Sharing knowledge about natural healing for animals that is both informative and practical is something I love doing. In today’s post I share an article from Equine Wellness Magazine that takes animal self-selection of medicinal plants, which I offer to my clients for their pet’s healing, to a new level. By planting herbs, flowers, shrubbery and more for your pets to forage on when they need to, you can insure that they have access to healing the way nature intended.
Now’s the perfect time for natural healing with an herbal strategy for your pasture
By Maya Cointreau
Throughout equine history, horses were free to roam large areas of land. Using their acute sense of taste and smell, they could intuitively pick and choose which plants were safe to eat, and which would treat their aches and ailments.
Over the last century, however, things began to change. Open land was condensed into pastures and paddocks. Eventually, manicured grass won out over untamed fields, and the horse’s access to natural forage dwindled. Most horses no longer have the opportunity to find the herbs they need and desire. Yet given the chance, they will feed themselves appropriately.
Our 37-year-old horse suffered from the creaky, aching joints of old age. On his worst days, he would often seek out fresh willow in his pasture. His younger companion never did – until one day he stepped on a large barn nail in the pasture. For the next week he stripped bark off the young willow saplings with uncharacteristic zeal. As he healed, he ate less and less willow; when he was better, he stopped eating it altogether. White willow (Salix alba) contains glucoside salicin, which becomes salicylic acid, and is the one of the original sources of aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid. In fact, modern aspirin was developed from willow and meadowsweet and unlike most pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories, willow is a very effective anti-inflammatory that is gentle on the digestive system.
Planting your own pasture
A herbal pasture will not only increase your horse’s ability to condition and treat himself, but will also bring more color and excitement to the senses. Herbs crushed underfoot when walking and riding will provide you and your horse with gentle aromatherapy treatments. Herbs in flower are good for the ecosystem, supporting local honeybee and bird populations, as well as providing a feast for the eyes. Our own pasture is naturally populated with red and white clover, white willow, cleavers, dandelion, plantain, spearmint and Jerusalem artichoke.
Think of your pasture as an empty canvas. Before you start to “paint”, you need to become familiar with its particular ecosystem. Many pastures are tiny microcosms of the world, with multiple growing environments: you may have a drier, warmer area that is good for drought-tolerant herbs such as sage (Salvia officinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris), while the edge of a stream or small watering hole can be used for planting marshmallow (Althea officinalis) and horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Although herbs may prefer certain conditions, they will tolerate most habitats. They are resilient, strengthening plants, and in turn lend their strength to our horses and ourselves. Some herbs require no work at all and are considered “weeds” because of their tenacious growing ability and persistent presence in gardens and lawns.
In addition to understanding your pasture’s ecosystem, you also need to find out what gardening zone you live in. All plants and seeds are sold by zone hardiness; if a plant is hardy in your zone it will survive local winter temperatures. To find your zone, ask your local plant nursery or buy a copy of the Farmer’s Almanac, which is packed with useful planting information.
Once you have a good understanding of your climate and your pasture’s unique qualities, you can start planning and planting.
Maya Cointreau is an herbalist, shamanic energy healer and Reiki master. She has written two books on healing and spirituality: Equine Herbs & Healing: An Earth Lodge Guide to Horse Wellness and To the Temples: 14 Meditations for Healing & Guidance.
If you are interested in planting medicinal herbs and plants for your pet to use for their own healing, I can help. I offer a variety of coaching services to assist you with all your needs for natural healing for pets. Contact me here for your complimentary exploratory session today.
For the animals,