This could be a delicate subject. When we are frustrated with training or riding, there may be a reason a horse appears unwilling to co-operate or to share the same ambition for a transition that you desire. Labelling the horse a plodder, stubborn, resistant, or lazy may be premature.
If your horse has become lethargic recently, have your veterinarian identify if there is medical reason. A blood test may indicate he has had a virus or that an organ is not operating optimally. If your horse has become resistant to changing strides or less willing, maybe a body worker will help you find a sore back or muscle. At these times don’t underestimate the value of the objective eye of a trainer who can also help you determine if you can improve the way you deliver requests to your horse.
Once you have explored the ‘whys’, then herbs can help support your goals with your horse.
For post illness recovery and a pick-me-up:
In Mediaeval times garlic was associated with giving courage and strength. Being antipathogenic, it goes into battle against disease-causing pathogen colonies sparing beneficial flora. If your horse is on medications such as antibiotics, hold off on using garlic until drug therapy finishes.
Rosehips is a tonic herb for general debility, conditioning, helping horses fight off infection and restore defences.
Nettle as a fortifying tonic herb is a useful restorative when rehabilitating a horse. The Tibetan yogi Milarepa retreated to a cave for years with his nutritional needs sustained by nettle soup.
Sore muscle or injury repair:
Yarrow is traditionally a wound herb, especially in cases where there has been poor healing. It can be used at any stage, initially as an anti-inflammatory and with chronic stuck movement.
Chamomile can help with calming pain and settle the nerves after a traumatic event. It feeds the muscles magnesium to help with their development when coming back into work.
Gotu kola can reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen when repairing tendons. In Ayurvedic herbalism, gotu kola assists with wound healing and as a settling brain tonic.
Just a bit dull in their coat:
Dandelion Root is a supremely gentle tonic for a wide range of liver function problems. By supporting the liver you are essentially helping your horse cope with the metabolic strains suffered due to the adulteration of our environment.
Clivers is an ancient herb rich in silica, an effective remedy for skin eruptions and weak hooves. All animals eat it and as a toning lymphatic is useful for any swellings and mild urinary infections.
Burdock root is a blood cleanser with a long history of use with dry scaly skin conditions.
Marshmallow root is one of the best sources of easily digestible, vegetable mucilage. It lubricates the body against dryness, relieving dry skin.
For the ageing horse:
Ginger as a strong circulatory stimulant that brings warmth to conditions of cold and chill, improving movement in older creaky joints.
Frankincense is referred to as the rejuvenating herb, supporting arthritic joints and older respiratory systems.
Hawthorn berry has a tonifying action on the tissue of the vasculature, and supports an ageing heart. Horses seek out hawthorn hedges in Europe for relief of laminitis due to its anti-inflammatory, circulatory properties, and strengthening of connective tissues.
Devils claw is anti-inflammatory and analgesic indicating its use with joint disease and inflammation of connective tissues.
Not their usual self:
If the horse is ‘flat’ after the loss of a paddock mate or moving away from a herd to a new home, lemon balm is a herb for soothing the heart and eliciting the sentiments of sympathy and love.
Where a horse is distracted and lacks focus, traditionally hop flowers were employed to ‘overcome all difficulties’. In gypsy folklore, hop flowers combined with chamomile can be used to address restlessness in young horses.
Valerian was used during WWII to prevent shell shock in front line troops. It can be useful for short term use where a horse is nervous or anxious after a severe thunderstorm or firework displays.
When deciding on which herbs to use, you may only need two or three in your selection. Keeping your initial selection to a small number gives you room to add other herbs as you assess your horse’s response. Adding too many herbs can mask which herbs were effective.
Choosing a simple combination supports determining more clearly which herbs have assisted with overcoming the reason for a horse’s lack of ambition.
Before you blame sluggishness on stupidity or stubbornness, your horse may not be stating “I won’t” but instead saying “I can’t”; and it is worthful asking “why?”.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purpose only and is not meant to replace veterinary advice or treatment.
Copyright: Catherine Bird, who is also the author of a Healthy Horse the Natural Way, has been an equine natural therapist for 27 years working closely with Country Park Animal Herbs for over 19 years offering advice to their clients.