LETTING YOUR HORSE CHOOSE THEIR OWN HERBS!
Herbal Sampling is the opportunity for your horses to choose their own herbal supplements. This works through body reaction. The body will tell us (whether horse, dog or human) via one of four basic reactions which go beyond “this smells” to an actual physical reaction. It is this physical reaction that tells us if the body desires this item or its just an interesting smell. (Disclaimer, this applies to healthy food, not junk food. Craving junk food feeds the imbalances in the body, craving healthy food heals)
DISINTEREST/NEGATIVE-The smell causes the subject to turn away, either because there is no interest in the smell, or because it causes a negative reaction; headache, swelling sneezing, coughing, or cannot smell.
SMELL REACTION; Herb might smell interesting, but there is little or no physical reaction.
DESIRE TO CONSUME; smell and body reaction (salivation, yawning, sneezing, head shaking, happy feelings) creates instant desire to consume but doesn not create lick/chew response in horse or dog.
LICK/CHEW/RELEASE: most people know the lick/chew reaction is a positive “thinking” reaction. It is a chemical reaction that causes salivation, Its the body's signal that this smell is going to cause a positive reaction in the body. Both dogs and horses have the lick/chew reaction.
TESTING- keep bags closed!
Horse must smell! Some horses get “bored” with the process and simply turn away from the herbs. These horses need to be encouraged to take a sniff and allow time for the smell to cause a reaction. Do not rush the test, especially for these horses (which are generally older horses). The brain needs time to process the information. Horse with poll/head pain may give very little reaction to the herbs. If this is the case it is important to massage the poll, forehead, jaw joint to improve circulation for a more favorable reaction.
All herbs have multiple functions. All herbs supply nutrients, both vitamins and minerals, depending on their makeup. All herbs also have a “target”, the job they are the strongest at doing. Most herbs also have a secondary job. For instance, licorice is both a tummy herb and a hormone balancing herb. Based on the choices the horse makes overall, you can make an educated guess about what they are needing that particular herb to do. This takes some practice, but over time (and with knowledge of what each herb does, you will be able to map out what the horse is telling you about their health.
Life in general produces pollutants in the body. If the pollutants aren't cleared out, the system gets clogged, much like pipes under your house. Foods, even hays, are full of pollutants (at varying levels). Pesticides, herbicides, chemical “nutritional” additives, GMO grains and pain are all types of pollutants to the body. In the wild horse would seek out these herbs on a daily basis. Pollutants that stay in the body turn into disease; lowered immune system, cancer, arthritis, etc. Detox herbs also include anti parasite herbs, which may be needed by the body for detoxing or removing parasites, so are included in the detox section.
Tummy Herbs (digestive herbs)
Wild horses naturally consume a more alkaline diet. Live grasses, weeds, and clays are all alkaline. Dried hays, grains, and processed chemical diets are all acidic. As everyone knows, acids eat stuff! Acid on your skin will burn. Acids in the body burn up the body, lower the immune system and make it impossible to fight disease. Raising the diet to a slightly alkaline level gives the body the ability to fight disease. Acidic diets remove the protective lining in the digestive tract causing damage such as ulcers, and the inability of the liver to remove toxins. Think of it like constantly pouring Drano down a PVC pipe. Eventually it will erode away the wall and the pipe will burst. Tummy herbs increase the production of mucous that protects the lining of the intestinal walls, and improves digestion.
Natural pain relieving herbs are very healing to the body. They not only are anti-inflammatory, pain relieving but provide nutrients as well. Many horses have hidden pain problems that will give the owners a “heads up” when choosing pain relieving herbs.
Most horses pick at least one calming herb, but most pick at least two. Calming herbs not only calm the mind, but also muscle and nerve endings. A calm horse may pick a calming herb because they internalize their stress, or have muscle or nerve issues that need dealt with.
Surprising to many horse owners, geldings will often choose hormonal herbs which makes sense seeing as how gelding a horse will adjust hormone levels, much like a woman having a hysterectomy. Hormones are not only for the sex drive but also play a vital role in the immune system and thyroid function.
In the wild horses are drawn to what their bodies are missing. In a “kept” environment horses have less of an opportunity to fulfill the missing elements of their diet. This is best filled through offering natural herbs and clays. Herbs and clays offered freely will most likely be overeaten as most horses are not “trained” to regulate their diets as a wild horses especially in the case of extreme deficiency. This is best offered as a regular part of the daily diet.
AFTER THE TEST
Set aside the no reaction/minimal reaction herbs. These are the ones your horse does not need.
Strong desire to eat and lick and chew herbs need to be laid out into two separate categories. These give you a “map” of what your horse needs. Depending on overall herbs chosen, some or all of the “desire to eat” herbs may be kept. How do you choose which herbs to keep and which ones to remove? This comes with a bit of time and education on what the herbs do and what herbs overlap in purpose. There is no problem with choosing all of the herbs from these categories as herbs aren't known for negative interactions but rather support each other, as Fenugreek and Yellow Dock do. However in the case of the stronger herbs (cayenne, paprika, clove, anise) sometimes its best to be a minimalist rather than adding all the herbs the horse has chosen.
KEEP THESE HERBS SEPARATE!
The strong herbs, cayenne, anise seed, and clove are all very strong herbs,. Some horses will consume them long term but many horses only want them short term. All your herbs may be mixed into one container for easy feeding except these herbs. They may be mixed together but keep them separate from the milder herbs so there is no waste if your horse decides to stop eating them. They may be stored in a closed container for future use as many horses will rotate their desire to eat the strong herbs. Though it is possible to add all herbs together in one mix, when many herbs are chosen it is usually best to divide them into categories...Nutritiona/hormonal/detox, pain/calm, strong herbs, and in the presence of known stomach issues, tummy herbs should be kept separate.
FOR THE PICKY EATER!
Introduce herbs one at a time. When you are sure each herb is going to be accepted, begin mixing a couple of herbs together and feed...its better to introduce herbs slowly to the picky eater rather than try and add all the herbs at once and have your picky eater refuse to eat and waste the herbs!
MY HORSE ATE THE HERBS AND SUDDENLY STOPPED??
This happens! Something in the mix is no longer needed and the horse needs retested. Most horses will get to the point that they will eat any herbs you put in front of them but many horses are very picky in the beginning while their bodies are adjusting and healing. Either offer the herbs to another horse or store them in a a cool dry sealed container and try offering them again in the future. In a well sealed dark container herbs can last a couple of years! The vitamin content does decay over time but good storage will lengthen the time your herbs stay fresh.
HOW OFTEN TO TEST
Each horse is going to be different based on needs. A more “toxic” horse will need to be tested more often, as their bodies change, their needs will change. As a horse becomes less toxic, and begins healing, their herbal needs will begin to stabilize and testing will be done less often. Average testing times will be every 2-4 months. And as variety is the spice of life, it is good to retest and thus offer variety to the diet.
THE SUPPORTING DIET
Did you know the “easy keeper” is the most nutritionally deficient horse? Don't believe me? Go to McDonalds and look around. How many overweight nutritionally sound people do you see? Weight is NOT a condition of nutritional soundness! It is only the ability of the body to store fat, not nutrition!
On the opposite side, as I'm sure everyone knows, you can take all the supplements in the world and still be in a toxic state due to your general diet. This is the same with horses I call this “pushing water uphill with a rake”. No matter how much you push the water up, it falls right back down again! Diets heavy in processed grains and chemical additives are going to add to the toxic chemical load of the body, rather than help support the body. Its is best to feed simply, and if possible, divided up nutrients. Rather than going with a “complete” feed, which promises to provide all nutrients needed for the “average” horse (who owns the average horse?) it is better to go with a simple feeds, with no additives (Coolstance, Haystack feeds, Renew Gold, plain alfalfa/grass pellets, rice bran, etc) and round out the nutrition through natural supplementation (herbs, clays, whole seeds such as flax and black oil sunflower, etc) These provide “whole” easily absorbable nutrients rather than chemical processed “nutrients”.
Think about these things when planning your horse's diet: Good forage, quantity is preferable over high “quality” as the actual nutritional value (vitamins and minerals) isn't very different from hay to hay, though age/time/harvest/quality of soil matter greatly!
General vitamins, minerals, especially B vitamins which decay quickly and can be provided through yeast products or WHOLE grains or certain herbs. Probiotics are a necessity ONLY when plenty of fresh foods are missing and in the presence of acidic/sugary diets, anti-biotics, paste dewormers and chemicals all kill off healthy intestinal flora! Healthy intestinal flora must be replace via live foods and probiotics. Though there are many herbs that help with digestion, they do not replace lost intestinal flora, though they will help encourage healthy growth.