What’s in a hedgerow ? …

What’s in a hedgerow ? …

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Nature’s Farmacy

Let them eat weeds!

If you’re lucky enough to still have access to hedgerows, trees and native ‘weeds’, mother nature makes sure she provides exactly what the doctor ordered, all in perfect divine timing

Spring is sprung, and it’s time for a spring clean – both internally and externally.  Life is restored and after the rain and snow of the winter, the seeds begin to sprout from the depths of the soil, trees bud and nature awakens in her green, flowering beauty.  (Staying Healthy With the Seasons.  Elson M. Haas, MD).  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the spring season is the Wood element, which governs the gall bladder and liver, the eyes are the sense organ and the colour associated is green.  It’s definitely time to love your liver after the sluggish winter, it’s the best time for my human clients to do a liver detox and without fail, all of the hedgerow herbs growing will assist in cleansing and detoxifying the liver for your animals, the liver stores and distributes nourishment for the entire body – mother nature never fails – so allowing your horse to forage, allows them to get in sync with the seasons – if they don’t have access to hedgerows from their fields, then take them for a walk, put your phone away for an hour or so and have a wander up the bridleway or around the farm and let them choose from the variety of plants naturally available this time of year to give them the best possible start to the season

Freedom to forage is one of the most simple, yet valuable things you can do for your horse.  Nature’s medicine cabinet is all around us and it pains me to see these poor horses in paddocks, right next to bountiful hedgerows, often with electric fencing keeping them away from what they could be foraging on, it must be so frustrating for them

Just about every pharmaceutical drug evolved from the active ingredient in a plant or herb – just look at aspirin, and any other common drugs to see where they came from.  The difference is, in nature you get the whole plant, so the active ingredient, along with hundreds of other compounds, which generally are there to counter balance any side effects – which the drugs don’t have, hence there is always a price to pay – you might ‘fix’ this, but then ’cause’ that, as a side effect …

Mother Nature’s farmacy – give them access to the hedgerows.  I remember cycling up to they yard in the seventies and the smaller fields and hedgerows being ripped out, as large agriculture changed the face of farms for good.  It’s so noticeable when I drive West to visit friends, where you see so many more hedgerows still, as opposed to the barren monoculture crops and miles of electric fencing in small paddocks.  For an animal that is meant to be walking, foraging and nibbling all day, trying to recreate as close to this lifestyle for them, has so many benefits, amongst them, just the act of moving!  You wouldn’t keep an Olympic athlete in a tiny cell all day and then grab him for 45 minutes a day to go and train – yet this is the life for so many now, day in, day out

Is there anything that screams spring more than the brightest of yellow dandelions? … I mow around them in my garden – not sure what the neighbours think, but the bees love them so I don’t care!  an amazing plant with so many qualities, along with plantain, cow parsley, sticky willy (or cleavers) – next time you see a man in a hazmat suit decimating the dandelions around the yard – do an intervention! 🙂

In spring, plants nutrients which have been pulled from the bark and stems are now pushed forward into the buds and leaflets. Supporting growth and transformation.

Digestion – transitioning through the seasons requires careful management. Dogs are much more consistent because diet is usually more consistent, however diet rarely takes into account the seasonality of the dog. Horse meanwhile are frequently transitioned too early or not supported sufficiently through winter meaning they arrive in Spring with immune dysfunction, obesity, metabolic disorders, colic, ulcers, diarrhoea etc

The liver is the only organ that has regenerative capabilities and liver disease is only seen outwardly when at least 75% of the liver is compromised. That’s a massive amount of liver to be non-functioning and explains why liver disease is both uncommon and when diagnosed, life limiting. To learn more about herbs throughout the year, you can learn from a Master Herbalist,  (Rachael Maxwell, Animal Botanical)

The liver is working harder than ever to process all the stasis of winter, renewal of cells all related to shedding, hoof and nail growth, increased blood circulation, increased respiration, increased digestion, hormone production and metabolism, removing toxins (de-worming), elimination from the lymphatic system, store sugars, produce glycogen….The liver takes the brunt of all the stimulation associated with spring.

Detoxification, elimination, cleansing, the liver can break down fats for energy, especially helpful in PSSM horses and metabolic horses.   Some of the competition horses I treat are pumped so full of drugs for one thing or another, their poor liver has to metabolise and make safe all of this medication.  Toxins are found in our water supply, they come from pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, wormers, grooming products, air pollution, medication, including herbal ones and the environment in general. Toxins are also produced endogenously (inside the body) and can come from foods, hormones, bacteria and metabolic breakdown. The liver has a great deal to do.

Your animals diet and lifestyle are vital factors that enable the ability of the liver to work more effectively. If the liver has heath delivered to it from the gut it will be a healthy organ, and it will be able to detoxify more efficiently.

Animals are the best herbalists, they instinctively know what they need and if allowed free access, will show you they are better herbalists than us!

Mother nature provides exactly what is needed, at the right time of the year – berries full of vitamins going into winter to boost the immune system, detoxifying herbs in the spring – it’s almost like she knows what she’s doing!  A good diverse, diet with free access to the whole variety of herbs, weeds, trees and flowers allows your horse to self medicate and balance their own system, before they need any supplements.  In fact, the same supplements, given year round in the feed, can often be a complete waste of money and also, many come with toxic binders and fillers to bulk them up – if they are not organic, they will contain chemicals, which your horses liver then has to metabolise to stay healthy


Variety is the spice of life, this is my gorgeous horse Bonnie, taking herself off and wandering around the farm, at her own free will, taking a little of this and a little of that.  At nearly 25 years old, she looks in amazing shape and is a picture of health.  Over the years we’ve been in a variety of yards – one had a hanging basket right outside her stable, full of Marigold flowers.  Marigold, also know as Calendula, is a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which can ease muscle fatigue, so there it was, right outside her stable, which she obviously tried to eat and got a right telling off for – the livery yard owner was so ignorant – just because someone runs a yard, don’t automatically presume they know what they are talking about – it’s very tricky if you don’t have your own place and it’s a minefield trying to be diplomatic so you don’t get chucked off the yard, but also you have to be the voice for your horse – you have to point out the obvious, hope it’s met with curiousity and a willingness to learn and even better, taken on board and acted on  – every day is a school day for all of us


You can plant a lay meadow, companies such as Cotswold Seed Company and Agrobs do great ready made seed mixes – you can also plant herbs around the edge of your current fields – but make sure you offer a good variety – diversity is the spice of life.   If you don’t give them a choice, then they can’t choose, so don’t just plant one species – it’s always best to seek advice from a professional company, or herbal consultant experienced in this field and bring the diversity and balance back to your land

DO NOT SPRAY!  Please do not spray toxic weedkiller and then allow your horses to graze

Glyphosate has been classified as a known carcinogen to animals – so also get on good terms with your neighbours and educate them!

So if your horses haven’t got daily access to a diverse selection of hedgerows, trees and herbs naturally in their environment, then try going for a wander with your horse, your stabled horse will love you for it – be patient, if they haven’t been in the habit of self selection, let them feel their way and let their natural instinctive desire to forage be satiated, it will save you money at the supplement counter too

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