Though many pastures have been over managed so that there’s very little natural herb growth, horse owners can plant herbs in the pasture or in grazing patches around the barnyard for their horses to munch on.”
Not sure what to plant? Though not a complete list, here’s a handful of herbs that are common throughout the country that horses crave:
Chicory occurs naturally as a “weed” throughout the country, but this drought- and frost-resistant “weed” is anything but! Chicory has a high mineral and protein content. This palpable herb is tough enough to withstand heavy grazing, and is even considered nutritionally superior to alfalfa.
It’s easy to find echinacea on the shelf of any drug store because it’s well known for immune system support in humans. Not only do horses reap these same benefits, but there’s a small study that suggests echinacea increases the number of circulating red blood cells, hemoglobin levels, and the number of lymphocytes in a horse’s blood. In the study, the improvement in blood quality was most noticeable after the 28-day mark.
Fennel is a bit of an MVP herb. It not only promotes digestive health and helps relieve gas, but it’s very rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and potassium.
Fenugreek has been praised for centuries for its lactation-supporting properties in humans, and it can also support healthy milk production in lactating mares. But, its benefits don’t end there. Studies in humans and rats have shown fenugreek’s ability to slow glucose absorption. Additionally, it can be helpful during the winter months for horses with arthritis.
As part of the mint family, lemon balm is more than a great smelling herb! It’s noted for its calming effect on the nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. It can even help relieve gas that sometimes triggers colic. Lemon balm is another all-star herb because it also has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
For those horse owners who are interested in increasing pasture diversity for their horses but not sure where to start, Dr. Joyce Harman has helped revive a product called Sow Your Seeds Pasture Blend that combines all of the herbs listed above, as well as some other notable herbs. The mixture contains perennials and self-sowing annuals that horses would naturally seek out if they could free graze the countryside. The blend can withstand heavy traffic and grow in most of the country.