Garlic is part of the onion family and has been used for thousands of years both to enhance taste in cooking and, more interestingly in this case, garlic for horses is used as a medicine.
It is a bulbous plant growing in a number of different types, which can be divided into hard and soft-neck varieties.
The majority of produced garlic comes from China, it is easy to grow where the climate is relatively mild and is quite resistant to pests.
Its medicinal use has been for a wide range of ills, as well as a means to prevent disease in Chinese, Indian, Egyptian and European medicine from the renaissance period.
The active chemical in garlic is Allicin and it is this that gives the distinctive smell.
What Type Of Garlic Is Best For Horses?
There are odourless garlic products, but these are not as effective as the odour is lost by ageing the garlic, with a fairly obvious effect on quality, from a medicinal perspective.
The ageing process consists of storing garlic in ethanol for over a year, which must clearly have an impact on its active ingredients and their efficacy.
So, good, unprocessed, smelly garlic is the best type to buy.
Given that there are risks in over-feeding garlic (see cautionary notes below), we recommend using a trusted brand where the amount of effective ingredients are controlled and therefore you can be confident of administering the correct dose.
Medicinal Uses Of Garlic For Horses
Garlic contains the trace elements Selenium and Sulphur. Selenium is an antioxidant known to support the immune system and Sulphur to have blood cleansing properties.
Its medicinal benefits are wide any many. Garlic uses are as follows:
- Fly repellant
- Improve appetite
- Respiration – as both expectorant and antibiotic. Can be used to build up antioxidant levels to prevent COPD
- Reduce blood pressure.
It is also fed as a preventative measure and to promote overall wellbeing and support the body’s natural defences.
It can also be used to help increase a horses appetite and make any other feed/supplement more palatable. Garlic supports the good bacteria in your horse’s stomach.
It is also fed, by some owners, to repel flies. The idea is that the horse sweats out garlic smell which flies find unattractive. This can be a key measure, alongside physical barriers, to prevent fly related complaints such as sweet itch.
Typically, a daily feed would be between 14mg to 35 mg per day, depending upon the size of the animal, however, this could differ if the product being used was in any way concentrated.
Please refer closely to suppliers instructions, noting points below.
Note Of Caution
Care must be taken as overfeeding can cause anaemia.
A 2005 study (W. Pearson) conducted regarding the toxicity of garlic for horses fed large amounts of garlic (125g day for 5 weeks) and noted at the end of the study the subjects suffered anaemia thought to be caused by N-propyl disulfide changing enzymes in the red blood cells. The anaemia was reversible.
An important point to note from the study is that horses will voluntarily consume amounts of garlic sufficient to cause anaemia – they will not self-regulate
As with all herbal remedies, care must be taken regarding both dosage and the length of time the herb is administered. Most things are toxic in the wrong quantities or chronic feed.
There have also been anecdotal reports of stomach issues caused by garlic killing off good bugs in the stomach.
However, the overall consensus from hundreds of years is that using garlic for horses is highly beneficial if administered correctly.