There are several ways to look at supporting the health of your breeding stallion. There are herbs that can target the reproductive organs specifically, but often it is a fine balance between helping, overstimulating or shutting down the function of the sex organs. For looking after your own stallion’s wellbeing, taking a broad approach can be more beneficial and can follow on into the show season with presenting in good condition.
Two herbs that can support your stallion with the bursts of energy they need when serving a mare are parsley leaf and rosehips. Parsley leaf is very high in iron while both parsley and rosehips are high in vitamin c to support adrenal function and recovery after the production of adrenaline. Parsley is also documented as a mild aphrodisiac herb useful in supporting prostate health.
Another herb useful for supporting stamina is nettles, again high in vitamin c it is also once of the most nutritional herbs you can give your stallion as a general support herb. If a stallion becomes irritated in his genital area, cornsilk is a useful herb to soothe a swollen or sensitive sheath.
A huge amount of effort comes from the hind quarter muscles and if it’s a general soreness that niggles at the stallion, turmeric powder is useful for low grade inflammation. If the stallion pulls up particularly sore, a day or two of devils claw can be useful in reducing acute inflammation. However, if you have already given the stallion bute, avoid using devils claw.
Other nutritionally supportive herbs are clivers, beetroot (available in powdered form), rosehips and gotu kola. For a stallion who shows signs of stress during a heavily booked breeding season herbs like gotu kola and licorice root powder can be given short term over two to four weeks to support the nervous system without calming.
Preparing your stallion for the show ring
Most of the herbs you can use when supporting your stallion for breeding can also be used to support his show season preparation. However, do check with current rules in regard to prohibited substances in case a favourite herb has been added to the banned list.
Targeting the key organs can help with conditioning enabling your stallion to be a standout in the ring.
If your stallion has dry and flaking skin, burdock root which cleanses the blood and wakes up the liver, will help with dryness that appears along the mane and around the tail. Supporting this with marshmallow root powder will soothe irritated skin from within by balancing secretions in the gastro intestinal tract. Keeping the liver happy is also useful when addressing tendon and ligament repair as the liver governs the health of connective tissue. Dandelion root and rosehips can be helpful with improving the integrity of this tissue after a muscle or tendon strain.
With dull or blotchy coats, clivers will clean the skin via the lymphatic system and then feed the skin to help bring up the best in most coats. Be careful with palominos and dun coloured horses, as sometimes nettles and rosehips can turn the coat smutty. Each horse is different with how they respond and discontinue with these herbs if the colour that comes out is not desirable.
If a stallion has dropped condition in the off-season or expended a lot of energy during the breeding season, slippery elm bark powder and marshmallow root powder are both demulcent herbs that can assist the gut to utilise nutrients and help return to show condition. Turmeric powder is an anti-inflammatory herb that can help sore muscles when coming back into training as well as support the abovementioned liver herbs.
If your stallion has had a period of time away from the show ring due to illness, supporting his immune system in recovery with rosehips, clivers and licorice root powder can also help with your preparation for his return to showing.
Most calming herbs are noted as prohibited substances and herbs that should be avoided include chamomile, lemon balm, valerian and kava; along with pain relief herbs containing salicylates such as devils claw, meadowsweet and white willow bark. When testing for prohibited substances, constituents such as valerianic acid, capscaicin and salycilic acid have been mentioned in rules, however all due care needs to be taken when administering any herbs as the levels of swabbable constituents can vary between herbal preparations. It is also important to protect your reputation as some rules consider any substances that claim to calm a horse to be unsportsmanlike.
Overall the use of herbs that are classed as ‘gentle’ by herbalists can keep your stallion’s body tuned to functioning optimally, be it during breeding season or in the show ring.
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 13 years offering advice to their clients.