The Equine Herbalist

The Equine Herbalist


Want an alternative to conventional medicine when it comes to looking after your horse? Equine Herbalist Rachel Kelly shows us a new way.

I have always loved horses I got my first pony when I was 12 and kept him at my granduncle’s cottage. My uncle, Thomas McNulty, had a big effect on me and was very into the old remedies. He gave me a book on herbs and that’s how it all started. I honestly thought that book was magic and could not believe plants and herbs possessed such healing powers. It was great to be able to combine my two great passions together.

I try and use as many native herbs as I can, I love people to take control of their own horse’s diet and health by using what is all around us, and it is all free. On the courses I run I teach people to use what is growing around us. Examples are rosehips for the immune system, nettles for stiff horses, thyme and garlic in a wash for cuts, plantain for cuts, heart tonics, healing oils, natural worming. All of these remedies can be sourced from our native hedgerows.

In my herbal formulas I use nettles, rosehips, yellow dock burdock root, hawthorn, plantain, cleavers, yarrow, calendula, thyme, meadowsweet, dandelion just to mention a few depending on the issue.

Herbs can form the basis of a health regime to keep our equine partners in top form. Herbs can prevent the onset of disease, they can support metabolic systems in recovery from illness, and they can help with long term or chronic conditions that defy modern treatments. Herbs work to maintain a horse’s health and correct imbalances by treating the whole horse as opposed to treating symptoms.

Equine herbalists can specifically design each herbal formula to meet the individual needs of a horse. I not only use herbs for horses but advocate a natural living food diet for all horses. This includes sprouted seeds and grains.

So why use herbs as an alternative to conventional medicine? They are natural and safe, containing no artificial or chemical substances. They don’t have side effects, and help to eliminate toxins. Herbs are loaded with antioxidants; antioxidants are extremely useful in strengthening the immune system and aiding performance in the horse.

Herbs can also be used to smooth out a horse’s temperament. A client purchased a very nervous horse which a number of professional people had given up on. As soon as he was mounted, it was like he lost all trust with his rider; he would go to great efforts to get them off. I carried out a full consultation and assessed the horse over a period of days. I then developed a herbal formula and a herbal infusion for the horse. Over a short space of time we started to see a rapid improvement in the horse’s temperament and the formula was subsequently reduced accordingly over time. The horse has made a complete turnaround, his temperament has improved, and he is now a pleasure to ride.

A serious issue for horse owners is the disease equine exertional rhabdomyolysis, also known as “tying up”. It is a syndrome that damages the muscle tissue in horses. It is usually due to feeding a horse too many carbohydrates and appears to have a genetic link. I went to a riding school, to see a horse with chronic tying up. It was a terrible thing to see she was completely unable to move. I developed a herbal formula and a herbal infusion for the pony, and gave the owners advice on what to feed and what not to feed the pony with the tying up. Four days later and the pony was cantering out in the field. She has made a full recovery.

Another common and annoying problem is that of Sweet Itch. It is a medical condition in equines caused by an allergic response to the bites of midges. It may be found in many horses and ponies, especially in the warmer regions. Sweet Itch is every horse owner’s nightmare. I have known people whose horses have suffered for years with the problem and they keep buying products to rub on to it, which might address the symptoms but not the problem. The quality of the horse’s blood needs to be addressed first and foremost, starting the healing from the inside out. I use a blood-cleansing formula and sometimes an external application depending on the case. The herbs are magic for Sweet Itch, once you stick with the formula and be consistent with giving it to the horse, you will see results in and around 6-12 weeks of starting the herbs.


I advocate a totally natural lifestyle for horses. This includes their environment and lifestyle, I don’t give them any processed feed, and we grow what our horses eat all year round. They have natural hoof care (barefoot – no shoes), and we advocate 100% natural herbal worming along with pasture management.
















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