Understanding how liniments work, and what to look for when selecting one for your horse.

For years, amateur jumper Carey Kriedler tried a variety of liniments trying to find the perfect relief for her horse’s muscles. Some she found too strong for her horse’s skin while others had little effect.

The primary goal of liniment is to increase blood circulation and help prevent soreness and stiffness after a rigorous workout or long day at the show. According to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, qi is the life energy inside every living being. When the blood flow in a particular area of the body slows or stops, it creates blood stasis, preventing the flow of qi throughout the body. If the blood is unable to flow freely, stiffness, numbness and pain can occur.

How Liniments Work

Liniments increase blood flow throughout the body, specifically to areas where blood stasis has occurred. A liniment can be used in a variety of manners to treat stiffness in your horse. The three most common ways are:

1. You can rub and massage the formula into the horse’s legs, back or other areas before or after a workout to help maintain strong blood flow and prevent a stiff or painful horse.

2. The liniment liquid can be diluted with water and used as a full-body rubdown after a tough training session or rigorous day of showing. A liniment bath brace will help increase the flow of qi and blood throughout the entire body, keeping your horse feeling limber and more willing to perform in peak shape the next day. Even if your horse gets to rest the following day, a liniment bath brace will add to his overall comfort level.

3. Another time liniment can be used is when your horse has to stand still in a stall for a prolonged period. Lack of movement can cause stiffness in his joints, so a liniment is a good way to increase circulation in the joints to prevent rigidity and “stocking up” (edema) in the hind legs.

Helpful Herbs

There are a variety of helpful herbs in liniments that can be used to increase circulation to areas where blood stasis has occurred, or cool areas where there is pain or inflammation. An effective herbal liniment contains several herbs that work to tonify or replenish the blood throughout the body. Here are some of the top helpful herbs:

• Witch hazel is one of the primary components of a good liniment. It is considered an astringent and increases circulation to the lower limbs of your horse. More specifically, it constricts superficial capillaries and tissues, which helps relieve pain and swelling. It is known to possess anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties •

Angelica Tang Kuei tonifies and invigorates the blood, along with frankincense, which also promotes movement of qi in the body and addresses discomfort.

• Myrrh and carthamus flowers help invigorate the blood, while also dispelling blood stasis and managing discomfort. Myrrh also promotes healing.

• Notoginseng root helps stop bleeding in tissue and transforms blood stasis. It also manages the discomfort that can result from traumatic injuries.

• Achyranthes root helps support overall health in the bones, tendons and joints.

Another important component of an effective liniment is menthol. It’s known for its ability to open the pores of the skin and cool the body, while also creating a natural soothing effect. Menthol can work directly on an area of pain to cool and relieve swelling.

New horse owner Susan Sauer struggled with several liniments that were too harsh for her horse’s skin. For her, it was important to find a product that was gentle on both her horse’s skin and her own. Her horse’s massage therapist gave her a bottle of Herbsmith Sound Horse, and Susan was happy with its gentle but effective influence on her horse.

After trying Sound Horse on her own equine, Carey felt a tangible difference in his muscles. “He felt less stiff the next day and ready to take on the competition,” she says. Having found an effective and affordable product, Carey is happy to be finished with her liniment search.

Chris Bessent, D.V.M., founder of Herbsmith, practices holistic veterinary medicine, utilizing Chinese herbs, acupuncture, food therapy and chiropractic on all animals. After more than a decade of using Chinese herbal combinations in her practice, Dr. Bessent channeled her wealth of knowledge and experience into Herbsmith, Inc. Dr. Bessent maintains a busy exclusive holistic veterinary practice in Southeastern Wisconsin where she treats horses and dogs on a daily basis. In addition, she teaches the benefits and wisdom of Chinese veterinary medicine through seminars, classes and internships for veterinary students, veterinarians and horse and dog owners.