Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) for horses

Bilberry is a very tasty cousin of the blueberry. It can improve your horse’s eyesight, and also provide awesome antioxidant support for his overall immune health.

The bilberry is a very hardy small shrub that’s closely related to the blueberry. Both the berries and leaves can be used for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support in both humans and horses. Compounds called anthocyanosides found in the plant strengthen blood vessels, increase blood flow and oxygen to the eye, and help the retina adjust between light and dark. Additionally, the berry is high in vitamins C and A, both very efficient antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body. Vitamin C also assists in the production of collagen, which helps strengthen soft tissues and blood vessels.

The berries of this plant can be eaten directly, and the dried leaves and berries may be made into a tea. Bilberry jam is very popular in Europe, with a taste somewhat similar to huckleberry.

Common uses for the horse

Bilberry is a common ingredient in herbal eye support supplements for horses.  Because the equine retina is particularly sensitive to oxidative stress, this antioxidant-rich plant is popular for keeping equine eye health in top shape. Horses prone to uveitis, squamous cell carcinoma, and other common eye diseases are sometimes recommended to be supplemented with bilberry. Additionally, as a horse ages, she is exposed to more oxidative stress and could benefit from the antioxidant boost provided by the vitamin A and C content in bilberry. You can dry the leaves and berries and top dress on horse feed, or brew a tea to mix into the feed.

Home grown

Bilberry grows well in North America. The shrub prefers well-drained, acidic soil, and should only be watered when the soil is dry. It prefers to be pruned after harvest time. If your region is cold, plant bilberry in full sun; if hot, plant in the shade. The berries are ready to harvest in late summer when they are darkest in color; they only ripen on the bush, so do not harvest early.