Know Your Horse

The Health of Your Horse


 horse in pasture



Horses Need Checkups

Just like humans, horses need to have checkups to make sure they are in the best of health. You also need to make sure with your vetinarian how often your horse should have a check up. For humans it's supposed to be every year, but some vets prefer to see their livestock every six months. However, if something doesn't seem right with your horse, do call the doctor immediately before it is too late.

Dehydration is one of the more common problems horses face during the warmer months. Make sure to allow for this and keep its water bucket full of clean water. If dehydration is present, there will be some tightening of the skin, so if you notice this, make sure there is plenty of clean water easily available for your horse. It can be deadly if no action is taken.

Your vet will most likely visit the horse in its stables. This saves the problems of transporting your horse, but it also lets the vet see the horse in its own surroundings, so he can make sure that all is well for your horse.

Your vet will want to make sure your horse is getting adequate exercise, not just by being ridden, but by roaming free in a pasture or field. This gives your horse some free time, when it is able to relax.

The feed for your horse is important, and may be made up of oats, barley bran nuts, sugar beet and linseed, or a mix of these cereals. I have read that you should discourage your horse from eating quickly as this could lead to choking, and that to do this, you mix the food in with large rocks. This forces your horse to eat small mouthfuls

Feeds for horses may be composed of oats, barleys, bran, nuts, sugar beet, linseed or a course mix of cereals. Try to prevent the horse from eating too quickly since this can cause it to choke. One tip is to mix large rocks in the bucket of the horse’s food. This way the horse is forced to take smaller amounts of food as it has to avoid the large rocks.

Horses feet should get regular attention, with their feet being kept free from mud and stones, daily. Also, the horse's foot wear should be checked every four to six weeks depending somewhat on the weather and conditions underfoot. Keeping the hooves clean at all times is a good way to prevent infections and lameness in a horse.

Your horse's teeth must also be checked at least once a year, since sharp teeth can cause your horse problems when feeding. To rasp or file the teeth of the horse, the vet would do a floating to remove the sharp points of the teeth.

Just like dogs, horses can have trouble with parasitic worms in their stomachs. To cure this they have to go on a deworming program. Veterinarians can give dewormers that can be mixed with the horse’s daily food, and may be in the form of paste, gel powder, or capsules, so you have a variety of ways you can get your horse to ingest it. There are many types of worms that can grow in a horse's stomach, so make sure you follow your vet's advice.

Just as you know when your child is sick by him not eating, so too can you tell with your horse. If your horse's appetite suddenly decreases, it is a cause for concern. So is too much sweating of your horse, or if your horse's eyes are red, or he has swollen legs. In these cases, call your vet for advice, and then follow it, and your horse should recover well.

The Equine Cushings Cure

by Nina Arbella 

Equine Cushings disease is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland, which is responsible for the production and regulation of hormones. Symptoms include a long, shaggy coat that does not shed, excessive drinking and urination, laminitis, a tendency for recurring infections in the hoof (foot abscesses), and a loss of muscle mass, especially along the top line and rump.

At Eye of the Storm Equine Rescue, we’ve discovered what appears to be a cure for Cushings disease in horses. We’re not licensed nor are we doctors, but we know what has worked for our horses and for lots of others, so we wanted to share our experiences in case it helps cure your own horse of equine Cushings disease.

While looking through a nutritional healing book at Debra’s Natural Gourmet in West Concord, Mass., I came across a sentence that said “Chasteberry feeds the pituitary gland.” Chasteberry in recent times has been used mainly for “women’s complaints.” I know it works because it beats the crap out of PMS, you feel better in 20 minutes. “Hmm,” I say, “I like chasteberry, let’s see what it can do for our two Cushings horses.”

Bess, our 26 year old Shetland had obvious symptoms: long hair that didn’t shed and she was a sway back. Not as bad as some, but still obvious. I couldn’t wait for the vet to take some blood to find out her “numbers.” The results were positive for Cushings. I put her on one teaspoon twice a day, three weeks on and one week off. Though she began to shed her coat of “buffalo” hair almost immediately, she never was a very slick pony. But I was determined to keep her on the chasteberry one year before testing her blood again. If I saw results then, I would tell the world.

One year later, after Bess’ test results came back, the vet said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep on doing it.” Bess’ numbers were down 33 points! I don’t know exactly what these numbers represent, but evidently this never happens in real life! After one year of feeding her pituitary gland, had I managed to reverse her Cushings disease? I was very excited as this ailment affects the lives of millions of old (and not so old) horses in so many negative ways. This disease is more common now than it has ever been in the past. No one really knows why, though I have my theories. That is another tale for another day.

I was getting whole chasteberry in one pound bulk bags from Natural Gourmet and running it through a coffee grinder. The seeds are very hard and I figured it would come out the other end the same way they went in, unless we knocked the shells off them. You run the grinder until most of the pinging of hard berries can’t be heard anymore. You cannot grind them up completely, but that’s okay. Horses are made to digest roughage. They handle the chunks just fine. You should have a grinder for this purpose only, as your coffee might taste funny if you use the grinder for both.

Right around the time I was ready to tell the world about this “cure,” another product came on the market called Hormonize. It is a liquid and costs around $45 per liter and lasts two weeks for your average size horse. That’s $90 per month to treat the horse. The developers of this product found it to be effective not only on mares in heat, but it also did some impressive things for Cushings horses, too. It is sold for this purpose as well. It is an all natural herbal remedy. A bit pricey, though.

I checked out the ingredients. It is a tincture of chasteberry! I think they call it vitex or monks pepper on the back. I’m not sure. It greatly saddens me that the treatment for such a devastating disease sells for so much.

Horses don’t need herbal tinctures. They can and do digest some pretty coarse stuff (have you ever tried to eat dry timothy hay?). They can not only digest the herb, but utilize it in that form beautifully.

Bess, unfortunately, died at age 28 when she decided her mission was accomplished, so we never got a third blood test from her. We have two other Cushings horses, and all of our older mares are on chasteberry as well. Junebug, who is 8 years old, was tested last year and we’ll test her again soon to see where her numbers are. Snowdrop was never tested, but all her symptoms have disappeared and she is doing well at 24 years old.

If any of you out there would like to try chasteberry, here’s what to do. Go to your local health food store and special order one pound bulk bag whole chastetree berry from the Frontier herb company (please mention Eye of the Storm Equine Rescue when you do). You might want to order more than one bag so that when you’re down to one you can reorder. One bag will cost you less than $20 and will last a couple of months per horse.

Run the berries through your coffee grinder and feed one teaspoon twice a day with feed. We give the same amount to horses and ponies. It works on both mares and geldings. Give it to them three weeks on and one week off all year round. It will even keep the mares from being quite so crabby in the spring.

We also give them all vitamin E in the evening, vitamin C in the morning, and MSM. No sugars or carbohydrates (not even a carrot). There are feeds out there that are low in both, such as Blue Seal Racer and some of the senior feeds (do some research). All in all, chasteberry is the answer. Even our two 30-year old mares don’t have Cushings, only Bess, Junebug, and Snowdrop, who came to us with the disease and it appears to be reversed. I never had horses of my own get Cushings. I have every horse in town that has Cushings on chasteberry and they’re all doing great! This is a cheap, easy, healthy remedy for Cushings disease.


Nina Arbella is founder and president of Eye of the Storm Equine Rescue of Stow, Massachuetts. Contact Nina and visit the rescue center’s website at