This article is brought to you by Holistic Horsekeeping.
Last month I took my 4 year old mule, Jake, to a training clinic.
When we joined the other 13 riders in the ring the first morning,
Jake was a bit overwhelmed. He was pretty wound up with all the
activity and just a step away from an out-of-mule-body
experience. It occurred to me that I had not given him any Rescue
Remedy or taken any myself. I usually give us both Rescue Remedy
when we face something new and challenging. I took Jake back to
the trailer and we both took a dose. The rest of the morning went
It was a long day and the heat index was well over one hundred.
Jake gave his all and was a bit sore and grouchy at the end of
the day. I took a little extra time to do a short Bowen session
on him to help his muscles relax. In addition to his extra
probiotics and algae at dinner, I also gave him an extra dose of
noni juice to help with any inflammation from the extra work. The
next morning Jake was bright and ready to go. I did not need any
Rescue Remedy as he was very comfortable with his new
I recently read an article in Practical Horseman about medicating
performance horses and was dismayed to see that the supplements I
used at the clinic would be considered illegal. The article
specifically said, "The United States Equestrian Federation's
drugs and medication rules are clear: Anything that's given to a
horse, in any way, with the intent to alter the horse's
performance, be it through pain control or temperament
adjustment, is not permitted. That means anything you give your
horse--homeopathic, herbal, or otherwise--that's meant to calm
him or make him more comfortable is illegal unless expressly
permitted by the USEF."
I feel we should draw a distinction between substances that help
restore a horse to its natural physical, mental, and emotional
state, and substances that actually increase a horse's
performance beyond his normal abilities or mask pain. Since this
can be quite confusing, I'll give a couple of examples.
Consider the difference between the flower essence Rescue Remedy
and the herb valerian. Both have calming effects. The difference
is that valerian can actual alter a horse's state beyond what is
normal while Rescue Remedy could only restore a horse to its
normal state of calmness. Valerian can cause a horse that is
normally not very calm to become calm or even sedated. On the
other hand, giving a Rescue Remedy to a horse that is normally
tense or high-strung would not have much of a sedating effect.
Rescue Remedy is effective in restoring a normally calm horse to
its regular state under stressful conditions such as a show.
Another example is the difference between the homeopathic remedy
arnica (not the herbal form of arnica) and the herb devil's claw,
both of which reduce symptoms of soreness or pain. Arnica cannot
mask pain, but will help a horse recover from muscle soreness
more quickly. It will not, however, allow a horse to perform
beyond its actual level of fitness. In contrast, devil's claw has
some medicinal components that would act in the body like a
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. When regulations allow for low
levels of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as bute or
banamine, devil's claw should be a perfectly acceptable substitute.
In these examples we are making a distinction between nutritional
supplements or homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements. Some
herbs, such as valerian, kava kava, and devil's claw are
medicinal in action. Even though herbs are natural substances,
using them to alter performance may not be harmful to the horse
but it does violate the spirit of fair competition. On the other
hand, homeopathic remedies and nutritional products can not alter
performance but instead allow a horse to be his best. Homeopathic
remedies work on a vibrational plane and can't mask pain or cause
a horse to act in a certain way. Homeopathic remedies will never
show up in tests because they are not physical substances. They
also do not have side effects or harm the horse in any way.
Nutritional support from natural products such as probiotics,
noni juice or aloe vera will not alter a horse's performance but
they can help the horse recover more quickly and be more
comfortable. Stress from showing will often cause the bacterial
flora of the horse's digestive tract to change and this can cause
discomfort and make a horse nervous. Probiotics are a natural way
to bring back the balance and help a horse feel better. Noni and
aloe are considered herbs but they act in a nutritional not
medicinal way by giving the horse extra enzymes and nutrients to
recover quickly from stress. Blue green algae is a concentrated
nutrient which supports overall health. Algae can give a horse
extra energy and help him focus better at home or on the road.
The best way to be successful with your performance horse is to
train him carefully, give him the best nutrition, condition him
to be able to withstand the rigors of competition and support him
with natural products which do not mask pain or alter
performance. I do not see how giving homeopathic remedies, flower
essences or nutritional products interfere with the spirit of the
medication rules. About the Author: Madalyn Ward, DVM has been
the owner of Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas since
1985. She is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy, Chiropractic and
Acupuncture. She is the co-author of “Holistic Treatment of
Chronic Lamintis” and has lectured about homeopathic medicine for
horses around the United States and Canada since 1992. Madalyn
has consulted on articles for Dressage Today, Chronicle of the
Horse, The Horse, The Whole Horse Journal and Practical Horseman.
Through her website Holistic Horse Keeping
http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com she publishes a free
monthly newsletter, offers the Healthy Happy Horse Resource
Group, has e-books available and provides information and
resources for horse and mule owners
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