Over the course of their lives, horses will experience pain for a variety of reasons and with differing levels of intensity. As much as we’d like to prevent our horses’ suffering altogether, experiencing pain is a crucial part of their developmental well-being. Just like with humans, pain acts as a biological alert mechanism to let the horse know when something is wrong. Without this important mechanism, horses would likely over-strain themselves more frequently or ignore serious injuries. That being said, there’s no reason any living being should suffer through intense pain in the long term, especially when relief-providing remedies are so naturally abundant.
Some common sources of chronic and/or intermittent pain for horses include:
- Soft tissue injuries due to overexertion
- Osteoarthritis and other joint-related diseases
- Digestive disorders like stomach ulcers and colic
There’s a lot of debate about how to best manage pain when treating horses. Some horse owners rely on over-the-counter medications prescribed by equine health professionals, while others prefer all-natural remedies. Depending on the source and intensity of your horses’ pain, either option could provide adequate relief and assist with treatment and recovery.
To help you decide what pain relief option is best for your horses’ condition, we’ve compiled four natural pain remedies you can administer at home. Remember to always use discretion when distributing pain relief medication to your horses, and consult with a licensed equine health professional before you start new treatments.
1. White willow bark
The anti-inflammatory properties of white willow bark have been used for the relief of chronic illnesses like rheumatism, arthritis, and sciatica dating back to the Middle Ages. This herb helps to reduce swelling and inflammation, which in turn can lower your horses stress and promote sustainable recovery. One major benefit of white willow bark extract is that it has little-to-no effect on a horse’s gastro-intestinal tract, which is a common negative side-effect of pain remedies like Aspirin.
2. Glucosamine and chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin have been clinically proven to reduce joint inflammation and support positive cartilage production in horses. Healthy cartilage is a major factor for overall joint health, which is why these active ingredients are commonly added to bute recipes and joint nutraceuticals. A 2005 study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal found that the positive effects of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are magnified when used in tandem.
Whether you prefer over-the-counter medication or the natural remedies, it’s critical that you identify and treat the underlying root causes of your horses’ pain and avoid over-medicating whenever possible. Masking the pain may offer short-term relief, but in the long-term, an injury or illness could worsen if left untreated. Some of these active ingredients on this list serve more specific functions, while butes tend to encompass a wider range of pain-related treatments. Assessing the specific source of the chronic or intermittent pain is the only way to ensure your treatment plan is effective and your horses are happily pain-free.