Outward appearance is a good indication of the state of health on the inside.
Not only does feeding herbs have the distinct advantage of supporting and nourishing the organ systems and internal tissues. Your horse will gleam externally with health also.
Many herbs are rich in a variety of easily metabolized, food form nutrients which are essential for a healthy coat. For example, Kelp contains no fewer than 25 vitamins and 92 different mineral elements! In addition, it contains a wide variety of amino-acids, which form a minimum of 9-11% of Kelp’s analysis. One word of caution with Kelp though is that it is not suitable for horses which suffer from hyper-thyroidism because of its high iodine content. Although thankfully this condition is extremely rare. Even with normal horses though, you should be cautious not to feed another supplement that is high in iodine when also feeding kelp. Moderation is key, and when used as such, Kelp is perfectly safe and highly beneficial.
Another great herb for coats is Clivers. It’s rich in the hair-strengthening mineral silica and colour enriching copper. Horses which are copper deficient often have a burnt orange tinge to their coats, and the individual hairs themselves are curled and split at the ends. Other copper-rich herbs include Paprika, Kelp, Rosehips and Dandelion.
Fenugreek seed is rich in vitamin E, which promotes healthy skin and shiny hair.
Nettle, Hawthorn and Rosehip are all nutritious and excellent circulatory stimulants. Increased circulation helps because it carries nutrients into peripheral capillaries and delivers them to the growth surface where they are needed. Nettle is a renowned coat conditioner as it has the marvelous ability to bring out beautiful dapples.
Circulatory stimulant herbs also carry away waste products, and so have a supportive role in detoxifying the system. Herbs which have a direct detoxifying effect are the liver (hepatic) and kidney (diuretic) herbs. A dull, yellowish coat and dry, scurfy skin reflects a toxic build-up in the system, because the skin is a secondary excretory organ for toxins. In which case using herbs which support liver and kidneys will bring the gleam back into your horse’s coat, and can help prevent inflammatory skin conditions from eventually developing.
The best liver support herb is Milk Thistle seed, as its active constituent silymarin has the ability to heal and regenerate liver cells. Silymarin takes a minimum of 6-8 weeks to begin to regenerate liver cells, so it ideally should be used for 12 weeks. Only the seeds of the Milk Thistle plant contain silymarin, and these must be milled to a powder because the tough outer shell of the seed is virtually indigestible. Expect to see a lustre in your horse’s coat after 6 weeks on Milk Thistle seed, and after 12 weeks your horse’s coat should be gleaming!
Milk Thistle is great to use as a once or twice annual detox (for 8 – 12 weeks each time) for most horses, especially for those working hard, or those living in close proximity to conventional vineyards and orchards using inorganic herbicides and pesticides.When you supplement Milk Thistle seed, you should co-supplemented with the diuretic herb Dandelion. They support and enhance each other’s efficacy. Nettle also combines well with these herbs, as it is a blood-cleanser. Honeyvale Herbs Liver & Blood Tonic contains these herbs in ideal proportions. Other cleansing herbs include those rich in sulphur, such as Garlic and Echinacea, and these sulphur rich herbs also help prevent bacterial skin infections.
Other common-sense approaches to dealing with a dull coat is a healthy diet which includes the right proportions of nutrients, especially omega 3 fats, and providing free access to a good quality salt – preferably natural sea salt). Also, ensure your horse is not carrying a worm burden. There are many herbs which have excellent vermifuge and vermicidal properties, our Herbal Dewormer blend is useful for including in a worm control routine as a chemical free alternative.
Shampoo your horse’s coat as little as possible, as this removes natural protective oils from your horse’s coat which protect the hair shaft from environmental damage. Also, if your horse has sweated up during work and dried off with the salt still in his coat, the remaining salt can cause sunburnt patches of hair. This is frequently seen as a dull yellow patch of hair under the saddle area only. You can avoid this when you sponge or hose the saddle area before the sweat has dried. Most horses enjoy a cooling hose-down on a hot summer’s day anyway