Picture what it means to live a healthy life: what comes to your head? You’re probably thinking of someone smiling, exercising, with family and loved ones, or even eating nutritious, delicious food.
As it turns out, most of what works for humans also works for horses —except for food!
Yes, eating the right foods is everything to a horse. And munching on the same old hay, in supersized quantities, all at once? That's a recipe for disaster!
The truth is horses need total body support to live a healthy life. I repeat: horses need total body support to live a healthy life!
“I know that, but what does that look like in practice?”, you might be thinking. Not to worry, because we have your back!
We’ll describe the best herbs (and foods) for total body support, so your horse can live a picture-perfect healthy life. Come along for the ride!
Start by feeding horses a mixture of herbs
Horses’ stomachs are much different than ours. Despite weighing nearly eight to 10 times more than humans, a horse's stomach is quite small.
Plus, most 1,000-1,200 pound horses need to graze for at least 15-17 hours daily to live a healthy life. If they’re cooped up in their stall for most of the day without access to fresh air — and only on a diet of dried-out hay — a horse may easily lose out on much-needed nutrients, therefore requiring additional supplementation with herbal products to counteract any lost, but crucial, vitamins and minerals.
Since horses are herbivores, when you start by feeding your horse the right mixture of herbs, you’re giving them the types of foods — healthy foods — their bodies crave. The right mixture of herbs can do wonders for a performance, work, or recreational horse!
The trick is feeding them the right amounts of herbs based on their body weight and range of activity.
So, how much should horses eat then?
If you’re not adding an herbal supplement to your horse’s diet, you can expect an average 1,000-pound horse to eat more than 16 pounds of food a day. Since their stomachs can only hold about two to four gallons at a time, their food must be given to them in small meals throughout the day.
Depending on the herbs you’re feeding, we recommend 1 TBSP scoop of concentrated herbs for a 1,000-1,200-pound horse. For example, our Total Body Support for Horses is jam-packed with more than 10 different herbs that can be fed to horses once per day, one scoop at a time.
Next, we’ll show you which foods are best to support a horse’s body and overall health.
Which herbs (and foods) should you feed your horse?
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the best herbs for total body support!
Caution: We recommend consulting your local equine nutritionist and/or veterinarian to determine the right make-up, portion sizes, and feeding program for the following herbs and foods.
But let’s dive into the absolute best herbs and foods that provide outstanding nutrition, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and more for your equine pal!
Boneset (also known as comfrey)
Often referred to as Comfrey, Boneset is a one-of-a-kind herb perfect for supporting the recovery of damaged bones, sore shins, chipped knees, and other bone-related injuries. Consuming Boneset may help horses decrease bone and muscle discomfort.
Boneset is packed with immune-supporting vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B-complex. Boneset is one of the main active ingredients in our Feet and Bone Support for Horses to help support healthy recovery and strengthen horses’ bones.
Due to its amazing properties supporting the respiratory system, we use Boneset in our Respiratory Support for Horses, as this herb can give a horse’s lungs the boost they need when the air becomes polluted.
Mix this herb in your horse’s feed, and watch your lovable equine friend grow stronger and stronger, day in and day out.
Long known in Native American culture for its healing properties for the kidney, liver, and pancreas, Dandelion contains key vitamins and minerals that are also beneficial for mood, learning, and memory. Other minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc — coupled with vitamins A, B-complex, and C — can be found in this happy-looking herb.
Dandelion is an all-star herb that has been used as a mild laxative, to help cleanse the blood of impurities and has been known to help with several bone and muscle conditions. In addition, it has properties that help the body naturally achieve hormonal balance in all horses, particularly for mares who may have hormonal difficulties while in heat.
While some people avoid it like the plague because of its pungent and smelly odor, they’re doing themselves a disservice, because Garlic is a fantastic herb used to help rid the body of parasites and assist with respiratory disorders. Best of all, Garlic helps repel flies, relieves sweet itch, and can help decrease blood pressure in easily excitable, competitive, and workhorses.
Try mixing a little garlic into your horse’s food to help their internal systems calibrate and be their best.
Soothing and protective to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and respiratory system, Flaxseed is a wonderful source of fiber and is even recognized by the medical community as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
This dense grain contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that aid with digestion and is also packed with a buffet of nutritious vitamins and minerals including potassium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, magnesium, and Vitamin B1.
We also use Flaxseed in a number of our products as an aid to help reduce inflammation caused by seasonal discomfort or environmental sensitivities, and we firmly believe that incorporating Flaxseed into your horse’s diet will lend itself to a better mind and body for your horse!
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just for cats! Catnip is also known to offer support as a mild anti-anxiety and calming agent for horses and dogs.
Used in our Keep Cool for horses, it comes in handy, particularly before races and competitions. Catnip makes our list of great herbs for total body support because this wondrous herb includes key vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, and Vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E!
We should give this herb a golden seal of approval for its body-supporting, life-nourishing properties! Goldenseal has been used for centuries as a liver tonic and has been hailed as an excellent anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and immune-supporting agent used for everything from increasing fertility rates in mares to helping rid parasites in dogs.
Goldenseal is an amazing crime-fighting herb and is great for a horse’s internal systems, as this herb contains a whole gang of healthy and happy vitamins and minerals — calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and F.
Great things must start with the letter “H” because Hawthorn is a wonderful herb often associated with heart health. This herb is rich in flavonoids and vitamins C, B, and A — all of which help the cardiovascular system by supporting the health of veins, arteries, and capillaries, as well as overall heart function.
We use Hawthorn in our Cardiovascular Support for Horses product to give horses the support their hearts and lungs need to maintain normal recovery after strenuous exercise. Just remember: the letter “H” stands for Hawthorn and heart health!
This ocean-floor-based herb tackles all sorts of areas in the horse’s body to promote overall health. Known for its high iodine content along with folate, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A and K1, Kelp is also used to help strengthen bones and joints and to increase mare fertility.
This well-known anti-inflammatory agent is made up of complex carbohydrates — specifically fucoidan — which helps reduce inflammation in injured tissues and helps ease joint pain.
We might know it as that sweet treat we eat around the holidays, or as a soothing additive to a cup of hot tea, but Licorice Root is also widely known for supporting proper immune function.
This amazing herb, used in various indigenous cultures for its healthy and soothing properties, and anti-inflammatory benefits, also happens to be one of the key ingredients in our Digestive Support for Horses product! Licorice Root also helps aid other herbs to efficiently support a healthy digestive tract.
Best of all, Licorice Root helps detoxify the blood and contains awesome minerals and vitamins such as biotin, chromium, iodine, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins E and B-complex.
Often used as an anti-inflammatory agent, Marshmallow Root is a powerful herb that may help a horse struggling with urinary tract issues. This herb may help to soothe the urinary tract and help facilitate the intense effects of select herbs.
Best of all, Marshmallow Root contains a slew of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iodine, iron, sodium, and vitamins A and B.
Just make sure not to confuse Marshmallow Root with marshmallows, the key ingredient used in the campfire treat, s’mores. Yeah, that wouldn’t taste so good…
And for a horse’s liver, we have Oregon Grape! Known as an amazing liver tonic, Oregon Grape has also been used to help the liver maintain normal histamine levels, particularly helpful during times of seasonal discomfort!
We use Oregon Grape in our Liver Support for Horses to help our horse’s body metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and detoxify and purify the blood. Best of all, Oregon Grape contains copper, manganese, silicon, sodium, zinc, and vitamin C — body-supporting and life-nourishing vitamins and minerals needed to support a horse’s overall well-being.
Perhaps one of the best herbs for digestion is Psyllium! This green and white plant promotes regular bowel function and helps remove unhealthy toxins from the gut.
Psyllium also includes healthy minerals and vitamins like potassium, calcium, iron, and vitamin C to help your horse’s colon do its job correctly.
Have you ever seen those movies where a magical healer touches someone, and they instantly heal? While Slippery Elm can’t heal someone on the spot (otherwise, we’d all be using Slippery Elm every time we became sick), it does have the power to support the natural healing process of damaged tissues.
Best of all, Slippery Elm protects and soothes the GI tract and is particularly helpful in curbing gastric ulcers in horses, irregular bowel movements, and uncomfortable constipation. This diverse herb includes a wide variety of vitamins and minerals beneficial for total body care for your horse.
Found on evergreen shrubs, Uva Ursi has historically been used as an antiseptic for a horse’s urinary tract. Uva Ursi supports the body by helping to remove the bacteria that may cause urinary tract infections and helps prevent that bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
In short, Uva Ursi is a natural diuretic that we use in a variety of our products, both for horses and dogs. The triple threat of iron, manganese, and vitamin A are what make this potent herb so very powerful and helpful.
Often used as a key ingredient in many a cup of calming tea, Valerian Root has traditionally been used as a sedative, as well as helping to calm an anxious horse. This herb can help soothe the digestive system and ease the effects of colic, flatulence, cramps, and more.
While it may cause drowsiness, you can seek out your local equine nutritionist — or contact one of our expert equine consultants — for additional tips, tricks, and best practices when it comes to feeding Valerian to your horse.
And rounding out our list of amazing herbs is one of our favorites -Yarrow! Perfect for horses during competition season and horses who are exercised often, Yarrow is very well-liked due to its ability to help protect and support joints, tendons, hooves, and bones.
Acting as a natural antibiotic with known anti-inflammatory properties, Yarrow may help to reduce discomfort and fever, stimulate sweating, relax smooth muscles, and help the body facilitate the healing process.
Plus, it’s packed with vitamins A, C, E, F, and K, and copper, iodine, iron, manganese, and potassium. You couldn’t ask for a better, more natural aid to help combat the aches and discomfort that our horses often endure! We love Yarrow!
There’s a Silver Lining in every herb
We know it’s not always easy to take care of your equine friend. Many horse owners have come to us in dire straits asking for help in caring for their sick and injured horses.
But we’re all about finding the silver lining in every tough situation!
In addition to giving your horse foods like carrots, pumpkin, oats, grain, hay, and grass, you can ensure your horse lives a long, happy, and healthy life by feeding them natural herbal products! Perhaps the best silver lining is that nearly everything your horse’s body would need to heal itself exists in Mother Nature!
Total body support for your horse starts with you, but don’t worry! You don’t have to go at it alone!
If you ever need — or want — additional help on how to better care for your trusted steed, don’t hesitate to give us a call any time.
There’s a silver lining with every herb. Take hold of the reins, and go out and grab it!