Herbs and Your Mare: The Young Filly, The PMS Mare, The Pregnant Mare, The Menopausal Mare

By Patti Duffy-Salmon

The female equine can be a rather complicated animal, as any mare owner will tell you. Mares and fillies can have many different problems ranging from mild cramps to severe attitude problems. What follows are some of the ways different herbs will help with different mare problems and situations as well as herbs for the pregnant and nursing mare.

The Young Filly

The young filly just coming into season for the first time can greatly benefit from herbs. Usually these young fillies may come in and out of season many times in a single month, or come in and stay in. These are minor imbalances and they can be helped with the mildest of herbs. I like to use chamomile flowers, lemon balm, raspberry leaf, and maybe a small amount of chaste tree berry as well. The chamomile and lemon balm will help calm nerves, and the raspberry leaf and chaste berry will help balance wayward hormones. I don't like to use anything stronger on young fillies. If the imbalances continue through the age of 5, then stronger herbs should be considered. Also be sure to have the mare examined by a veterinarian to rule out cysts on the ovaries or other problems that may be causing such imbalances.

The PMS Mare

This mare can be anywhere from age 5 through age 15/16 or even older. The PMS mare usually cycles regularly but can have a large assortment of problems. These can include, but are not limited to, attitude problems, lack of concentration, mild to severe cramping leading to almost colic-like problems, depression, aggressiveness, and more. The list can be endless. I found that the best herbs for the PMS mare are chaste tree berry, Dong Quai root, licorice root, raspberry leaf and red clover. These are very safe to feed to your horse. For cramping you can use a small amount of black cohosh but it should be fed carefully. Some have found the powdered wild yam may also help, though it can be very expensive to feed on a continuous basis. If aggressive behavior is a problem, then adding some chamomile and or passionflower may help and for those that may need something stronger, valerian root added to the blend will work well. Now it must be understood that these herbs DO need to be fed continuously. Many mare owners have found that they can cut back the level of herb fed, or even stop the herbs during the winter months, but need to resume come springtime.

Sometimes feeding the mare a good liver/kidney detox blend will also help alleviate hormone imbalances. Herbs such as nettle, dandelion root and chickweed herb all work as good diuretics and can be helpful. Milk thistle seed, yellow dock root and burdock will help flush the liver and are considered excellent blood cleansers as well.

Getting the hormones balanced and working properly will also aid in fertility. The mare who may be difficult to get in foal will benefit from hormone balancing herbs. I have found that putting a mare on the balancing and /or regulating herbs during the fall and winter months will increase the likelihood of the mare becoming pregnant in the spring.

The Menopausal Mare

Now, we are not really sure that horses suffer from PMS or Menopausal problems, but for want of a better name, these names certainly do seem to fit the female equine during different stages of her life.

The Menopausal Mare can easily use the same herbs as the PMS mare, but with a slightly different twist. I like to have the menopausal mare on a higher dose of Dong Quai and even a slightly higher level of black cohosh depending on each individual mare. Also wild yam seems to be a bit more effective in the older mare than the younger mare. I also find feeding at least 2,000 iu of Vitamin E is very useful to the reproductive system and is a specific remedy for mild cramps. Be sure it's d-alpha and mixed tocopherol vitamin E if at all possible. Most vitamin products are synthetic dl-alpha variety.

The feeding of bee pollen is very beneficial to the older mare. Bee pollen is a complete protein containing all 21 amino acids.

Spirulina is also an excellent choice as it is 60-70% protein by weight. It works wonderfully for the menopausal mare due in part to its high level of B vitamins and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The B-vitamins help with mood swings and nervous problems and the GLA helps with hormone imbalances and preventing osteoporosis type conditions. Also helpful to the older mare would be a good immune system herbal blend. I prefer to use tonic type herbs for the immune system such as Siberian Ginseng and Astragalus.

The Pregnant Mare

One must always be careful when feeding supplements of any kind to the pregnant mare. Once a mare is in foal, there are only a few select herbs that I would use. And most of these I only recommend during the last 75 days of pregnancy. Blessed thistle and fennel seed will help with milk production. If you boil barley with fennel seed and feed this to the mare during her last 3 weeks it will greatly improve the quality and quantity of her milk. Fenugreek seed is also very enriching and will aid in milk quality as well. Try to stay away from garlic during the last 30 days as it may flavor the milk a bit.

Raspberry leaf is the ultimate pregnancy herb. This herb will tone the uterine muscles and is very high in vitamins and minerals. It too will help with increased milk production. Feeding raspberry leaf during the last 45 days of a pregnancy will really help the mare during delivery. I have had great success in feeding these herbs to mares with chronic delivery type problems (eg, prolonged delivery, retained placenta, little or no milk production, excessive bleeding during delivery).

One thing that must be remembered at all times when feeding herbs to pregnant mares is that any herb that may stimulate the uterus should be avoided. But these herbs can be more or less safely fed during the last week of pregnancy . Herbs that may stimulate the uterus are black cohosh, blue cohosh, motherswort, and yarrow. I would certainly avoid these herbs unless absolutely necessary. I tend to err on the side of safety myself and would say to just avoid them completely. I only mention these herbs because they are considered "female complaint" herbs. There is even a longer list of herbs that should be avoided during pregnancy. This list is sooooo long that I prefer to just list what herbs are safe to feed instead.

Always be sure of what you are feeding your mare and never feed any plant material to either yourself or your horse if it has not been properly identified. There are many plants that can make both you and your horse extremely ill.

Remember: herbs are medicine!!

This is an informational article only and is not intended to replace veterinary or professional care.

About the author:

Patti Duffy-Salmon, owner and master herbalist of Meadowsweet Acre Herbs, specializes in custom blended herbs for horses, especially for EPM, laminitis, and Cushings, and for PMS mares. Free phone consultations, a print catalog and an on-line catalog are available. Visit Patti and Meadowsweet Acres at www.meadowherbs.com.

For more information:

Patti Duffy-Salmon

Meadowsweet Acre Herbs

181 Wildcreek Rd.

Shelbyville, TN 37160