CBD for Horses: The Benefits and the Science Behind Them

By Harris Wheless
Mat Reding

Since hemp was legalized on a federal level last December, many people have begun integrating hemp extracts into their everyday routine as a way to manage symptoms. Pet owners have also started using it for their furry friends—including cats, dogs, birds, and even horses.

But despite its eruption into the consumer market, CBD is still on shaky ground in some spaces. In May, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) released a statement saying CBD use was prohibited for horses competing under USEF rules.

While horses who compete cannot take CBD without violating these new rules, others can still benefit from its healthy effects. And as we’ve seen with CBD use in humans, this wellness supplement has a lot to offer in terms of symptom relief. Let’s take a closer look at some of its possible benefits.

What is CBD?

Chances are you’ve heard some of the recent buzz surrounding CBD, but you may still be unsure of where it comes from or how it’s related to other forms of cannabis. Well, CBD (cannabidiol) is a compound found in cannabis sativa that belongs to a category of cannabis compounds called cannabinoids.

While marijuana and hemp plants both contain CBD, it’s usually extracted from hemp plants, which differs from marijuana in that it has less than 0.3% THC (the psychoactive element in cannabis). Hemp-derived CBD is generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile, and although anecdotal evidence suggests CBD has several health benefits, the FDA has not approved the substance to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

How CBD can help your horse

While the notion that CBD is a cure-all for all kinds of conditions is mostly marketing hyperbole, it does in fact have wide-ranging uses. Its array of benefits is made possible by the endocannabinoid system and its receptors located throughout the body. CBD interacts indirectly with these receptors to help regulate and balance many systems to promote optimal functioning.

Because of these processes, CBD has the potential to help the body manage an assortment of symptoms that affect different parts of the body. CBD has shown success reducing inflammation, stiffness, pain, anxiety, digestive issues, and soreness in joints and muscles. In helping the body to maintain a state of homeostasis, it can also improve mood and focus, making the person (or animal) who takes it better equipped to tackle whatever is thrown their way.

Research on CBD is ongoing, and scientists are still unsure of its long-term effects. Still, clinical trials continue to support CBD’s potential. Scientists at Kentucky Equine Research are conducting studies on the effect of CBD on horses. An excerpt from the organization’s website says “supplementation decreases stress, improves learning and cognition, and staves off the development of stereotypic behaviors, such as cribbing.”

What to buy

One of the key components of a successful shopping experience is often contingent upon the type of product that you buy, and we recommend looking for CBD that is specifically aimed at horses. Products come in many forms—CBD pellets, paste, horse feed, powder, and CBD oil for horses. The product’s chemical makeup and dosing instructions will then be more tailored to the horse’s needs.

When shopping, you might see products that are labeled as full-spectrum. This means they utilize multiple parts of the plant for a fuller effect. It is, however, good to note that horses and other animals are very sensitive to THC. The industry standard limits the THC levels in CBD products to less than 0.3%, which is no where near enough to produce any kind of psychoactive effect—but still something to be aware of.

One way you can ensure proper levels of THC and other cannabinoids is to buy from reputable brands who take rigorous safety precautions. When you buy from the right place, CBD can be safe and effective. Seek out brands who strive to have their products meet that standard by investing in third party testing, and holding themselves more accountable.

Horses will likely need high doses of CBD (potentially hundreds of milligrams) in order to experience proper relief. High doses mean you run through products faster, which can become expensive. To pinpoint the right dosage and guard against possible side effects, consider talking to a vet about how your horse will react to CBD. It never hurts to get a professional opinion, and in the end, your horse may be happier and healthier for it.

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