The Stinging Nettle
A plant so common that it is found on nearly every piece of waste ground, yet a nettle supplement for horses can be really helpful, as it has been for humans since anglo saxon times.
Nettles (Urtica dioica) accumulate large quantities of nitrogen, calcium, silica, iron, phosphates and vitamins B, C & K.
This explains their reputation in reducing painful inflammation as seen in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in humans.
Despite their vicious sting from the formic acid on the leaves when growing (easily relieved with the juice of a dock or plantain leaf crushed in the hand, or a drop or two of pure Lavender essential oil), they are one of our most valuable mineral herbs.
When cut and dried, the nettle loses its sting and becomes a really useful feed supplement.
If you look at a horse grazing, it will not eat live nettles but once cut will quickly hoover them up.
Benefits of Nettles
Containing healthy amounts of iron, vitamin C (an anti-oxidant), chlorophyll and histamine, nettles are primarily diuretic and blood cleansing agents, eliminating uric acid from the body.
A nettle supplement for horses also acts as an overall tonic, containing essential minerals such as calcium and potassium, typically fed in the springtime to support the horse after a hard winter, especially if living out, and to prepare for the usual increased use and competition in the summer.
Overall benefits are:
- Overall Tonic
- Improved Blood Supply
- Support Healthy Coat
- Kidneys And Urinary Tract
- Allery Resistance
Nettles compared weight for weight with spinach are far richer in iron and used to alleviate anaemia.
Iron is important for the production of red blood cells and the transportation of oxygen through the body via haemoglobin.
The presence of vitamin K also gives nettles anti-haemorrhagic qualities. Nettle root contains sitosterols useful in controlling benign prostate hyperplasia.
Nettles also can be used as a sugar balancer to prevent sugar highs and lows, which horses are prone to at certain times of the year, for example, as fructose level in grass increases in the springtime.
Linked to issues of blood supply, nettles are often used to promote a healthy dappled coat.
Kidneys And Urinary Tract
Nettles are a mild diuretic and can help maintain regulation and loss of body fluids, which can include flushing through toxins.
The diuretics effect can also be of use when reducing inflammation.
Resistance To Allergy
What Is The Best Nettle Supplement For Horses?
Dried nettles are best for horses
The sting in the leaves is due to histamine that can be easily destroyed with drying.
Feeding Nettles As A Supplement
If you are gathering nettles to dry yourself, take great care that they have not been sprayed with weed killer or anything potentially harmful to your horse. Also, of course, take care that you haven’t gathered up any other plant that could be harmful to your horse such as ragwort and groundsel.
Nettles can be cut, spread out on a baking tray and dried in the oven at 70 0 C for an hour or so. Keep the dried nettles in an airtight tin and add to your horse’s mash feed.
Typically one might feed 10g /day to a pony and twice that (20g) to a horse, according to body weight.
Any nettle allergy is most likely to be related to the live plant ( i.e. being stung!), however, there have been some cases reported where horses have come up in hives. Also, constipation has been reported as a side-effect.
As with all dietary changes, introduce carefully and monitor closely.