Feeding your horse....simply - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Being a Herbalist, you could say that diet and understanding what is required nutritionally is my main focus. Herbs are about peak nutrition. What concerns me is the misunderstanding now that diet is a "science" (as all feed companies will tell us!) and that common sense no longer applies...

stock horsegazing SMLL

A good diet is not complicated to put together and, in many cases, the simpler, the better. Complexities arise from overfeeding, over-mineralising of so called "safe" vitamin supplements (which can put a strain on the kidneys and liver) , and a general mixing and matching of a variety of complete feeds as competing brands argue their case.

Feeds should be from a whole source, with vitamins and minerals supplied by a broad range of whole grasses (supplied in either dried hay form or fresh grasses), whole grains (like barley and oats) , and trace minerals supplied by herbs, rock salt and kelp.

There are many whole feed concentrates on the market, and I do recommend some of these in the general scheme of things, however, unless you are supplementing a major deficiency, then its best to maintain health with herbs as the main source of essential vitamins and minerals long term, and a very simple feed program. This is especially true for the insulin resistance horse, which I am very familiar with. I have very specific herbal and management programs for these kinds of horses.

Like modern day diets which all come out of a packet, we have lost touch with our natural cravings. I often have people say to me that their horse won't eat herbs (or have lost their appetite in general). Usually this is from the now universally accepted understanding that nearly every horse in work and stabled has to some extent an ulcer in the gut.

It does not take long for me to help the owner to change their mind, as the horse heals of the ulcer, so does his appetite and his craving for a healthier option is obvious when he turns up his nose at the more processed feeds.

Preventative Maintenance is the first and best place to start in ensuring good health. The exact same herbs discussed above can form the basis of a program for bringing on young stock so that they have much healthier, more mature and more elastic ligaments and bones...

McDowells Recommendations

Some of the ingredients I like to use as part of a whole food diet;

Oats and Millet
Oats and Millet  both contain especially high levels of organic silica compounds as well as carbohydrate and many other minerals. As oats can be too hot for some situations, I would suggest that a daily cup of millet as a feed supplement is sufficient to ensure all the silica required to produce tough bones and to aid in recovery from injury.

Linseed is specific for strength and elasticity of ligaments and attachment points. A cupful (boiled and drained as too much raw linseed can be toxic) daily in a young horse's diet and regular application of raw linseed oil to the legs of young horses is the very best thing you can do for a growing horse to avoid a working life plagued by ligament injuries.

Both Millet and Linseed appear in my most popular Tendon and Bone formulation, which dramatically increases the speed of healing of injuries and prevents them from becoming chronic by completely resolving the injury.

Yarrow is a herb which in extract form closes off blood vessels and acts as an astringent to help close up open wounds. Yarrow also stimulates bone marrow health and the production of red blood cells within the bone marrow again supporting the resolution at the most profound levels of damage or weakness following strain or injury.

Chamomile has many properties and helps various conditions ranging from skin and nervous system problems to acting as an antispasmodic and a digestive aid. Chamomile is often used to treat colic, scours and other gastro intestinal disorders. The preparation in this case is prepared with 1/3 cup of Slippery Elm Bark powder mixed into a sufficient quantity of cold tea to make a paste. One dose of this paste daily will completely heal the lining of the gastro intestinal tract when given as an uninterrupted 12 week course.

Rosehips Granules are one of the very best sources of natural Iron and Vitamin C. They also contain biotin for optimum hoof health. Rosehips play a major role in kidney rehabilitation and adrenal function and can be used to prevent Azoturia or "tying up". Routine usage will completely rehabilitate kidneys weakened by stress and/or the regular use of electrolytes or diuretics.

Rosehips are an excellent mild blood cleanser, support circulatory health, adrenal health and connective tissue health. With free access to a natural rock salt block, kelp or seaweed meal and the Rosehips tea there is no need to supplement with electrolytes, which only deplete the horses system.


In conclusion it should be clear that there are a large number of simple and inexpensive ways in which herbs can be used to both supplement the diet, aid in the maturity of bones in young competition horses, and to repair and resolve injury and strain occasioned by workload or injury.

These preventative programs and injury treatments should always be the first considered and you should manage them yourselves. Veterinary medicine and surgery should be reserved for those occasions when herbal and home remedies and rehabilitation programs need assistance.

Herbs will aid in healing and recovery from injury wherever it is found in the body. Therefore every time you are treating a specific problem the herbs will also seek out other areas of past or impending weakness and take advantage of the opportunity to resolve these without your even knowing it is going on.

Have a question? Contact McDowell's Herbal Treatments

McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

EMAIL info@mcdowellsherbal.com  |  PHONE 02 6331 3937  |  INTERNATIONAL +61 2 6331 3937