Homeopathy is a wonderfully effective and gentle modality. It was created in the 19th century by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann in his quest to find a less invasive and less toxic way to treat his patients.

It works with the philosophy that “like cures like”; in other words, that which can make us sick in its raw form, can trigger the body’s natural ability to heal in diluted homeopathic preparations. For instance, the homeopathic remedy Rhus tox , which is made from poison ivy, is effective for conditions associated with dry, hot, itchy skin and Allium cepa, made from red onion, is often prescribed for colds with a watery discharge from nose.

How are the remedies made?

Homeopathic remedies are derived from a diverse range of substances including animal, mineral and plant. The raw materials are processed by a method call potentization, consisting of dilution (in a water/alcohol mixture) and succussion (vigorous shaking). This process renders even poisonous materials safe to use. The most common potencies range from 6c to 200c. Higher potencies such as 1m, 10m and 50m are available but should be recommended by an experienced homeopath. The potency is chosen based on what is being treated. For example, with a violent acute problem, the body should respond quickly to a high potency. A slow chronic condition is best treated with a low potency repeated over time. Again, a remedy used for chronic issues should only be selected and administered by an experienced homeopathic practitioner.

Dosing guidelines

The general rule when administering remedies for acute problems is to give one dose of a 200c potency every half hour until the desired effects are achieved, then stop. If there is no change after the third dose, it is not the correct remedy and another one will need to be selected. If you see the patient much improved after the second dose, you have selected the correct remedy and you don’t need to administer any further remedies. The patient’s immune system should take over from there. In chronic cases, as stated above, a lower potency is often given over time, or a single dose of 30c might be used. Remedies are most commonly available in granules and given directly into the bottom lip. They have a sweet taste that almost all animals take to very well. If your horse does have an issue taking the remedy it can be hidden in a piece of apple or carrot.

NOTE: Homeopathic remedies are best stored in a dry, cool dark area away from strong odors, as well as computers, microwaves, refrigerators, etc.

“Obstacles to cure”

In my experience, most complaints can be resolved homeopathically, but as in every modality of medicine, treatments may not always work effectively. In homeopathy, the number one reason for an ineffective response is the “obstacle to cure” — any constant negating cause that acts on the body and interferes with its ability to heal. We need to remove these obstacles before a cure can be achieved. In horses, the most common obstacle to cure is lack of movement. Therefore, movement is as essential to healing as emotional well-being. Vaccinations can also interfere with healing ability.

Common remedies for muscle and joint injuries

Strained muscles and joint injuries are among the most common equine issues, so this is a great place to start learning how to use homeopathic remedies with your horse. Common symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness, especially when the affected part is moved. Beware of serious conditions such as fractures or dislocated joints – these are accompanied by severe pain and/or rapid and excessive swelling, and require veterinary attention.

NOTE: When choosing a remedy, try to select the one that most closely matches all the symptoms.

Guidelines for use:

  • If there is no improvement after three doses, it is not the appropriate remedy.
  • If there is improvement, repeat the remedy several times.
  • If the symptoms begin to get worse, stop and wait to see if they then improve.
  • Stop giving the remedy when symptoms disappear.

NOTE: This is general information only. You should always consult with your veterinarian before starting anything new with your horse.

Remedy For Characteristic symptoms Sensation Mental state Better Worse Hint
Apis Mellifica (bee venom) Joint trauma Affected joint is swollen, red and shiny (not often seen in horses) Burning or stinging Irritable and anxious Warmth of any kind
Arnica Montana (leopard’s bane) Torn muscles or tendons, over-exertion of muscles and associated bruising Soreness, stiffness and bruising Sore and bruised Horse has experienced a trauma with moderate shock, wants to be left alone, wants to lie down but cannot find a comfortable spot, often acts like he is well when clearly he is not. Lying down Movement, exertion, touch, jarring and lying on hard surfaces. Often used first to treat physical or emotional trauma of the injury, followed by more specific remedy selected  for remaining symptoms.
Bryonia Alba (white bryony) For joint or muscle injuries Very hot swollen joints, usually without bruising, stitching pain in affected muscles On slightest movement (even breathing)
Ledum Palustre (marsh tea) Joint sprains, esp. repeated ankle issues Swelling, reddish bruising Injury feels cold to the touch, and numb Cold compresses Warmth and movement Use after Arnica if swelling and bruising persist
Rhus Toxicodendron (poison oak) Sprained joints and/or torn muscles Hot, painful and swollen joints, aching and stiffness, worse from prolonged movement Stiff and “bruised” Restless despite pain Warmth and after a period of movement Rest, damp cold with start of movement, though pain lessons with continued motion Often used with Arnica
Ruta Graveolens (rue) Injuries to bony joints or shins, tendons and outer layers of the bones Hot aching sprains with lameness, bruised bones, weakness around affected part Constant soreness, aching, “bruised” feeling of affected area Weak and weary Resting affected area, tightly wrapping injury, warmth Using affected part, and cold Often follows Arnica

As you can see, homeopathy can be a wonderful tool in supporting your equine partner. For more information, visit www.csoh.ca, www.bahvs.com, and www.healingplace.ca.

Remedies for emotional issues

Homeopathy is a quick, safe and effective way to help with fear and stress. Common emotional situations affecting horses include:

  • Extreme shock following an injury or trauma such as an accident while in the trailer
  • Travel or trailering anxiety
  • Fear of new places, people and horses
  • Performance anxiety

Symptoms may include rapid heartbeat and respiration, profuse sweating, trembling, shivering, wanting to flee, rear, bite or strike, and/or extreme restlessness. Extreme aggression, whether from fear or not, may need deeper constitutional treatment from a qualified homeopathic practitioner, plus help from a trainer who specializes in understanding equine behavior.

Aconitum Napellus

(monkshood) – For extreme shock, fear, or anxiety following sudden injury or intense trauma. Characteristic symptoms: Sudden fear, intense violent symptoms, restlessness, rapid heartbeat, glassy eyes, panicked expression, sweating. Mental state: Overpowering fear, panic, restlessness, anger, desire to run away or strike because of fear, emotionally overwrought, inconsolable, claustrophobia, fear of crowds, desire for company. Causes: New places, new trailer, closed-in for too long, accidents in the trailer, mental trauma, fear after injury.

NOTE: If the symptoms come on very suddenly, give Aconite before Arnica. Gelsemium (yellow jasmine) – For quiet, timid dispositions who are sensitive to excitement. Characteristic symptoms: Weakness, trembling or shivering, paralysis of limbs, unable to move, frequent urination, diarrhea from emotional stress or fright, thirstlessness. Mental state: Anxiety, fear of thunderstorms, agoraphobia, spooks or startles easily, slow and sluggish, desires to be left alone. Worse: Motion. Better: Urination, sweating, open air, cold.

NOTE: Useful before an equine event where there is fear with trembling.

Argentum Nitricum

(silver nitrate) – This remedy and Gelsemium are complementary and help with some similar symptoms. Characteristic symptoms: Restlessness, hurried, impulsive acts, un-coordination, loss of control, trembling, noisy diarrhea, sweating, pacing back and forth, refusal to pass a certain place, get into the trailer or go into the show ring. Mental state: Restless and unable to keep still. When you compare the Aconite horse with the Argentum horse they can both have sudden panic attacks but the Argentum horse has more phobic or neurotic behavior especially while passing a certain place, in closed places, or before a show, event or journey. Worse: Anticipation of and traveling to an event, being left alone, passing certain places, crowds of people, sugar.

NOTE: Often the Argentum horse will go into a Gelsemium state if he is trapped in a situation he can do nothing about.