Not too long ago I was turned onto the powerful natural medicine, Turmeric. As some of you know, Billy has struggled with itchy skin for as long as I’ve had him. I reached out to other curly horse owners and breeders asking if this was a normal plight of the curly horse, only to be told that they do indeed tend to have a more itchy skin type and this was in fact normal for them.
It was suggested that I stay away from man-made, synthetic material when shopping for saddle pads and girths. Use wool or sheepskin, leather or mohair.
So I went about my business with Billy, using his itchiness to my advantage in teaching him to lay down (he loves to roll and scratch his itches), the Friendly game (EVERYTHING itches so Billy doesn’t object to me touching him anywhere… literally I can touch him everywhere on his body and he is like, “ooooh! yes! scratch THAT!”), using scratches instead of treats (because EVERYTHING itches he is just as happy to get a good scratch as he is to get a cookie).
His itchiness led different instructors to tell me that he was “dangerous” and that I shouldn’t ride him. I had one instructor tell me that Billy was most definitely going to hurt me, for certain, unless I turned him out with other, more aggressive horses that would put him in his place. I was appalled that someone would suggest having other horses hurt Billy in order to make him more manageable for me. For 3 years I had a lesson now and then with different instructors and asked for help with others only to have them say that Billy didn’t pay enough attention to me, was easily distracted and/or ignoring me, and would be a danger to himself and me if I rode. When I brought up the question of his itchiness I had instructors say that it wasn’t an excuse for his behavior or that he was faking it and using that against me so he didn’t have to do what i was asking.
Finally, last summer, in august, I had a lesson with an instructor that took one look at Billy and said, “This horse has the worst case of sweet itch I have ever seen!”
I was like, THANK YOU!!!
Finally someone else saw it for what it was. Billy was doing everything I asked of him, he was so willing and sweet tempered. However, he was ITCHY. So itchy that sometimes we would have to stop what we were doing so i could take care of his overwhelming urge to itch.
Have you ever had an itch you can not scratch? It sits right between your shoulder blades and just itches and itches. Pretty soon it’s burning and you will literally rip your clothes from your body and scream to the nearest person “WILL YOU PLEASE SCRATCH THIS ITCH FOR ME!!!!!!”
That was what Billy felt like. All. The. Time.
So began my search for that magic ingredient. The magic itch tamer.
I have worked so hard for so long to be sure that Billy’s diet is balanced. That he is getting everything he needs in the most natural of ways. Herbs, salt, minerals, omega 3’s, healthy fats, green grass, essential oils. But clearly there was something missing. Managing his diet is difficult as he shows sensitivities to flax seed, corn, barley, algae, kelp, man-made binders, pellets (I’m guessing that’s because they usually have flax seed and corn in them!) and most supplemental powders. It’s amazing how many horse supplements have algae in them!
The first order of business was to get him a fly sheet. If I could stop the flies biting him all over his body, I could stop the fly saliva from entering his blood stream. This was a tricky thing because Billy is so hard on everything. I have a winter blanket that my Andalusian stallion used to wear on very cold days that was in like new condition. I introduced it to Billy and in the first 5 minutes he ripped a hole in it. I figured I was going to be buying a new fly sheet every few days! But he seemed to understand the importance of it, begging me to put it on him. I have bought one so far and there is only a tiny rip in the front from the barbed wire fence that is the perimeter fencing of this house we rent. So far so good!
Then I went searching for that magical ingredient that I was clearly missing in his diet. I had been doing all kinds of natural topical things, but they don’t last long in the hot sun or when it’s raining. Also allergies are a sign that his body is not balanced so I needed to work on this from the inside out. Topical applications of anything weren’t going to have lasting effects unless I could help him internally.
“Turmeric is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of condition, including flatulence, menstrual difficulties, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain and colic,” reports WHFoods.org. “In numerous studies, the anti-inflammatory effects of Curcumin (the yellow pigment of turmeric) have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs Hydrocortisone and Phenylbutazone, as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects, Curcumin produces no toxicity.”
What is important to realize about Turmeric is that when bought off the grocery store shelf you may be getting something that has very low to no Curcumin. If you are using it as a healing agent (and not just to flavor food), then it’s important to purchase from a highly qualified source. I get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs. This where I get all my herbs for my family both human and horse. Your Turmeric must have between 3%-5% Curcumin to have the anti-inflammatory effects. It is not recommended to go over 5%.
The bioavailability of the Curcumin is up to 2,000% when you mix the turmeric powder with a couple of teaspoons of black pepper. (1/4 cup turmeric powder to 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper)
When turmeric is also mixed with a fat of some kind, flax seed, olive oil or coconut oil the curcumin can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system.
I make up a paste, called “The Golden Paste” and add it to my carrier, oats, for Billy and Chloe to eat. I had Chloe on Smart Pak’s Healthy Coat and Hoof supplement as well as their flax seed blend, but she would leave her grain to go eat Billy’s unless I stood there to be sure she ate her own. After observing her doing this a few times I decided to give her some Turmeric. She happily stood and ate her own grain. So they both get it now. Who am I to argue with a horse that knows what’s best for it?
Something to keep in mind when feeding your horse supplements… the body can only absorb so much. If you break the supplements into several feedings throughout the day, your horse’s body will utilize it much more efficiently. I feed the Turmeric twice a day. The horse will use it within 8 hours of digesting it, so in order to keep it in the bloodstream, doing it’s anti-inflammatory work, it’s important to feed it twice a day, morning and night. I also do not mix other supplements with the turmeric. If I am feeding something else I will feed it in the middle of the day.
Here are some articles about Turmeric found out in the big wide web world: