Medical marijuana for dogs and cats is one thing. But medical marijuana for horses!? Yes, its true and its not a new concept in veterinary medicine. Cannabis has been used as a medical remedy for horses across the globe and the sands of time. From the ancient Greeks to modern-day farriers and horse owners, marijuana has been widely employed to successfully address a range of medical problems. There are numerous historical references to cannabis being used for sedation and as an adjunct to anesthesia in equine medicine.
Advocates for medical marijuana will happily tell you about its uses throughout history, but in early 20th century America, cannabis was usually confusing or suspect when it came to medical matters.
Marijuana—usually Cannabis indica—was one of many ingredients in the cough syrups and elixirs sold by both doctors and swindlers. One salesman sold a bottle of Cannabis indica for 16 cents (and was labeled a conman for doing so). Usually sold in pill form or as an ointment, it was supposed to help with coughing and other respiratory ailments (and, of course, some advertisements enthusiastically testified that it did just that).
However, while cannabis for humans remained on the fringe of medicine, for horses it was part of the mainstream.
In 1914, the American Veterinary Association held a lengthy discussion about the use of cannabis for treating animals, and that conversation provides a synopsis of the treatment.
In 1880, a man named H.C. Wood made an extract from Cannabis indica and found it effective in small quantities. From there, the practice grew. One goal for vets was to find strains that had “less deliriant and more of the hypnotic effect” than Cannabis indica. It was usually used to treat horse colic, because vets believed the cannabis helped alleviate pain and strain. Injections were eventually switched out for oral doses of the drug.
Cannabis treatment for horses wasn’t avant-garde: it was a somewhat experimental, but still mainstream, way to help horses with colic. In addition to the American Veterinary paper, as early as 1895, U.S. Cavalry Horse recommended a cannabis mixture to help with colic.
As time went on, and as Cannabis indica became tied to the stigma and illegality of marijuana, the drug declined in availability and use. Just as marijuana replaced opium as a horse colic treatment, new drugs replaced the newly illegal marijuana.
Its last gasps in the 20s led to some amusing headlines, however.
In 1920, a man went to the hospital for accidentally drinking a horse cure. The problem? .
Horse Owner Becky Flowers relayed her own experiences:
“I have owned my mare Phoenix for 7 years. she is a 13.3 hand paso fino, about 17 years old. She has DSLD (Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Disease) and arthritis in her back and hips, mostly the right hip. She has always limped in the front. i was giving bute ( Phenylbutazone, or “bute”, is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) on her bad days, 1 to 2 tablets. This helped some, but didnt last long.
Last month when our temperatures dropped to the teens she was unable to get up. Despite giving her 5 and 6 tablets, two blankets and leg warmers. I was having to feed and water her where she lay. On day three of barely getting up, she stopped eating. I decided to give cannabis a try before having her put down. I gave 2 bute and a teaspoon of canna butter. Within 45 minutes she was up, walking, eating and drinking! I am now giving her just the teaspoon of cannabutter daily. I have skipped days to see if this was just coincidence. On the skipped days she is down and depressed. I draw up the melted butter and water in a syringe and give it to phoenix. Every time, within 30 minutes she is up, appears pain free, is free moving and happy. I have been using the canna butter for a month now and have never seen her move this well. She has gained weight, coat is beautiful, shes happy and walking “