Forage Walk at Horse Haven UK – 11 September 2016 (Part 1)

This fabulous walk was hosted by the lovely Suzie and Mike of Horse Haven UK and led by Stuart Attwood of Total Contact Equine Solutions.  Part of Stuart’s role is advising horse owners on natural herbal choices for their horses and so he was sharing his knowledge on the wonderful plants available for free in our hedges and pastures.

Here are some of the plants we covered:

Sow Thistle

This plant can be identified by its hollow stem and the white latex that oozes out when the stem is cut.


  • high in vitamin C
  • good for digestion, especially in the hind-gut





  • anti-inflammatory
  • arterial dilator, therefore helps to lower blood pressure
  • strengthens heart muscle
  • helps to convert Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) to High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), ie ‘bad cholesterol’ into ‘good cholesterol’ therefore helping to prevent the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries

cut and allow to wilt then leave for the horses to nibble on as they choose


Blackberry / bramble

These two are effectively the same.  They cross pollinate within their family resulting in variations but all have the same benefits.  They are related to roses, as can be seen by their serrated edged leaves, and share many of the same properties.


  • anti-inflammatory
  • high in vitamin C
  • astringent, therefore can be used to stop bleeding
    • crush the leaves and apply to the cut





  • help to remove uric acid from the joints and therefore are good for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
  • blood cleanser
  • help with balancing sugar levels in the blood and therefore can be useful in cases of laminitis




This plant comes in two forms – a broad leafed variety and one with a narrower leaf – but they both share the same properties


  • dried leaves are good for gastric ulcers
  • the small, young leaves are good to eat (can be added to salads)
  • good for digestion (the broad leafed variety is better)
  • seeds are good for adding to soups / stews / breads / salads
  • they are very good at relieving the sting / itch from bites and stings – even better than dock leaves





  • antiseptic / antiviral / antibacterial / anti-inflammatory
  • astringent – good for stopping bleeding, as with blackberry leaves above
    • particularly good with metal cuts so useful if your horse cuts itself on wire out in the field
  • acts as a gentle, background wormer. If it is available horses will nibble on it from time to time keeping their worm burden low throughout the year
  • good for gut inflammation




The whole of this plant is edible and its young leaves can be added to salads or cooked like spinach

If using the roots, soak them in water or milk first to remove the bitterness.  These can then be peeled and roasted like parsnips


  • the latex within the stems can be used to treat warts
  • acts as a diuretic therefore supports the kidneys and can be used to help relieve urine infections



Common Hogweed


  • Not to be confused with Giant Hogweed! However the Giant variety is truly huge, growing up to 9 feet high with flower umbellifers like massive dinner plates, so when fully grown it is obvious which is which.
  • causes photosensitiviy, particularly if picked during hot sunny days


  • good for digestion
  • seeds (taste a little like cardamom) can be calming



Split Willow


  • leaves are good for digestion
  • bark is good for pain relief (we get aspirin from the bark of the Willow tree)




This comes in 2 forms, a larger, white flowering variety that tends to grow upwards in hedges and a smaller, ground level plant with more pinkish flowers.


in small quantities this can

  • help to balance blood sugar levels as it contains inulin
    • this also helps to remove visceral fat (ie the fat that surrounds our organs)
  • act as a calmative

bindweed    ground-bindweed


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