• First response
• Natural healing treatments
• Feeding horses with scours
• Equine microbiome
The first line response for treating scours is a mixture of Slippery Elm Bark Powder, raw honey and yoghurt as a probiotic. These three items can be mixed together and syringed into the horse’s mouth with an oral doser. Quite often the horse is keen to take this mix offered by hand or added to the feed. Select a biodynamic yoghurt with acidophilus, bifidus and casei, such as Jalna, and a genuine raw honey. Therefore it is important to keep Slippery Elm Bark Powder on hand, as it has a long shelf life and can also be used as a poultice. When used internally it is usually highly effective in stopping scouring, being highly nutritive and demulcent thus soothing the digestive tract. It is easily absorbed and suitable for all horses including foals, seniors and very sensitive horses. So this remedy given twice daily for a few days will relieve symptoms while the causes of the scours are investigated. The recipe for an average sized horse (400 kg) is 1 heaped tablespoon of Slippery Elm Bark Powder mixed with a big teaspoon or raw honey melted and 1 heaped tablespoon of the yoghurt. This can be increased or decreased according to the size of the horse.
The most common causes of scouring are worm burdens, bacterial and viral infections, feed intolerance or allergy, inappropriate or change of feeding, gut ulceration, gut damage caused by worms and sometimes protozoal or drug resistant infections.
A commercial probiotic can be used in place of the yoghurt, but there is no time to lose so if you don’t have a probiotic on hand then the yoghurt may be quicker to access. Probiotics are not always the magic bullet they are promoted to be. Some will work well, others won’t, because of the different bacteria in them, some of which may be needed by the horse in question, or not, as each horse’s gut microbiome is different.
The probiotic I use and recommend is a high-quality organic herbal probiotic made in Australia which contains Lactobillus, Casei, Plantarum as well as yeast – Saccharomyces cervisiae plus fermented herbal extracts. It is inexpensive and palatable.
NATURAL HEALING TREATMENTS
Obviously, it is important to try to establish the cause of the scouring in order to treat it effectively. This is sometimes difficult especially in chronic cases.
Take the vital signs especially temperature. If it is a viral or bacterial infection causing an enteritis (inflammation of the intestines), then it is essential that this infection is treated quickly with veterinary assistance.
There are many herbs which will assist healing, especially to follow on from veterinary treatment. Cortisone is often used in these cases but the side effects are well known and usually the condition returns once they are stopped.
There are many natural feeds and herbs to remedy scouring, both in acute and chronic conditions. Chronic conditions may take a lot more time to rectify than acute conditions due to the fact that the naturally varying pH of the intestines becomes unbalanced along with the natural gut flora impairing the absorption of nutrients.
The list of herbs I select from to treat horses with scours holistically includes Agrimony, Chamomile, Echinacea Angustifolia, Balm, Manuka, Marshmallow, Meadowsweet, Peppermint & Yarrow.
Two of my Herbal Formulas which work well to remedy scouring are Affinity Marshmallow & Manuka Formula and Balance Balm & Peppermint Formula. Both available on my shop.
FEEDING HORSES WITH SCOURS
Feed only meadow hay or grass hay ad lib. Rich green grass, bran and lucerne should be avoided. Access to native grasses is allowed but avoid all rich green pasture grasses and Kikuyu grass. Do not use any processed feeds. Boiled barley is wonderfully soothing to the gut and most scouring horses relish it.
A severely scouring horse can easily become dehydrated so ensure access to a lump of Himalayan rock salt as well as adding sea salt or natural rock salt granules in the feed to encourage drinking. A human grade apple cider vinegar should also be given as a natural electrolyte 15 ml per 100 kg of bodyweight diluted in water used to dampen down the feed.
Most chronic scouring cases can eventually be returned to full health and are able to tolerate green grass and lucerne in their diet once again. However, the process may be very slow, from 3 to 6 months. For obstinate cases testing for bacterial nasties such as Salmonella is required.
If a horse is losing weight rapidly there may be a serious underlying condition requiring veterinary diagnosis and treatment. However, it can be something as simple as a severe worm burden.
Do not worm horses which are scouring, firstly ascertain any worm burden by getting a faecal count and worm type test. Appropriate anthelmintic herbs and or chemical worming products can then be included in the treatment program if required. I now offer worm testing and advice as part of my natural feeding programs.
Research into the equine microbiome is gaining momentum even though it is a long way behind research into the human microbiome.
“The intestinal tract of horses contains a diverse community of microorganisms that consists of fungi, parasites, protozoa, archaea, viruses and bacteria and as a result gastrointestinal disturbance in the equine microbiota can result in alteration of fermentation patterns and, ultimately, metabolic disorders” A. Kauter 2019
It’s a good idea to keep a check on your horses’ manure ….. here’s a healthy manure.