Old Wives Tales and Natural Remedies for Your Horse


I was having an interesting conversation with my Ferrier the other day about some of the old wives tales I’ve heard about natural remedies for horses. One or two of these have come from my favorite vet who has been around horses for the last 65 years.

He has now retired. But every time I could talk to him I learned so much about how he kept his horses strong, healthy and sturdy. And how to use natural remedies to do this.

I am not a vet, nor do I know if these old wives tales really work, but they are worth further investigation. I thought I would pass them on to see if any of you have used these and found them valuable.

#1 – Tobacco Leaves for De-Worming

The one I hear the most about is to use Tobacco leaves as a natural de-wormer instead of over-the-counter pastes.

My vet said he gave tobacco leaves to his horses for years. He only used natural organic tobacco leaves that he grew himself and just added a small amount to the feed when needed as a de-wormer and a preventative.

He also said never to use chewing tobacco or anything manufactured as there are so many other “things” added that may not be good for horses.

After doing some research though, this really needs to be regulated if you use it. It seems to work but too much or the wrong type might make a horse sick. Hopefully, families who used this measure also passed on how much to use and what type of leaves to use as well.

#2 – Natural Herbs for Parasites

As another alternative to de-wormer pastes some people have told me about using a mix or a selection of these herbs – peppermint, chamomile, anise, thyme, neem, cinnamon, and garlic.

They have said that these have proven to be highly effective at expelling and preventing parasites in horses. So these supposedly work on worms as well as other parasites that might be found in a horse’s system.

These herbs supposedly can create a natural horse de-wormer that works to create an environment in the gut and digestive system that is uninhabitable to parasites.

When fed regularly, these herbs are supposed to increase a horse’s resistance to parasites and will provide a horse with constant protection all year round. But as with the tobacco leaves you should research and regulate how much of each herb to use and how to mix them together.

#3 – Copper Pennies for I’ll-Behaved Mares

Copper pennies placed in a water trough will prevent moody behavior in mares. This is an interesting old wives’ tale.

Supposedly, you should use pennies minted before 1982 to ensure the highest copper content. I’ve heard that this is also why people used copper bits on mares in “season”. Plus copper is known to have antibiotic properties.

I’ve been told that adding a copper pipe to a larger water trough will deter algae growth for cleaner water. The copper pennies might work this same way in a smaller bucket.

According to what I’ve researched the copper pennies in the mares water was supposed to keep them from going into “season” which was to keep them from being so moody.

#4 – Turpentine for Founder

Supposedly a cure for founder is to pour turpentine into a saucer and hold it against a horse’s navel. It is said that it will suck it right up, and the founder will be gone. That one is a hard one to believe.

However, I’ve heard that turpentine can be used on the sole of a horses’ hoof to toughen it and harden it in cases of soreness or tender footed horses. A few good horse people have told me this.

In doing research, I have read that turpentine can also be used as an antiseptic on horse hooves to treat thrush and some of the bacteria that creates white line disease.

#5 – Devils Claw for Joint Pain

Ingesting the root of the devil’s claw plant is supposed to help a horse with pain, especially in the joints.

Devil’s claw has high concentrations of a compound called harpagoside, which has anti-inflammatory properties. So any pain caused by inflammation can be reduced.

Clinical studies have shown the same pain reduction and improved joint mobility as those who received analgesic drug treatment when this devil’s claw root is ingested.

In equine supplements, devil’s claw is most commonly found in joint-support products because of its anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient supposedly enters the bloodstream of horses within 30 minutes of administration with no clinically detectable adverse side effects.

However, devil’s claw is a bitter herb so it could increase gastric secretions and may not be suitable for a horse with a history of gastric ulcers.

#6 – Evening Primrose for Sweet Itch

Evening primrose oil, organically developed from the flower, is said to be used to treat sweet itch in horses.

It contains unsaturated fatty acids, primarily linoleic, gamma linoleic, palmitic and oleic. All of which are considered “healthy” dietary fats. Supposedly, these fatty acids can benefit a horse’s skin, coat and hooves.

In laboratory studies, primrose oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. However, Large doses of primrose oil have been associated with stomach upset, nausea and diarrhea in people. But no dosing guidelines have been established for horses.

#7 – Yucca (different from Yuca) for Arthritis

Yucca extracts are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects and be a relief from arthritis in horses.

The Yucca plant contains saponins, chemicals that bind to fats and oils and have been shown to have anti-arthritic, antioxidant and antispasmodic properties.

Naturally targeting the body’s inflammatory response, Yucca is a great supplement for older horses – with none of the side effects often found with conventional medicines. It provides the extra boost needed to help them stay comfortable and healthy, with benefits ranging from joint health to digestion.

Yucca is great for daily use and can help to promote a horses’ joint function; improve comfort; and aid soundness and mobility. A great option for senior horses for arthritis. It also is supposed to help reduce flatulence and bloating; and promote a healthy immune system.

This one I have used myself for my senior horses with arthritis and it has been a huge help.

Again, I am not a vet and am not promoting you use any of these old wives’ tale remedies for your horse. However, I am saying that you should research these remedies or even other natural remedies for your horse.

With all herbs, plants, and old wives’ tales cures – use your own knowledge of your current situation and your horse’s history.

These products are both traditional and growing in popularity. The best way to use them is to learn about the ingredients, benefits and potential risks to ensure they fill an appropriate role in your horse’s healthcare.

I just want to leave you with a cute poem I happened upon during my research. Happy Horses!

A Horses Color:

Tradition, they say, can teach us a lot,
So here is what horsemen, on color, have thought.
A bay is hardy, a chestnut is fast
And you can’t kill a buckskin: he’ll last and last
A grey is gentle, a sorrel is hot
A dun is a horse you’ll be happy you bought.
White eyes are flighty, white feet may crack
While some won’t rely on the feet of a black.
Some pintos are lucky, like the medicine hat,
But all horsemen agree the best color is fat.

– Anonymous

If this resonates with you and you haven’t yet dipped your toe into my programs, then click this link. Check them out and let me know if you have any questions, by contacting me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Please Share

  • Thank you, Teddie. That was very informative. One thing I can confirm for you is related to the turpentine piece. Here, in Ecuador, after my horse got colic and developed laminitis, they recommended brushing used motor oil top and bottom of the hooves daily. I did this, and his hooves returned to health with no enduring issues.

    • Interesting – motor oil for laminitis. I will try to remember that if I have that problem. Thank you. 🙂

  • Gina Danna says:

    Fascinating – I love this! I do use garlic on my gelding’s grain in the warmer months, to help against flies. It does work surprisingly well! Of course, your grain shed will smell like you’re in Italy (which is good for me, since I’m Italian). And the poem – rings true. My gelding is gentle and has gray hooves (he & I have been blessed with that because they are great!) & my mare was a bay – hardy rings too true: when she came down with colic, she showed no signs and the vet said ‘these old sturdy mares’ will try to power thru it & not show. (unfortunately, because we had no clue till way too late, she didn’t make it). But these are very cool! Thanx for sharing!

    • Thanks for that tip Gina. I will have to try to add garlic powder to my horses’ grain in the summer and see if it works. How much do you use?

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