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Benefits of using clay with horses

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I am a fan of green clay because it has consistently proven its efficiency and healing powers for many ailments horses and other animals are prone to, making it a gift from nature. There are several types of clay, kaolinite, smectite or bentonite, all with similar and often complementary properties, however, the Montmorillonite green clay is by far the most efficient when it comes to treating common afflictions in animals.

Different clays

Each type of clay has its specific benefits and varies in colour, but they all have a complex structure made out of crystals. These crystals form multiple layers that sit on top of each other and resemble a stack of filo pastry. Between each layer, we find ionic compounds that react differently depending on the type of clay, giving it its specific properties. The chemistry of clay is complex and beyond the subject of this article.


However, clay has two properties that need to be mentioned and deserve a little bit of explanation: absorption and adsorption.

Absorption is the process in which a gas or liquid gets blended or soaked up entirely into another substance. A typical example is that of the sponge taking in liquid. This is why the most absorbent clays are not suggested for internal use as the risk of constipation is too much. Sometimes, it is best to just drink the clay milk and not the slurry clay itself. Instead, these clays are usually used to absorb substances of liquids and odours into the litter composition or as a stain remover. They can also be used therapeutically when one suffers from diarrhoea and gastritis. Attapulgite or palygorskite is the clay with the highest absorption rate, whilst Montmorillonite has the lowest.
Adsorption, unlike the process of absorption that swallows and entraps liquid and gases, adsorption represents the binding of molecules to the surface, similar to a magnet attracting ferrous particles.
Clay, whose adsorption power is ideal, is smectite to which montmorillonite belongs, and therefore a popular clay for therapy. Clays can therefore adsorb toxins, viruses, bacteria, antibiotics, organic acids, intestinal gases, alkaloids, and so on. They have an anti-infective role by fixing microbes which are then eliminated in stools. Their effectiveness has been demonstrated for certain bacterial types and montmorillonite has shown to be particularly effective in binding E. coli. as a detoxifier by elimination of toxic substances. For instance, strychnine is neutralized up to 250mg/g of clay.

How to use clay to treat animals?

One point to make is that, unlike essential oils, clay is safe for all animals, including fish and birds.

Clay is so full of minerals, that due to its high content of calcium, it can be used as a coagulant (useful when there is a cut or bleeding wound), to help bones heal and tissues regenerate. Clay is also loaded with Chromium, which acts on diabetes, cholesterol levels, arteriosclerosis and the metabolization of sugars and fats in the body.

As a supplement, clay can be used as an intestinal liner and thus protect the lining of your horse’s stomach from potential damages, such as excessive secretions of gastric juices, acids or bile salts, microbes, and anti-inflammatory drugs that can cause ulcers. It is also efficient when your horse or pet suffers from food poisoning, as well as preventing toxins or microbes from crossing the intestinal wall and entering the bloodstream. Again, I would only use montmorillonite French green clay, or another smectite like bentonite, internally to avoid constipation as it’s the less absorbing clay. Clays used for internal purposes must be pure and of high quality. Do not give your horse bentonite that is used for cat litter or some other outdoor purposes. Although cheap to buy, you don’t know its quality and what impurities it may contain. Of course, a horse would need to eat a lot of clay to become impacted! Up to 5 large tablespoons/day would not affect an adult horse that way.

French green clay made into a paste
French green clay paste

The most common usage is as an external application to the skin. Prepared as a clay paste, apply directly on open wounds, even surgical ones, bleeding ones, cuts, scratches, bruises and so on. But, the clay you can safely use on broken skin is the montmorillonite French green clay! Due to its chemical structure and composition, it kills bacteria whilst encouraging tissue regeneration. Of rare purity, montmorillonite exhibits qualities and properties superior to any other green clay. However, it does not need to be used alone to be safe. It can be mixed with some illite and the mixture is then made safe.

Clay helps tighten the tissues, so it can be applied to your horse’s limbs to promote the recovery of tendons and joints after intense exercise. It is also ideal for treating swollen horses’ limbs, fractures and broken bones.

To soothe and relieve your horse after a trauma, even minor, such as a blow, a contusion, or a hematoma, apply the clay paste until healed. Clay is also recommended to soothe sores due to summer itch and insect bites, as the clay forms a protective layer over the affected area. It is excellent to soothe any inflammation as well. Clay is analgesic and making a clay paste with warm water will help the pain associated with fractures, sprains, and strains, and even relieve hepatic congestion.

Tips on how to use clay

I collected these tips over the years as I learned from my own experience in using and studying clay, but also from various French vets and doctors. French green clay, along with aromatherapy and homeopathy, is commonly used in France by human and animal health professionals and is part of their practice.

Woman applying clay on a horse's leg
  • The 1st and foremost important tip is to NEVER use metallic objects when preparing or applying clay. If clay comes in contact with metal, it will have a chemical reaction that will destroy the clay’s structure and affect its therapeutic properties
  • If your clay isn’t super fine, when preparing the clay paste, let the clay soak in water for at least 15 minutes, up to 1 hour before mixing it. This will be easier to mix and it will produce a smooth paste
  • When applying the clay on your horse, apply a thick layer against the hair first to ensure the clay is in full contact with the skin. Finish then with a thinner layer in line with the hair to achieve a smooth outer layer
  • Clay is active while moist, and will dry quickly when in contact with air. To augment the time the clay stays damp, you can wrap it with wet gauze and/or cling wrap. If none of those are available, newspapers will work as well. It’s important to keep the clay moist as long as possible to extend its effects
  • Once the clay dries, it can be difficult to remove it, especially on hairy parts. If your horse allows it, you can brush it gently away. A more comfortable method for your horse is to hose it down or wipe it with a wet sponge. With the latter, let the clay soak up water from the sponge, then saturate the clay with water and wipe it away gently. Dry clay can be hard to remove, and painful to your horse or pet due to the amount of hair, so be gentle.
  • Once your clay has been used, don’t reuse it to avoid contamination
  • If your horse is on medication, it’s best to wait a couple of hours before or after administering medicine to give him clay
  • You can mix clay with oil like coconut, olive or other carrier oils. I found this mixture works well for skin ailments where clay drying would hinder the animal or make them uncomfortable. This is also my choice when moisture from water wouldn’t be recommended, like treating thrush in horses’ frogs. In this case, I would also add tea tree, niaouli and lavender essential oils.
  • You can mix essential oils to extend clay’s healing properties. For an analgesic effect, add lavender essential oil. For an anti-septic effect, add anti-bacterial essential oils (although all have that property to various degrees), tea tree, niaouli, geranium and rosemary are my go-to essential oils for healing wounds.
  • For muscular and tendon ailments, mix your clay with lavendin grosso, wintergreen and rosemary camphor (not camphor essential oil as it can be toxic, depending on the type of camphor). This trio of essential oils works well on sprains, torn muscles, stiffness etc.

Where to buy French green clay?

I just want to state that I will get a commission if you end up buying any of these products:

Amazon Australia

Amazon US

I hope you have found this article helpful. Any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact me.

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