Detoxing your horse to improve mobility

Over time, toxic buildup in your horse’s body can negatively affect all aspects of his health, including mobility. Here’s how detoxing his fascia can help him move easier – and feel better!

If your horse is moving stiffly, he could have toxins in his fascia and joints. Toxins enter your horse’s body from the air, his feed and supplements, fertilizers and pasture soil. They’re stored in the fascia and joints, where they can impede her mobility over time. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between fascia and toxins, and discuss some tips for keeping your horse healthy as she ages.

What is fascia?

Fascia forms a crisscross matrix that acts as structure and stability for the body. It’s made up of fibrous collagen and elastic connective tissue fibers, and runs under the skin and wraps around every muscle and organ. It enters into every cell, and surrounds every nerve. Fascia collects waste from the cells and moves it out of the body. It also delivers nutrients to the joints.

When you condition your horse’s body with repetitive motion, her fascia thickens. It is an energetic substance that absorbs and recoils energy, putting the “bounce” in your horse’s step. Though it doesn’t stretch much, it can adapt to the forces put on it. Like certain types of plastic, it can bend with slow strain (such as isometric strain), but will tear if you put a sudden large strain on it.

Injured fascia + toxins = mobility issues

Say your horse slips in the mud or falls turning a barrel. This causes a mechanical strain to the fascia. A mechanical strain on the fascia creates something called a piezoelectrical charge. This means all the negative ions line up on one side of the cell and the positive ions line up on the other. Normally, negative and positive ions mix chaotically throughout the cell. This chaotic nature, called the electrical potential, is what keeps motion possible. When all the positive ions are on one side of the cell and the negative ions on the other, motion possibilities are restricted, and your horse cannot move as well.

So a muscle strain polarizes the fascia and causes restriction. When the fascia can no longer slide on itself, it congests. Consequently, blood supply and lymph flow are decreased, waste products are not moved out, nutrients are not moved in, and dehydration occurs as the fascia dries out. This congestion is the mother of all disease.

Over time, the toxins and congestion in the fascia cause it to become fibrotic and no longer flexible. The liquid part of the fascia is called the amorph matrix; it becomes more “gel-like” when metabolites and toxins collect there. The damage becomes chronic, and the horse may move stiffly and out of balance, putting excessive strain on the joints.

Additional negative effects

Thyroid – Toxins in the fascia can change chemical reactions in the thyroid gland so it does not function properly. The fascia around the thyroid gland must be flexible and unrestricted for this organ to work properly.

Teeth and feet – A horse’s teeth and feet can also influence fascia. If they are out of balance, they will cause the fascia to be out of balance as well.

Personality – Toxins can affect your horse’s personality and brain, leading to bad moods, vertigo, headaches, poor memory and concentration, and erratic behavior.

In summary, toxins can cause your horse to move stiffly due to congestion in her fascia, and behave erratically due to the effect of toxins on her brain. They can even result in poor organ function.

Removing toxins

How can we get these toxins out of our horses? Diet is the first step. Nutrition-rich foods like kelp provide iodine without overdosing it. Non-synthetic vitamin C (rose hips or camu camu) helps clean the fascia, while herbs like milk thistle and dandelion can be used long-term to flush and rebuild the liver, respectively. When it comes to herbs, I prefer to use tinctures.

COQ10 will provide glutathione for the liver. Artichoke helps flush the pancreas, but shouldn’t be used for long periods. Give goldenrod tincture (Solidago) for the kidneys, and Chlorella vulgaris to help clean out and keep out heavy metals. Make sure it is cracked cell wall chlorella from a reputable source. It should smell clean and fresh when you buy it. You can also use homeopathic Thuja Occidentals to rebalance the system and Nux Vomica to clean out toxins.

Examples of toxins

Your horse could be exposed to countless different toxins:

  • Cadmium from automobile exhaust
  • Preservatives and anticoagulants in feed
  • Preservatives in feed, such as:
  • ethoxyquin, a rubber stabilizer
  • propionic acid, often the undesirable synthetic version, not the naturally-occurring one found in apple cider vinegar
  • citric acid, made using genetically-modified corn
  • MSG (monsodium glutamate), which is found in soy and whey proteins and can cause gut inflammation
  • synthetic vitamin E, which differs from naturally-occurring vitamin E because it is derived from petroleum products
  • BHA and BHT, both of which are known to be carcinogenic and act as endocrine disruptors in the body.
  • Anticoagulants in feed, such as:
  • aluminums such as zeolite (seen in those little packets in vitamin bottles that say “do not eat”)
  • bromine, often used for fumigation of feedstuffs; will damage nerves and the thyroid gland
  • Diatomaceous earth, which has sharp silicate crystals that can damage the lungs if inhaled
  • Green clay, also called bentonite clay or montmorillonite clay; can be helpful when fed for short periods, but can decrease the absorption of nutrients if fed constantly
  • Pasture soils, which can be contaminated with heavy metals. You can send in a soil (or water) sample to be tested for heavy metals. Water is often contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals. A good hair analysis lab can be helpful in checking for heavy metal contamination in your horse.
  • Spray fertilizers and weed killers
  • Glyco-phosphates (Round-Up), which damages the myelin sheath around a nerve. This myelin sheath is made up of fascia. Remove horses before pastures are sprayed and give the grass a few days to clear before putting the horses back out. Remember, the wind can carry spray from one pasture to another, and from a neighboring pasture to yours.
  • Drugs can deposit toxins in the fascia — examples include:
  • Sedatives (xylazine and detomadine)
  • NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as phenylbutazone (bute), flunixin meglumine (banamine), and firocoxib (equioxx and previcox)
  • Steroids (dexamethasone and prednisone)
  • Antibiotics

You should avoid long-term use of any of these drugs when possible. Always give probiotics after an antibiotic treatment, and flush the drugs out of the liver using milk thistle tincture. It is a good idea to give the horse a homeopathic or herbal detox after administering any of these drugs. We will often give Nux Vomica after an osteopathic treatment that involves heavy sedation, as this homeopathic remedy will help clear the body of the sedatives. We will also give Arnica Montana to relieve muscle and fascial inflammation after osteopathic treatment.

Being aware of the many toxins that can affect your horse and how they can affect his mobility, as well as his overall health, is important. Even more important is knowing how to detox his fascia so he can both move and feel better!


Lu Ann Groves is an equine vet living in Garwood, Texas. She specializes in osteopathy and acupuncture for horses and dogs. She hosts The Vluggen Institute of Equine Osteopathy.