Spring is a great time to add a few herbs into your horse’s diet. It’s the time of year when many herbs would be popping up in the wild, and our horses would likely choose to eat them if they could. Since that’s not always an option, here are a few to consider supplementing:
Milk Thistle: A master detoxifier, milk thistle is considered one of the best springtime herbs to feed, as it helps to detoxify, protect, and regenerate the liver. Milk thistle also regulates female hormonal balance. Feed 10-20 grams of milk thistle seeds daily. You can grind seeds in a coffee grinder or purchase the powdered form. *Recommended to be fed for four to six weeks.
Calendula (Marigold): This is an excellent herb for the lymphatic and urinary systems. Calendula flowers are rich in sulfur and help to reduce inflammation. They’re also great for preventing fungal infections, treating skin conditions, and easing gastric issues such as ulcers. Calendula is often fed in conjunction with cleavers or nettle. Feed 15-20 grams of flowers daily.
Cleavers (Clivers): This herb can be used to support the lymphatic system. A mild diuretic, the leaf and stem of cleavers help to reduce soft swelling and fluid retention. Cleavers are also rich in silica and will help strengthen the hair coat. Feed 2-3 handfuls of the fresh herb or 20-30 grams of dried cleavers daily. Best if fed in conjunction with calendula.
Dandelion: The entire dandelion plant is edible, but the leaves and roots are best to feed. Dandelion is high in vitamins A, B, C, and D and is also a natural electrolyte, since it contains plenty of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Dandelion root can help to eliminate toxins and treat liver congestion. Feed several handfuls of fresh leaves, 30 grams of dried leaf, 4-5 fresh roots, or 20 grams dried roots daily. (Caution: if picking your own dandelions to feed, make sure you know the difference between it and catsear (“false dandelion”), which can be toxic.)
Rosehips: This herb is a great source of Vitamin C and Copper. Rosehips have also been found to increase hoof quality and prevent scratches. Feed 15-20 grams of chopped rosehip shells per day or you can make a tea to pour over feed.
Nettle: Nettle is a rich source of iron, calcium, folic acid, and Vitamin K. It strengthens many body systems including the kidneys and adrenals. Feed about 20-30 grams of the cut, dried herb daily.