This article is part of our Comfort Awareness Campaign brought to you by Bute-Less.
A holistic approach to horsekeeping has become more mainstream and popular in recent times. Many people opt for supplements that include natural ingredients like herbs. Sometimes even in lieu of prescription medicine, when appropriate for their horse. You can find herbs in ingredient lists from medications that help manage discomfort, to weight gain remedies. For years, people have recognized the medicinal properties of herbs. Dating back to the ancient world when herbs were the only medicine available, they have reemerged as legitimate way to support your horse. You might not feed your horse herbal supplements. But, if you run across these two common herbs in ingredient lists, it can be beneficial to understand their properties and uses.
What constitutes an herb? Simply put, they are a plant or plant part used in cooking, fragrances, or medicine. Technically speaking, they are different from other plants because they lack a woody stem, meaning they don’t develop hard tissue seen in trees or shrubs.
A wide array of supplements use herbs as ingredients to aid equine health. Herbs have a variety of uses. To support digestion, address respiratory health, manage joint health, support the immune system, and even manage skin conditions in horses. They may also help with issues such as stress, anxiety, and hormonal imbalances. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian experienced in herbal medicine or an equine herbalist before incorporating herbs into your horse’s care regimen. They can help you choose appropriate herbs, determine proper dosages, and provide guidance on administration.
Those participating in sanctioned events should specifically pay attention to the ingredients present in the supplements they utilize. For instance, Devils Claw can contribute to comfortable movement, but the USEF lists it as a prohibited substance. Therefore, competitors are advised to discontinue feeding it 7 days prior to the competition.
This herb has a lengthy history as a property that supports comfort. For centuries, the indigenous people of the South African region have employed the desert-growing plant to help various ailments. Devils Claw is commonly seen in supplements that are designed to support comfortable movement in horses. A 2018 pharmacokinetic study found that Devils Claw is detectable in a horse’s blood as early as 30 minutes after administration.
A major compound found in Devils Claw is harpagoside which can be beneficial in managing a healthy inflammatory response. As mentioned before, this herb is a forbidden substance with the USEF. Consult with a veterinarian before introducing new supplements to your horse. However, manufacturers often formulate products containing Devils Claw for daily, long-term use in order to support equine comfort.
This ingredient is derived from Yucca schidigera, indigenous to the deserts of Southwestern America and Mexico. Native Americans used Yucca for its versatile properties. Yucca has found uses in health products, hygiene applications, and even beauty treatments. Many hold that yucca functions as a digestive aid and an antioxidant, gently contributing to the support of your horse’s immune system.
Yucca also possesses saponins, which are chemicals binding to fats and oils and have demonstrated cholesterol-reducing effects in humans. Proponents hold that this herb bolsters a healthy inflammatory response in horses, therefore, its presence is observed in a range of supplements.
Why Choose Herbs?
There are many reasons that people opt to support their horse with alternatives to prescription medicines. From avoiding undesirable side effects, to just preferring a natural approach, this is a personal decision you must make based on your horse’s needs.
Typically, herbs have minimal side effects, and provide gentle support for daily comfort. Specially formulated supplements with herbal properties not only include stomach-friendly components but also play a role in supporting your horse’s comfort. It is recommended to avoid combining herbal support with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications on the same day they are administered. Regardless of whether you opt for a legitimate support that includes herbs and natural properties, consult with your horse’s health team to determine the best course of action for him. And do your research. There are great alternatives to prescription medicines on the market that can help ease aches and discomfort associated with normal daily exercise and activity, training, or competition.