Today we talk about why an herb garden is beneficial for horses. We focus on such gardens in open plan stabling, cover what you should know about the topic and how you'd organize your own herb section within your paddocks. In our stables, a herb garden is already in the making.
Prior to domesticating the horses, herds were able to forage through forests and meadows. Like all wild animals, horses followed their instincts and stayed healthy by eating a variety of plants and herbs. They use their instincts to find the plant they really need in order to stay healthy.
In our last blog post we were explaining that, although scientifically not fully documented, herbs definitely have effects on horses. Countless reports and personal experiments account for that fact.
But, due to the lack of evidence, it is all the more important that you thoroughly research before you plant an herb garden. Read books on plants, growing herbs, research the web and get advice from a professional. Then you can really be sure that your horse gets the most safe and natural care – which you are responsible for.
Since getting into the subject of applied zoopharmacognosy (self-medication) for horses myself, I have found that – under no circumstances – the effect of natural medicines should be underestimated. Herbs are not food for horses. They must be regarded as an addition to the meal plan, not a substitute. Herbs, seeds, and plants have a protective, beneficial and healing effect. Often, they can help where conventional medicine is stuck.
However, most of the information on the effects is only based on experience, and dosages can vary. But that's exactly the point: The amount the horses are consuming makes all the difference between being "healing" or "toxic".
If you are interested in this topic, I am organizing a course on applied self-medication on horses in April 2018 with specialist Caroline Ingraham. Read my testimonial on my experience here. Contact me if you would like to know more: firstname.lastname@example.org
The advantages of your own herb garden
Herbal mixtures are often expensive and horses rarely need all the active ingredients in those supplements. It's a lot cheaper and also very exciting to plan and plant your own herb garden. Other advantages include:
Once ready, the herbs can be harvested and fed; the horse also has the possibility to wander around and choose the right herbs.
You can dry and store the herbs.
Herbs can be used to make tinctures and extracts which can be administered orally, thus keep the horse healthy.
A cleverly designed garden can serve as a natural insect barrier. Garlic, lavender, and vermouth, carefully planted close to stables and pastures, keep the bugs in place and avoid excessive insect infestation.
Where do I best plant my herb garden in the stables?
There are different ways to create a herb garden. Make sure that the horses don't have permanent access to it, because, if they keep nibbling on the shoots, the plants won't be able to establish.
Therefore, it is best to only give them hourly access. This also gives you the possibility to monitor which horse prefers which plants – this, in turn, will give you clues whether or not there are potential health issues.
In our stables, we have a smaller pasture with some trees, among them a hazelnut tree. Horses love to munch on it. Our plan is to plant some herbs over there, let them grow a bit, and give the horses access to it only from time to time. This will give the herbs plenty of time to establish.
Another possibility is to set up raised beds. You plant the herbs, let them grow and put a close-meshed grid on top. The horses will only be able to graze on the top shoots.
If you have a lot of space and a paddock trail, you can add all sorts of different plants to the outer edges. You will notice that at certain times of the year the horses only consume certain plants. Our horses also go with the seasons and therefore have different needs at different times.
Herbs for horses: Our Conclusion
The right kind of herbs and the correct dosage are crucial for the safety of the horse. Next week, we will continue with this topic, and we will publish a list with effective herbs and plants thriving in our latitudes.
Until then you can think about where you would put your "medicine" garden!
Have a wonderful week