Herbalist Michaela Ritter of SamoVila Specialised Herbal Therapy tells us about a poorly Oldenburg mare whose owner asked for help when she arrived back at the yard in a dreadful state. This blog originally appeared on the SamoVila website and we are pleased to be able to reproduce it here.


Wonderstar, or Starlet for short, is an 18-year-old Oldenburg mare. She was home-bred and has been with her owner from birth. I’ve known Starlet for at least 13 years and she has always been one of those ‘full of energy’ horses who quite happily trots on the tips of her toes for the duration of a hack because there were hedge monsters around every corner! With a rather sharp and opinionated mind, she wouldn’t hesitate to boss anyone around to her pleasing. Not always the easiest horse to handle, putting it politely, but deep down she has a loving heart.

Going to boot camp …

In November 2020 her owner decided to send Starlet away to a professional horse trainer in order to further, her education. So Starlet went away and the owner received regular updates, giving her the impression that all was going well.

At the beginning of March 2021, the owner was told that Starlet was ready to be ridden. Starlet’s owner went to see her wonderful horse, but the shock that followed was deep and unexpected: Starlet looked like a collection of bones with a bit of skin and fur thrown on top like a blanket. She had lost all muscle tissue and her spine was so protruding that it was impossible to even think she could have taken a saddle, let alone a rider. Starlet was weak and depressed, and it soon became apparent she had a cough. The owner was told that the vet had been called out to see ‘what’s wrong with her’ and blood samples had been taken for a full blood profile. She was told that nothing out of the ordinary was found and therefore no action was taken at the time.

Unsurprisingly, her owner decided to take her home immediately.

Things were bad

And this is where I came in. Her owner called me for help and any support I could provide to stop Starlet’s deteriorating condition. She had been given Ventipulmin but this had not made any change and Starlet was now coughing blood as well as mucous. Her owner was reaching the point of considering having to put her to sleep.

I went to see Starlet on 06.03.2021, about a week after she’d come back home, and to say I was shocked to the core when I saw her is a huge understatement!

A first visit …

Starlet was so thin that her hipbones and every single rib were protruding. She had literally no muscle tissue and appeared very weak. Her neck was thin and the thyroid gland was swollen to the size of a goose egg. The skin on all four fetlocks was red, raw and inflamed and was scaling off.

She had thick green and yellow mucous coming from both her nostrils, her breathing was laboured and visibly going through the abdomen. Her head was low – maybe because it made it easier to ‘drain’ the thick mucous out or whether it made the breathing easier I don’t know. Starlet had a very dry and deep sitting cough and when she coughed it shook up her whole body – it went through her like a violent wave, ending with the expulsion of lumps of thick yellow and green, pus-like mucus.

Starlet wouldn’t eat so it was difficult to put weight on and get medication into her as she had lost all interest in food – in fact, I think it is fair to say, she had lost interest in life. She looked like she was knocking on death’s door …

Starlet makes some very interesting choices!

Well, self-selection with herbs was not an option here as Starlet was not interested in eating anything at all so I approached her by offering essential oils in the form of inhalation. And – hey presto – we had a match! Her absolute favourite was Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) essential oil. This oil is often selected by animals who have respiratory problems or obstructions and viral or bacterial infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract. Interestingly, it is also frequently selected by horses that suffer from mud fever. And Starlet couldn’t get enough of it! I alternated the offering with Thyme, Eucalyptus and Clove bud, but she would always come back to Bay Laurel, inhaling this essential oil so deep with alternating nostrils that she would have climbed into the bottle if only she could!

Self selection of the herbs she needs

A solid plan of action

We, Starlet’s owner and me, sat together and worked out a plan of action:

  1. She needed to see the owner’s vet, without a doubt
  2. To support Starlet’s health and immune system, it was agreed that I would prepare a couple of inhaler sticks for her – Bay Laurel, Eucalyptus, Thyme and Clove bud – so that the owner could work with these for the time being
  3. We agreed that I would prepare a couple of supplements for Starlet – to help and support the respiratory tract, for nutritional support to help her regain muscle tissue and to support the body in healing what had been damaged

Starlet makes progress!

Starlet’s owner updated me regularly about her progress. The vet had re-attended and prescribed antibiotics. Over the next few weeks, Starlet went from strength to strength. Her appetite improved gradually and her breathing became a lot less laboured. She absolutely loved her herbs and actively sought out the feeding bowls with the herbs added rather than those without the herbs (yes, it’s all about choice).

The second visit

On 07.04.2021 I went to see Starlet to check on her progress and OH MY, what a different horse! It filled me with endless joy seeing Starlet back in her paddock with her mates, happily trotting up to us and greeting me with a big smoochy kiss! She was no longer the poor, emaciated horse I saw just four weeks earlier; her cough was almost gone, the muscle tone started to come back and she had regained that little starlet sparkle in her eyes.

I am beyond happy about the progress Starlet has made – this is a classic example of a combined effort – good veterinary care, an absolutely dedicated owner and spot on herbal support.

Wonderstar – happy and healthy once more

Blogs about herbs, essential oils and horses

Michaela Ritter

Michaela is a fully qualified and registered Dipl Master Herbalist and Naturopath and founder of SamoVila Specialised Herbal Therapy. She has been working with and studying herbs and essential oils since 1992 and has acquired a very broad knowledge about botanicals for a truly holistic use in supporting health and well being – be it physically, mentally or spiritually. Michaela is further certified in Equine Health (from vet Nicola Kerbyson) and Advanced Equine Nutrition (from nutritionist Dr. Jo-Anne Murray) and currently studies Tierheilpraktiker (Animal Naturopathic Practitioner) with a view to qualify in 2022. She specialises in horses and other herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats, etc) but also works with other species, including dogs, cats, rats and other small pets. She incorporates the principles of Zoopharmacognosy (the ability of animals to choose their own remedies) combined with her in-depth knowledge about herbs into her consultations.

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