Gallopers and Eventers Tonic - McDowell's Herbal Treatments


Robert wrote the following article in relation to his Top Performance Mix to assist the owners and trainers of "Event" horses.

As an Equine Herbalist I am constantly in touch with owners and trainers of performance horses of all sorts and there has been over the years a change in their attitudes about embracing more the idea of using natural and herbal solutions to their problems.

When I started treating race horses in 1993, I was only getting inquiries from what were regarded in those days as very alternative people, a fringe group really of those who were already using herbal treatments for their own health and for that of their family. Sprinkled through these were the odd "straight" trainer coming to me in desperation when all the orthodox veterinary surgical and drug treatments had failed them as in the case often with Poisoning, with Bleeders or Bowed Tendons for example.

The prevailing attitude toward performance enhancement tonics at that time was that, "If it doesn't swab mate, it is no bloody good!"

Nowadays of course my clients represent the whole spectrum of attitudes and the most orthodox and dyed-in-the-wool traditional trainers both old and young now show up looking for help in chronic and preventative treatment and herbal performance enhancement. In many ways, the modern drug testing programs have been responsible for fuelling the change in attitudes, as so many of the things that they used to be able to use are now banned for competition.

I find myself explaining the philosophy behind herbal treatments and performance enhancement almost daily to those new clients seeing a need to change their approach in order to remain competitive.

In 1994 I developed a formulation for a performance enhancement mix for Gallopers which I modify to suit individual cases but which supplies all that is required to get 110% performance out of a 100% fit and well Galloper. This formulation at the same time improves their ability to back up and to perform at peak for much longer, thereby maximising the value of the investment in the animal and its training.

What is interesting and informative is to examine the various ingredients in the mixture and to illustrate the philosophy of herbal medicine as applied to the task of getting the best out of a healthy Galloper in the modern age.

The task at hand then is to produce a tonic, which will,


  • Enable the Galloper to perform on the day at the absolute top of its ability.
  • Maximise the efficiency of the heart and the blood to supply oxygen to, and clear waste products from, the muscles,
  • Maintain and conserve high levels of adrenalin in reserve for the finish.
  • Maintain the nervous system at peak but not wasteful readiness prior to the race and keep the brain and intelligence engaged and focused on the job at hand.
  • Support the metabolic and nervous system so that the horse enjoys its work and will back-up quickly and be keen for more.
  • Support the immunity and the physical systems to minimise down-time and maximise the working life of the equine athlete.


To illustrate, the following are the ingredients in my standard Performance Enhancement Tonic for Gallopers.

(Again, and to repeat my earlier comment, I do change the ingredients to suit individual animals after consultation with their carers, but the basic herbs in the mixtures I prescribe remain the same because there very particular demands to be met listed above)

Yarrow: Is a high organic iron source and a blood tonic, working especially in stimulating bone marrow production of red blood cells. Yarrow also functions also as a support to the nervous system under high physical stress loadings.

Nettle: Is the highest common vegetable source of iron again to maximise the ability of the blood to carry the required levels of oxygen to the muscles and the heart.

Dandelion: Supports both the Liver and the Kidneys. These two organs are primarily responsible for cleaning the blood of both metabolic waste products and the waste products from high levels of exercise. Dandelion will help prevent tying up and will repair some of the damage done by the routine use of electrolytes, diuretics and exotic chemical supplements so common in the industry. In harmony with Rosehips and Kelp, Dandelion also assists the metabolism to quickly return to normal after a race, preventing the animal from falling away after competition which is a common problem in the industry.

Rosehips: Support the Kidneys, the Adrenals and the Blood and is a major source of natural Vitamin C and of organic Iron compounds. Kidney health is critical to the health of adrenal glands and it the adrenal glands, which provide the extra drive needed to win on the day.

Kelp: Provides all the trace elements which could be lacking in the horses diet along with providing direct support and stimulation to the Thyroid and Pituitary glands which are fundamental to total health and performance.

Borage: Is a primary adrenal tonic used through the ages to bolster courage and performance under stress. As a relative of Elecampane it also has valuable healing properties to counter the physical wear and tear of exercise at peak performance.

Rosemary: Is a circulation stimulant especially to the muscles and to the brain, both of which must be working at peak in a competition situation.

Maritime Pine: Is a major anti-oxidant some 25 times more powerful than Vitamin C as well as a direct support for the peripheral circulatory system. Exposure to this herb minimises damage to small blood vessels under heavy work and speeds up the absorption of free radicals produced under stress.

Hawthorne: The Hawthorne is a major heart tonic, which will allow the heart to work at peak without stress or long term strain. Again Hawthorne is one of those herbs which will allow an animal to draw upon very deeply hidden reserves in the final stretch.

Hops: Is a nervous system tonic specifically suited to an overly busy head under stress. The affect of hops in the system is to allow the animal to be keyed up ready for competition but not to be so high that it is running the race before the start.

Owners, Vet's and Stewards often approach me for reassurance that there are no substances which will show up in swab tests but I can only say that in the last 8 or 9 years of treating competition horses and racing greyhounds the herbs have not ever been picked up in a swab test.

This is because herbal medicine is a totally different wholistic philosophy. As you can see it is possible to allow them to go faster by making them healthier and by supporting the metabolic, physical and nervous system demands of their sport.

For Show Horses, Hacks, Eventers, Endurance, Dressage and Pacers there are different specific demands in each sport which require particular variations in formulations so you should consult a professional equine herbalist for advice.

Top Performance Mix

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