The weather is turning, the leaves are falling and the recent rainfall we have had in conjunction with the continued warm weather could easily lead to a sudden spurt of new carbohydrate rich grass in our horse’s paddocks. The growth and availability of this “new grass” should ring alarm bells for those of us who own “horses and ponies prone to laminitis”.

Laminitis is both a metabolic and vascular disease that involves the inner sensitive structures of the feet. The blood supply to the feet is disturbed and the sensitive cells in the laminae are deprived of blood and oxygen, leading to cell damage, inflammation and swelling. The swelling is restricted within the tough hoof wall, intensifying discomfort and pain.

Apart from carbohydrate overload from feed and pasture there are other situations that can result in the development of Laminitis, these include, but are not restricted to: Cushing’s disease, Insulin Resistance, Obesity and Infection.  

In this blog post we focus on herbs that can be used to help support horses and ponies predisposed to laminitis. These herbs can be used prior to and during the ‘danger period’ and aim to support the blood supply to the extremities, maintain the body’s natural response to inflammation, support the lymphatic system, strengthen blood vessels and maintain liver and kidney function to encourage the removal of blood toxins and inflammatory waste products from the body.

It goes without saying that these suggestions should always be used in conjunction with good horse management and Veterinary advice.

Nettle, Clivers (Cleavers) & Dandelion - These herbs are great Spring Tonics and can be cut and given to horses regularly to help support liver and kidney function, digestion, lymphatic and urinary systems. Horses and Ponies confined to ‘skinny’ paddocks or stables will look forward to their daily ration of herbs which can also help break the boredom horses experience when confined.

The fresh Cleavers and Dandelion leaves will be eaten readily, but the Nettle (leaves and stems) need to be cut, using gloves for protection, and allowed to wilt for a few hours to get rid of the ‘sting’. These same herbs when dried or used in liquid tincture form can be fed at any time of the year.  


Nettle

Nettles are a rich source of Vitamins C, K, and A and contain Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Cobalt, Selenium, Sodium, Manganese, Chlorophyll and dietary fibre all of which make them ideal for use as a Spring Tonic and for horses and ponies ‘prone to Laminitis’ where they will help stimulate circulation particularly to the extremities, and encourage the removal of blood toxins. The plant’s high Iron and Vitamin C content recommends its use for anaemia because the combination helps ensure the Iron is absorbed efficiently by the body.  

 

Clivers / Cleavers

This plant is considered a troublesome weed by most farmers and gardeners, but it is one of the favourite herbs of our Herbalist, Hilary Self. The plant has a diuretic action in the body and is a rich source of Silica. Given the opportunity most horses will happily graze any fresh plants they find, or it can be pulled up and tossed into paddocks or stables for them to chew on. Clivers are excellent for supporting the lymphatic and urinary system and will help encourage the removal of waste products and toxins from the cells and support their removal from the body via the kidneys. 

 

Dandelion

Dandelion is a great cleansing herb and supports the liver and kidneys in their roles of breaking down both fat soluble and water soluble materials ready for excretion. The leaves are a powerful diuretic, hence the old English name of Pee – the – Be, and are a rich source of Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium. The leaves can be collected at any time of the year.

The roots which help maintain healthy liver function and general digestion can either be collected in early Spring when there is the maximum amount of sap in the plant, or more traditionally in late Autumn. The roots should be cut lengthways and allowed to dry.  All parts of the plant have a ‘bitter’ quality to help stimulate digestive juices and support a normal healthy effective digestive system.

Dandelion leaves, flowers and roots are part of our horse’s natural diet and can be grazed at any time of the year.