Each season can affect your horse’s immune system in different ways. Whether your horse is coming out of winter’s cold hibernation and is ready for spring maintenance, environmental toxins will fill the air as the seasons change.
Detoxing your horse's body can help them avoid these many toxins that are in the air — and your home. But do they keep your horse happy and healthy? The answer is yes. Read along with us at Silver Lining Herbs, as we'll describe what detoxes are (and aren't) and how to improve your horse's body condition and health with detoxes for any season of the year.
What exactly is a detox for horses?
We’ve heard of the word detox before. Heck, some of us have detoxed ourselves to manage our body weight and enhance our immune system’s functioning.
Healthy horses also need detoxes. A detox is a diet in which we choose to abstain from certain foods or drinks for some time to rid our bodies of harmful water-soluble toxins.
For our friendly horses, this often means changing their diet and reducing their exposure to fat-soluble toxins found in their food and water sources.
What a detox is not
A detox is not a quick fix. It is not advised to use it as a seasonal, one-time fix-all solution used to keep your horse healthy or ready to go for performance. It is not an herbal or nutritional supplement alone, nor a quick change one can make to change a horse's diet for the better.
Detoxing horses requires providing regular, seasonal care to your horses for all of their digestive, physical, and behavioral needs. It means checking in with them often, taking care of your horse, and being proactive to ensure your horse receives enough nutrients, has access to fresh water, and eats foods high in vitamin C, among other minerals.
A detox is not a fad, it is a lifestyle that can be built to support your horse's health. It’s easier than you think. Let’s look at how it’s done.
How do detoxes work?
Detoxes are health plans, diets, and practices — ideally made with equine practitioners in mind — that help reduce the number of toxins and trace minerals in your horse's diet and lifestyle.
This could mean introducing new foods to your horse's diet, reducing exposure to harmful cleaning products in their body, or even nurturing your horse's health with a more clean lifestyle and diet.
It’s worth ensuring that you are choosing industry-leading research to help detox your horse on a regular basis.
How toxins affect horses' health
What do weed killers, chemical pest repellants, and antibiotics all have in common? They’re all toxins (yuck!).
Examples of toxins are heavy metals and other unwanted, added harmful chemicals that can impact your horse’s health. These extra chemicals can show up in fertilizer, cleaning products, and even air fresheners around the house or outside.
What’s the net result on your loveable horse? Your horse's health will sadly decline.
Key areas for keeping horses healthy
That’s why we say no to toxic loads and yes to a can-do, healthy horse lifestyle. Here are a few key areas we suggest looking at to naturally detox your horse.
Common horse illnesses needed for a health detox
Kidney disease, leaky gut, and liver failure have your horse awake at night (Oy!). These are just some of the body conditions you’ll find that affect your horse's system.
We recommend checking out our E-book on healthy horse care. Many of the same principles in the book can be applied to dogs, as both animals tend to suffer from similar illnesses as the seasons change.
It’s important to look at kidneys, liver, gut, heart rate, skin, and GI tract (for bowel movements and urination) to ensure your hearty horse isn't being affected by toxic substances in the air.
If you’re wondering what some of the behaviors and signs are that can affect a horse's health, we'll discuss this topic more in the next section.
Physical and behavioral signs of healthy horses
If a horse has its ears down, does not appear to have too much energy, or seems more tired than usual, it may be exhibiting symptoms of depression.
If horses could talk, it would save us all a huge headache in helping us diagnose their issues. They don't (unfortunately). So, while we wait for evolution to churn out speaking horses, we must settle for discerning our gentle horses' needs by observing their behaviors.
Horses will start showing health issues — like liver and kidney disease among other illnesses — in how they stand and move, as well as through the emotions and behaviors they display.
You can ensure they stay healthy and without the need for a detox by checking on the following physical and behavioral health indicators:
They’re the key to the gate, the link in the chain, and pièce de résistance for knowing whether your lovable horse is in trouble.
While every animal is different (horses included), we know that a horse’s vital signs should hover somewhere between 28-44 beats per minute (BPM) and 10-24 breaths per minute (average BPM differs for foals).
It’s helpful to keep a vital signs monitor near your equine friend to make sure that an irregular, fast, or slow heartbeat is not a symptom or sign of something more serious down the road — such as an issue residing in the stomach or abdomen. Keeping a vital signs monitor near your horse will help you track your horse's overall health and ensure other health problems don't crop up.
Speaking of the abdomen, your horse will often show a need for a detox if they are having issues with its GI tract.
Most horses like to graze for about 12-15 hours daily. Sick horses with stomach issues tend to leave food uneaten, eat slower, pick through their food, or stop eating altogether.
If your horse’s stomach is gurgling and emitting gas-like growls, this is normal.
However, if you’re not hearing any sounds coming from your horse's stomach, it’s time to check in with your local equine practitioner to ensure your horse is not experiencing liver, kidney, or colic-related disease.
You know how it feels when you haven’t eaten in a while. Your stomach growls, and your immune system ramps up its protests, crying out, “Hey, you! Feed me!”
Most animals act the same way when it comes to their food and being around other animals. Horses love being around other horses, and they love to gallop (well, at least most of them).
If your horse is not as active (or not running into your neighbors’ fields like ours do), is preferring to be alone, and is sleeping more than usual, any one of these clusters of symptoms might be the result of a diet or a problem in your horse's system that needs changing.
Worse yet is if more frequent weight changes occur, weight change being the subject of our next section.
Weight and body condition score
Every animal in the world has a different ideal weight. For horses, we tend to use a weight tape to measure their weight.
The Henneke body condition score is a score given to a horse on a scale of 1-9 that ranks the six main areas of a horse's weight documented by research from Utah State University.
Some horses might rank lower on the scale; other horses rank higher. What matters most is that your horse has a balanced weight across the six areas of their body, their neck, loins, withers, tailheads, and shoulders.
When a horse is healthy, they distribute weight evenly through all four feet. They look spry and move with grace wherever they may prance.
If your horse is limping or walking on their hind legs frequently, this could mean its hooves need to be fixed. The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends taking 10 minutes (or less) daily to check on a horse’s posture and hooves.
With each additional bump or scratch, the risk of infection and illness can increase. If you are proactive from the get-go, there will be no need for a detox.
Thirst, defecation, and urination
If your loveable equine friend is drinking less than the daily advised amount of water (about 5-10 gallons daily for most horses), this could be a signal that something is off with their health.
It is worth learning best practices for keeping your horse hydrated so their intestines keep moving — bowel moving, that is — smooth and easy.
Tips to maximize the benefits of a detox
Whether you’re considering a kidney, food, or liver detox for your animal, your animal deserves a detox that truly heals its digestive system. We’ve dug into the research and found a few key tips that are useful for all animals, tips that can help your horse maintain optimal health, body weight, and immune system functioning.
1. Make sure your horse is drinking filtered water
The same tips that go for humans apply to our sweet animal friends. Filtered water ensures that your horse will limit their exposure to heavy metals, thereby reducing their toxic load and decreasing the risk of a leaky gut.
What’s more, it’s better for a horse, its liver, and its digestive system if a horse drinks filtered, as unfiltered water includes more toxins than filtered water. Consider setting aside gallon jugs for your equine friends before the day begins, to ensure they are ready for anything and everything.
2. Eat plenty of whole foods rich in nutrients
Picture yourself eating a sweaty, greasy McDonald's cheeseburger for every meal of the day. That’s a ton of protein and not a whole lot of vitamin E, huh?
In our modern world, our animals are eating the equivalent of McDonald's over-processed food. Eating processed foods full of chemicals wreaks havoc on a horse's digestive system.
For example, our horses (most of them at least) eat the same processed, nutrient-poor food most days and meals of the week, and so it’s no wonder that the foods we give our equine friends contribute to the decline in their health.
Consider feeding your horse a nutrient-dense diet rich in herbs (like this calming herb package). These foods contain key amino acids and digestive enzymes that are crucial for helping your horse's liver remain active and strong throughout their lives.
3. Daily movement and exercise
Just as daily exercise and movement are good for our bodies, so too is it helpful for our horse's bodies. The regular movement ensures that blood flows to all the important parts of our bodies and keeps our bodies well-lubed (similar to how the right motor oil can help a car run smoothly oil).
If we do not have proper blood flowing to each of our organs, our health will be impacted.
For example, one way to check if your equine friend needs a detox is by checking the blood flow to their gums. To do so, press your horse's gums gently. Their gums and mucous membranes should feel moist, turn white briefly, and then return to a healthy, light pink color after about one to two seconds. If their gums do not return to that light pink color, there could be a problem with your horse's health.
Likewise, if your horse has slightly cloudy eyes, it might be suffering from a lack of blood flow to the eyes. We recommend making sure your horse engages in plenty of regular exercise, as exercise helps increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. That way, you'll ensure your horse does not need a detox in the future.
4. Support your horse's kidneys and liver
Most detoxes are needed as a response to intestinal and organ issues — like the kidney and liver — that arise on a seasonal basis.
That is why in the spring and fall we suggest using Liver Support and Kidney Support for 30-60 days on all horses. Whether you have a 3-year-old colt or a 15-year-old gelding, most horses don’t have thousands of acres to roam to glean all the variety of nutrients and food they need for a proper diet.
It is likely up to us to supply our colts and foals with proper nutrients, so they don't succumb to further liver issues. After all, if we're not giving it to them, they aren’t eating it.
You can feed your horse rice bran and other nutrient-dense food to give them the digestive enzymes and amino acids needed to improve their kidney function and overall horse health.
5. Avoid pest control and weed killers
Many horses pick up illnesses by accidentally ingesting harmful chemicals, fertilizers, and other substances rich in heavy metals.
To detox your horse from most toxins eaten off the ground, make sure to refrain from treating your yards or grazing areas with harmful chemicals, as your horse might stumble across a yummy-looking reed of grass that's full of yucky poisons.
6. Raw food is the way to go
Your horse's food can also be a source for a healthy detox! An ideal detox for a horse free from processed feeds and other toxins.
Plus, whatever leftover food your horse doesn't eat the day of can always be made into compost. You’re helping detox your horse and saving the environment.
It's a win-win any way you slice it.
Detoxes come in all shapes and sizes, but all of them help reduce symptoms associated with illness. Most detoxes work by healing various parts of an animal’s body.
Whether you're feeding your horse dandelion leaves, milk thistle, or other horse supplements, raw food, daily exercise, and proactive care is the key to helping your horse maintain optimal health year-round.
At Silver Lining Herbs, we find that using 100% raw and pure, grade-A ingredients in all of our supplements helps our horses thrive. Whatever you, your horse, or your dog may find on life's path, we’re here to help you make it through it. That way, we can all live and thrive, one week, one day, and one happy moment at a time.
At Silver Lining Herbs, we believe the best health an animal can get is 100% natural. Our goal is to create herbal supplements that keep our animals at their peak — feeling well and performing well — for years to come. Family-owned and operated for nearly two decades, we invite you to have a look around our shop for dogs, horses, and humans. If you like what you see or just feel like talking further, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!