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Wild Herbs

     One of the main purposes of my book will be to stimulate the appreciation for the common wild plant that grows in the most near and far corners of any race track or farm property.  They are almost always overlooked or--if noticed, usually it is with disdain and eradication in mind.  These wild herbs are usually the cheapest and most potent of anything that can be had. Herbal remedies are becoming very prevalent in the equine tack supply catalogs and tack shops. Paging through these offerings, make me shudder how useless many of them would be in actual practice. Horsemen will many times be wasting their money by purchasing these commercial herbal horse products.  Instead of purchasing an astringent wash, healing salve, or other common veterinary herbal preparation from your local tack shop, it would be far easier to prepare one's own from the local flora.  The big and small herb companies of late have been ripping off the consumer with such exorbitant prices for common weeds.  It reminds me of the perfume industry, you are paying for packaging and hype, the actual product costs pennies to make.  Even more to the point,  many of the chemical compounds found in plants cannot be duplicated by man and certainly can not be begged, borrowed or sold by any commercial entity as a patented product. Their unique medicinal benefits are growing wild to be taken advantage of by those who only know. Truth liberates and is power.  You can learn to identify and process simple herbs just as your ancestors did before specialized commerce permeated our culture.  

     Witch Hazel is one example of an astringent that is commonly used on the track by many of the old timers, though less so by the younger trainers. Witch Hazel is rather expensive, even if bought from your local Walmart. There are many alternatives in nature which will provide a similar effect with little cost. Many old timers believe that a horse is like a dog in that he will self-medicate himself by eating certain herbs found in pasture.  It is very common to see a dog eat grass, if it is out of sorts--a horse is no different. So a pristine pasture or weedless flake of hay is not always a good thing. 

     Most of the old time horsemen have their own secret formulas of potions designed to boost their animal's performance or help them escape unsoundness. Racehorsemen have been trying to get an upper edge since the beginning of equine competition and most have inherited or formulated herbal remedies to that means.  They may not be far too wrong about some of the beneficial properties that can be mixed up from plants. 

     Below is an example of what will be listed in the field manual portion A Racehorse Herbal. It will be a classification based upon the color of the plant's bloom. I find this the easiest method of initially trying to identify a plant. The color and type of bloom is the most readily obvious and unique at the same time:

A Few Common Barn & Farm Plants

I.    White Flowers

         a.  Shepherd's Purse          (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

            b.  Pokeweed                    (Phytolacca Americana)

             c. Poison Hemlock                 (Conium Maculatum)

II.    Yellow Flowers

          a.  Sweet Yellow Clover     (Melilotus officinalis)

          b.  Black Mustard                    (Brassica nigra)

 

III.   Green Flowers

          a.  Yellow Dock                  (Rumex crispus)

          b.  Common Plantain           (Plantago Major)

 

1V.   Trees

           a.  Horse Chestnut                (Aesculus hippocastanum)

           b. Osage Orange                  (Maclura pomifera)


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