Horses can experience joint and muscle pain, as well as anxiety. When utilized as part of a wellness routine, CBD can offer powerful results, just as it does for humans. In this episode, Dr. Joyce Harman, the founder of Harmany Equine, joins to discuss the pain-relieving capabilities that CBD can have on horses.
Listen in to hear an insightful conversation about how horses are administered CBD, the keys to understanding dosing for animals, and what advice Dr. Harman has to give for those curious about CBD and their pets.
Insights From The Episode
- How Dr. Harman’s background began with acupuncture, to then studying alternative medicines for horses.
- What the specific issues and goals of giving CBD to horses are, and the surprising relation between CBD and the gut microbiome.
- How CBD can be given to horses, including CBD/Hemp that still lies on the leaf.
- The ongoing science of understanding the dosing of CBD, as well as following the philosophy of starting low, and gradually moving up with miligrams.
- How CBD comes into play with various other species, and how it can effect the mind, digestive system, as well as the muscles and joints of many animals.
- What the biggest misconceptions about CBD for horses and pets are, one of them being the concern that all cannabis has THC in it.
- For those who are curious about CBD, educating people about what CBD is capable of, and giving it a try for a short period of time is the best way to witness change.
- What the near future of CBD will hold, and how we may begin to see people using it more preventively for their horses, as well as for older and younger horses.
Resources & Links From The Episode
- Cannabinoids and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Emerging Effects of Cannabidiol and Potential Applications to Alcohol Use Disorders – PubMed
- The Endocannabinoid System in Animals – PubMed
- Demystifying Hemp and CBD in the Equine – Harmany Equine
Connect With The Guest
- Harmany Equine (website)
- Doc’s Hemp (website)
- Harmany Equine on Facebook
- Doc’s Hemp on Facebook
- Doc’s Hemp on Instagram
- Joyce Harman on LinkedIn
About Harmany Equine
Harmany Equine was created by Dr. Joyce Harman who has studied equine exercise physiology and sports medicine and has always been looking for a better, safer way to treat and train horses. Dr. Harman finds the best approach for the horse is a team approach involving veterinarians, therapists, farriers, dentists, riding instructors, and saddle experts. She has “written the book” on saddle fitting, with two volumes, and her goal is to help educate the equine industry about natural, holistic, and integrative medicine. Harmany’s Equine philosophy believes that the best medicine is whatever works on that day and is the least invasive.
Scott: Hey, what’s going on everyone? Scott here with “The CBD Guide,” and welcome to another awesome episode. I think this one is gonna be awesome because we’re gonna be continuing our discussion about CBD for animals, and specifically, focusing in on horses. And I don’t know, you know, how familiar you might be with horses, my family has a couple of horses. So, while I’m not a horse expert by any stretch of the imagination, I did grow up around the bit, and I’m really excited to dive into what CBD can do as part of just general health and wellness for horses.
And joining me to help really shed some light on this is Dr. Joyce Harman, who is the owner of Harmany Equine Clinic. And that has been open since 1990, and it brings holistic healing to horses from all walks of life from backyard retirees to Olympic competitors. And, over the years, Dr. Joyce Harman has really observed and adapted to the changing needs of the horses and for clients.
And Dr. Joyce Harman graduated from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984 and had an interest in acupuncture and alternative medicine. She went to England, then Ireland to study equine exercise physiology and sports medicine, and was always on the lookout for better, safer ways to treat and train horses. So we’ve got a real expert here, and I’m so glad to have her. Joyce, welcome to the show.
Dr. Harman: Thank you, Scott. It’s a pleasure to be here, and it’s a pleasure to share information about something that’s really become the latest craze in the horse world.
Scott: It really has, and you are not the first I came across that was doing things with CBD in horses, but I think you really have a unique approach. I guess, to start us off, I like to learn a little bit more about your background and your work with horses, the Harmany Equine story, I guess. What do you do for your clients and how did it all really begin?
Dr. Harman: So, I was interested in doing acupuncture way back when it was sort of in the dark ages. And back in 1990, set up my practice and started learning, and studied acupuncture because that was really most of what was available back then. And then over the years, added in chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathic medicine. And over the years, particularly drawn towards herbal medicine towards horses.
And I’ve seen the effectiveness of these alternatives or we prefer to call them integrative or complementary therapies. And so, getting into the whole CBD aspect was just an extension of being a herbalist for horses, and recognizing that as a plant, cannabis or hemp is just an amazing plant with amazing healing properties.
Scott: It’s so fantastic and, you know, like I mentioned at the top, my family has horses. And again, I do not know too, too much about horses, but, you know, they can have issues with their muscles. They can have soreness. They age like all living beings do. That happens. So, I guess, you started your focus on alternative medicine and with like acupuncture, did you find that just there were gaps in maybe more traditional methods of dealing with whether they be horse injuries or just the effects of aging or things like that, and you just found that alternative medicine maybe produces results that are more holistic? Or I guess if you could break it down like why alternative medicine, where are the gaps in more traditional approaches with horses?
Dr. Harman: So what happens when you look at medicine as a whole is that the goal is to heal with the minimal amount of side effects and damage possible. And so, if I’m hit by a bus, I would like to be in the helicopter and go to the ICU with all the advanced technology.
Scott: Sure, me too.
Dr. Harman: Yeah. You know, because that’s what we do really, really well. But for a lot of the chronic diseases and horses get a lot of pain issues because we’re using them as athletes. Whether it’s a backyard pleasure horse or whether it’s an Olympic competitor, it is still an athletic endeavor. You know, climbing up and down mountainsides, just trail riding is actually very athletic. And so, a lot of our problems in the horse world involve pain and discomfort.
And the drugs that we have available have a lot of side effects. And some of their side effects involved the intestinal tract, and horses really don’t have the best design tract in the world. And so, we end up with a lot of complications. And in truth, the drugs just kind of cover up the pain, but the disease process continues. And so, the alternative forms of medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, the herbal medicine, all really address healing and actually can help the body heal as best it can. Obviously, if you have a big major injury, you may not make that body part perfect, but you can really help the body cope and not just cope a little bit, but really do well for many, many years.
Scott: I mean, that’s so powerful and, you know, for example, my family, the horses that we have were hunter/jumpers, you know? And they weren’t in the Olympics or anything like that, but, you know, years and years of making those jumps, and I’ve never jumped a horse, my sisters did this. But, you know, seeing this beautiful, beautiful animal, you know, going and speeding up and making that jump and the impact of that on, of course, joints, muscles, and all of this happening. And after the end of a training session, you know, I would see the horses just, you know, sweaty, you know, and things like that. So that over time, of course, can create challenges.
And then the other point you made, which I was a bit familiar with is how, you know, horses don’t have the best intestinal tract, right? And, you know, unfortunately, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is, you know, one of the big issues is when horses get lame or they can’t move or what have you, then their stomach things can go very wrong very quickly if they’re not able to keep their movement going. Is that correct?
Dr. Harman: That is correct. And also, if they have gut pain, it can be fatal. And so, if we create ulcers or we create some of these side effects that we know that many of these drugs produce, then for the poor horse that can result in death and/or certainly in serious pain and discomfort.
Scott: Yeah. And, you know, for horse owners, that’s why there’s all this focus on, you know, the type of diet that they’re having, the feed, how often are you, you know, getting out there to graze? What’s the situation like? What are they grazing on? All of that, that’s so key. So, okay, dialing it to CBD, what are then some of the common goals as you kind of fold CBD into sort of a holistic wellness regimen so to speak. What are some of the specific issues that a horse may have that you found CBD can really help with?
Dr. Harman: So, in some ways, we’re still in the early days of finding everything that it can help with, as we are in truth with humans, but it obviously has tremendous pain-relieving capabilities. And since many of the issues that we have with horses are related to pain, CBD fits in there very nicely. And because it works on really on all systems, the whole endocannabinoid system that all mammals have is really everywhere in the body.
And so, we can be working on say a horse’s back pain with some CBD, but we’re actually also helping the gut because there are endocannabinoids in the gut. And there’s some interesting research showing that the endocannabinoids or that CBD itself and the hemp plant has an effect on the gut microbiome, and we’re learning tons more about the importance of the good bugs that live in our guts.
Scott: We are learning so much about that. And certainly, for humans even just things like your mood, and how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis. I’m curious, so in terms of the results you’ve seen when you used to CBD as part of, you know, helping the horse out if they’re having pain or something like that, does it change, do you see, oh, the horse now has more energy or their gait changes, you know, they’re running cleaner or galloping or trotting or cantering, whatever it would be? What do you kind of see, because these are animals, you can’t ask him like, “Oh, do you feel better?”
Dr. Harman: Oh, they’ll tell you.
Scott: Yeah, they’ll tell you.
Dr. Harman: If you know your horses, then if your issue is say one joint and pain, then you notice that they limp less or not at all. But, in many cases, you have pain that is, yeah, maybe it started in the right front leg, but you’ve got four other legs that are compensating, and then you have a back. And then because of pain, and sometimes you have anxiety because the horses are not comfortable mentally because they know that what you’re gonna ask them to do hurt, and so they become more anxious.
And we know from a lot of the research that has been done in people the effects they can have on anxiety, and the interesting thing is that it really has the same effects on horses, because the endocannabinoid system is kind of the same across species. So we’ll get a relaxation, a mentally happier horse that’s more willing to move around and play, buck around and play in the field. Or you ask them to work, and instead of being really grumpy and unhappy to go to work, they’re like, “Okay, great. Let’s go to work. You know, what do you want me to do today.”
Scott: Or refusing the jump so to speak, you know, or something like that.
Dr. Harman: Yes. They stop refusing. They start saying, “Let’s do it.”
Scott: Okay. So definitely a lot of benefits here. How do you give CBD to horses? Is it, you know, all about putting it in their feed, are there recommended doses and maybe administration methods? I know that there are topicals out, there are all kinds of various CBD products, so I’m curious when it comes to starting a horse on a bit of a regimen with CBD, what does that look like?
Dr. Harman: So CBD can be given to horses and really all the same ways as you would use it for people. You can use it topically, the only sort of issue with horses is that CBD is not inexpensive, and they have a lot of fur. Some horses have more fur than others.
Scott: You need a gallon of cream.
Dr. Harman: Yes. So you have this little tube of cream, and it doesn’t go very far.
Scott: Right. Right.
Dr. Harman: And in the wintertime, horses have a lot of hair, especially in the northern parts of the country unless people shave them. And so, the topical is useful. And yet, I think, in many ways, if we have a specific place that we want to put it on, yes, the topical is useful. But so often with the horses, yeah, we have one joint that’s bad, but then we have all the rest of the body that has kind of compensated. And so, feeding it to them really is the easiest way to give it to them. And you can feed it to them in really almost any form that you feed it to any other animal. Horses though are herbivores naturally. They have big teeth, they grind up plants, and they are very capable of digesting it. So we can actually use CBD that is still on the leaf.
Scott: Oh, wow. Wow, okay. So like actual like flower CBD or…?
Dr. Harman: Well, actually, you can do the flower or lot of times, both from knowing the dosing amount and the economics and the logistics of it, we usually will extract the CBD, and then just what is left on the plant, we can feed to the horses really easily. Because you cannot remove all of the oil from the plant. It’s just not a possibility. And so, you can make the oil on the one hand and you can feed that to the horses, and you can also feed the horses on the leaf itself, which is what I very commonly do because they’re really happy to eat it. And it’s a little more economical than using the oil unless you have horses that don’t like the taste of it. And that certainly can happen, most horses don’t mind it, but some horses are very fussy.
Scott: So, in that case, let’s say you have a fussy horse who’s not gonna eat any of the plant, so then would you take the oil and put it just kind of drizzled on their feed, that kind of thing?
Dr. Harman: Yes. And you can use the oil, you can put it directly on their feed, you can put it directly into their mouth, you can put it onto a little treat and let them eat it. Horses have good long wet mouths and they tend to chew their food very well. So it does get absorbed into their mucus membranes, as well as going into their stomach, and there are some people who sort of feel that it’s beneficial to put the oil directly into their mouth. And a lot of horses really don’t appreciate that, it’s a lot more trouble.
Scott: I’ve been around horses and you gotta be careful around those mouths, man, because if you’ve ever got nipped by a horse, it doesn’t tickle.
Dr. Harman: And a lot of horses really don’t appreciate having stuff shoved in their mouths, they would much rather eat it.
Dr. Harman: And when it comes to absorption, we’re still in the early days of doing absorption studies in the horse. And we’re in the early days of really working out some of the dosings. And a lot of the dosing has to do… those kinds of serving size that we want often has to do with the quality of the product because you will see dosing ranges, kind of, I won’t say all over the mouth, but a little bit.
And in my experience, things like 25 to 50 milligrams given twice a day of high-quality CBD seem to get excellent results. There are a number of companies that are touting 100 milligrams a day or twice a day, and some that are much higher than that. And we don’t yet really know for sure that we need that much or that much is as good for the horse as the lower doses.
Scott: You know, that’s such a great point. Just to jump in, we’ve talked about it on the show. I’ve had a number of guests where we talked about this idea of, you know, being cautious and methodical when you’re dosing, whether it’s taking CBD yourself or give it to a dog or horse, and that’s really, really important. I’m glad you mentioned it because, yes, you know, higher potency can produce, you know, different effects and things like this and there is a lot of that out there, but you have to be so thoughtful about that, especially when you’re giving it to an animal that you love and care for, right?
Dr. Harman: Yeah. And we know from a lot of the research that from the CBD standpoint, and really all the cannabinoids seem to be very safe as far as we’re not gonna kill a horse with it. But are we going to have any effects on the liver? We don’t yet know. We do know in the dog world that we do occasionally have some effects on the liver. And we also many times CBD and the cannabinoids are a less is more kind of a product. Horses are very sensitive herbalists, even with my regular herbal medicine, I very often only use maybe twice a human dose, maybe three times at the most.
Scott: Wow. So that’s not very different, and horses are much larger than humans. So that’s really interesting.
Dr. Harman: And so, we come along with CBD, and part of that is kind of the mouse and the elephant thing. Because a mouse actually eats a much higher proportion of its body weight per day than an elephant. Even though an elephant might need a tree for lunch, as a proportion of his body weight, that tree is not very much. And so, the horse is larger, and they’re very efficient, and they’re very sensitive, and so they don’t necessarily need huge doses.
And then we have with CBD, and this can be true of all species is that many times I always recommend starting at the lower dose because many animals never need to go to a higher dose. I even have a horse that gets one or two drops of the oil twice a day.
Scott: That’s it. So just a couple drops and, I guess, when you started it you saw the changes, you saw the benefit, and you’re like, “Boom, we found it. We don’t need to do more.”
Dr. Harman: We don’t need to do anymore, and there’s not necessarily any advantage to doing more unless, you know, as time goes by, you decide you need a little bit more.
Scott: I think that’s such a great point, and I’m glad you really drove that home. You mentioned a few times, you mentioned dogs, any time I’ve been talking with someone who’s working with the animals and CBD, I’m curious what are your thoughts on the potential CBD benefits for other pets as they age or have, you know, physical challenges or whatever it might be?
Dr. Harman: CBD really comes into play with all the species. I had an old cat that probably should have passed on two or three years before she did. And she was a CBD cat for sure. She just thrived on it. Cats and dogs, horses, it’s one of these because it affects the mind, it affects the digestive system. It’s anti-inflammatory in the spine, in the muscles, in the joints. It’s kind of like a great, old animal tonic. And sometimes it’s better than many of the other tonics that we come up with.
Scott: Sure, sure. And you saying that about your cat, was it about just you saw your cat moving a little better after, you know, given some CBD and just I know lots of cats can get a little slow and arthritic, and all that things like so many of us can become. Was that kind of what you saw when you did that?
Dr. Harman: Yeah. She actually not only did she move around a lot more, she became much more friendly. She was not a particularly friendly cat, she became much more friendly. She actually, almost, I wouldn’t say she was a cuddly cat, but she would come up to strangers and get patted. And in the past, she would just bite them.
Scott: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Harman: And she moved around until…she was probably, she could have been, 15, 16, 17. She was jumping. Her favorite sleeping place was inside a trash can, and she jumped 2 feet in and out of the trash can five times a day.
Scott: Wow. I mean, that’s so great. Yeah. And also, I like you mentioning she became friendlier. A lot of cats, and I know probably too much about cats, I’ve got three of my own. And a lot of cats, you know, they do have anxiety. They are, you know, afraid of too much stimulus or things like that. So it makes sense to me that if you’re thinking about, well, how could CBD potentially help when you’re kitty cats? Well, maybe, if it helps reduce some of that, then some strangers aren’t so scary anymore, and they can pat him on the head, right?
Dr. Harman: Yeah, yeah. It really does cross-species very, very nicely.
Scott: What do you think is one of the biggest may be misconceptions about CBD for horses and pets specifically, and how can those who are passionate about CBD and the potential benefits, I guess, clear up those misconceptions?
Dr. Harman: I think, one thing that people are concerned about what CBD is that they may have heard that cannabis, they think the cannabis, all cannabis has THC in it. They may very well have heard that THC is bad for dogs, and is toxic for dogs. It’s not very good to be used with dogs. We don’t know about horses, but I certainly wouldn’t be wanting to ride a horse that had a bunch of THC in it.
Scott: Yeah. I wouldn’t play in that field. No.
Dr. Harman: That would not be a good idea. So, I think a lot of people are afraid that there is THC and that’s one of the important things about knowing your company and your product that it really does have a certificate of analysis and that it really does have less than the 0.3% THC. And so, then you can feel safe that it is safe for your animals. I do think that people also confuse hemp and CBD with hemp seeds and hemp oil. And especially in the horse world, we see quite a few people who really don’t understand the difference at all. So the hemp seed, the hemp seed oil that you get in the grocery store does not have any CBD in it or THC. It has nice Omega 3. So it’s a nice nutritional supplement.
Scott: But it’s not gonna produce the CBD effects if there’s none in there.
Dr. Harman: That’s right. That’s right. So it’s just a nice nutritional thing. And you have to go to your CBD because will people say, “Well, you know, I can get a gallon of hemp oil for, you know, not much money. But you’re giving me this little tiny bottle of CBD oil for $100.” The CBD extraction process is totally different, and the CBD has a very different effect because that’s what works on this endocannabinoid system that’s in all of these animals.
So, I think that’s one of the misconceptions that people don’t quite understand the difference between. And I think the other thing is that people worry about safety because there’s CBD on every street corner, and they really don’t have any idea whether it’s safe or not.
Scott: Right. It’s the gas station, you know, the analogy of like, oh, you walk in and this has CBD on it. And okay. I mean, I would never go into a gas station and buy a bottle and be like, “Well, I’m gonna give this to my cat, let’s see what happens.” Like, no.
Dr. Harman: And that’s why it’s really important that you know, you stay away from the gas station stuff because the hemp plant is what they call a bioaccumulator, and it will clean up toxic soil. So if you grow it in soil that’s not organic, that has, you know, herbicides and pesticides, and all that kind of stuff, and heavy metals or anything else for many years of being fertilized, then that will end up in your oils. And so, the stuff that’s in the corner gas station doesn’t say anywhere on it certified or organic.
Scott: Yes. For good reason, right?
Dr. Harman: Yes.
Scott: And that’s a great, great point. I had a guest a few episodes ago, and he spoke about, you know, their cultivation methods, and that very thing you just said, Joyce. And how it’s so important to take that into account when you are growing hemp plants and what’s going on in the soil and that aspect of it, it’s just really, really critical.
Dr. Harman: Yes. And you don’t want to be feeding your animals small or large poor quality products.
Scott: Absolutely not. So, okay, I always like to ask this question. I basically ask people to put their sales cap on, but really more than that, I think, it’s like an advocacy cap on. If someone is newer to the world of CBD, maybe they’re unsure, they’re skeptical about its potential benefits for their horse. So, maybe you have a client, Joyce, come in through your door and be like, “Well, I don’t know, do you want me to have that to be part of what I’m giving my horse?” What might you say to them to sort of encourage them to, you know, take the plunge and try it out and see if they see some positive changes in their horse and if it helps their horse?
Dr. Harman: I mean, that’s just a really good thing to say is that you know, I have…and I can say that I have quite a bit of experience now. Because I was probably one of the…not the first vet to feed horses CBD, but certainly one of the first to be doing some of the research on kind of those things.
Scott: Sure, a front runner.
Dr. Harman: Yeah. And, you know, so I’m gonna say to people, you know, this is what it is capable of doing. Let’s say your horses got some back pain and some joint hip pain and the best thing in the world is to give it a try for 30 days. And in probably 70% to 80% of the horses, you’re gonna see a noticeable change in 30 days. That it is safe. It is the one thing people do have to be aware of is that if they are competing under rules, most of the organizations that are certifying competitions do not allow CBD.
Dr. Harman: Oh, okay. I did not know that.
Dr. Harman: Yes. And that’s a very important point because these organizations are looking for it, and it’s an easy molecule to find. And so, in the drug testing world, we have to be really careful about that. So I’m gonna make sure that people are not competing under rules that say they can’t use it. And encourage them to give it a try. And that I will usually explain how this has this sort of anti-inflammatory effect, how the endocannabinoid system is present in all mammals. And there’s a lot of research in the human end of things, not so much in the horses yet, but they’re showing that the endocannabinoid system isn’t working totally perfectly because of our stressed-out lifestyle. And our animals, horses are part of a stressed-out lifestyle, believe me.
Scott: Oh yeah. And depending on their environments and so many different things, yeah, of course. Wow. I think that’s a really great way to approach it, Joyce. Now, I will tell you, if I had a horse, I would be very convinced like, “All right, let’s give this a try.” Last question, what do you see in the future as we turn towards the…what’s coming next for CBD and general wellness approaches for horses? And how might the landscape for all of this change in the months and years to come?
Dr. Harman: I think we’re gonna see is a much more general acceptance of it. And the interesting thing was CBD is that it’s kind of crossing the line between conventional and alternative medicine. There are still people that are skeptical of acupuncture. There are still people that are skeptical of CBD. But, I think, that CBD and hemp are probably going to be adopted by the more conventional people and more conventional horse owners as part of, I wouldn’t say necessarily holistic, because these people are not really thinking holistically, but as part of a health plan, especially in the older horses. But I think we’ll probably start to see more and more people are using it, almost preventatively, or using it in the younger horses to keep them in really good shape while they’re young.
Scott: Right. Rather doing the work that you love to see the horses do and things like that. Yeah, that’s fantastic. You know, because you studied veterinary medicine, do you think that there’s more and more of this sort of holistic approach in this alternative medicine approach and certainly with CBD as part of it? Do you think that will potentially, I guess, infiltrate veterinary medicine more in terms of the educational side and people learning today?
Dr. Harman: The overall holistic approach is acupuncture, chiropractic, the herbal medicine, they are definitely making inroads. We do have that many of the universities now. We have practitioners and teachers who are certified in acupuncture or chiropractic. We don’t have nearly as many that are certified in herbal medicine or had studied it. It seems that the manual of acupuncture and chiropractic a little bit more accepted at this point. And I think the next one probably to get accepted in more of the mainstream will be the CBD, and then that’s gonna lead people into looking at herbal medicine a little bit more.
Scott: Right. Because the questions for the vets are gonna be like, “Hey, how about CBD? I heard about this.”
Dr. Harman: Yes, yes. And I think you’re right. It will gradually get more and more accepted, but we still have a ways to go. Because the evening news is still all about taking this pill and becoming better. And in some ways, CBD is more of a silver bullet than many of the other things that we have, whether it’s drugs or alternative medicine. But it doesn’t do everything, it can’t do everything.
Scott: No, of course. Joyce, thank you so, so much for joining me on the show today and really sharing your insight and expertise on this. You know, I think it’s just so fantastic what you’re doing, and if folks are curious and they want to learn a bit more about your work, what you’re doing with horses, maybe they’re in the area and they wanna check out and see if you can help them out with their horse, where can they do that, where should they go?
Dr. Harman: I’ve got two websites. I have harmanyequine.com and that’s my general local horse website, and I have tons of information and education on it. And then I have another site called docshemp.com. And there’s more information about hemp on there. And either one of those, people can contact me through.
Scott: Fantastic. Thanks again so much thank.
Dr. Harman: Thank you for having me. This has been a lot of fun. And hopefully, will be very helpful to your listeners.