Belinda and I had our worst summer on record this year. I’ve blogged a lot about it. But to catch you up quickly — Florida’s torrential rains for months on end crippled us with soft soles, bruises and white line. The hoof soreness lead to muscle soreness and lots of swelling from being confined to stall rest.
So after a couple of visits from the various vets and the farrier, we’re finally getting back on track. Sort of.
We added another layer of worry when the vet called me back with blood test results I completely forgot about, with all the more pressing problems coming to a head. Belinda, who is a non-sweating, black, and super thick-coated Hanoverian mare, tested moderately high for cushings.
I like to test her regularly for the disease now that she’s in her late teens. We’ve never had a definitive diagnosis that she had cushings until this most recent test. I plan to test her again in a few months to see if the results are the same.
I did some research and tried not to worry too much. It’s pretty easy to misdiagnose cushings for a number of other metabolic diseases, as I’ve seen happen to friends’ horses over the years. Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure I was prepared for the worst.
She had no real symptoms yet. Her coat has always been on the thick side and hadn’t worsened. She had lost muscle mass, but I attributed that to the time off from her hoof problems. Her diet hadn’t changed in years, nor had her upbeat demeanor.
That’s when I found a few articles about chaste tree berries.
What I feared most about cushings was keeping Belinda on a high-dose medication for the rest of her life. I’ve heard horror stories about Prascend, and there are few other options out there to treat the disease.
Changing her diet would be tricky too, as she’s allergic to straight alfalfa and it’s difficult to find the right balance with her non-sweating issues.
Chaste tree berries are bottled in vitamin form for humans. It’s a common herb to treat fertility issues in women, from menstrual cycle irregularities to menopause to infertility. There are some horse supplements that use it.
People on the Internet raved about it. I was skeptical, but decided it couldn’t hurt to try. I ordered some crushed berries from Amazon and have been giving Belinda a hefty scoop in her morning feeds each day for 4-5 weeks, then giving her a week off. We’re about two and a half months into using it and honestly, I haven’t seen any results.
It’s tough for me to say whether or not the chaste berry thing actually works, because I’m not convinced my horse has cushings.
Belinda doesn’t care much for the taste, and often leaves it at the bottom of her bucket if we forget to wet her feed down or add a little bit of oil.
Her coat is the same. So is her demeanor. I’ve seen her muscle mass come back, but that’s also because she’s been in regular work again.
I guess if I had to give a recommendation, I’d say it doesn’t hurt to try. It’s a low cost, natural alternative, and if your horse doesn’t have a severe case of cushings, there’s no harm in seeing if it could help. But I don’t see it being a viable replacement for real medical treatment.