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In addition to trees and shrubs, there are of course many other plants that can enrich the botanical diversity around the stable yard, enhance the horses’ diet and provide important secondary plant substances. Planting the open stable with various climbing plants, shrubs and herbs is a good idea. When selecting plants, it is important to ensure that they are non-toxic for the horses.

Nasturtium in front of a stable wall
Nasturtiums not only look great, they are also suitable for human consumption. Its flowers and leaves can spice up salads both in terms of appearance and flavour. © AdobeStock / SanLyn

Climbing plants

It is therefore a good idea to plant the shelter with climbing plants. Not only do they beautify the bare walls, but the vegetation also ensures a cooler indoor area in summer so that the shelter gets more use by the horses on hot days.
Care should be taken to only use plants that are compatible with the horses and cannot destroy the structure of the building with their roots, so ivy, for example, is out of the question.
Knotweed is a good option here: it grows quickly and usually forms a dense network over the roof of the building within one to two years, which has a cooling effect on the inside of the Shelter or Stable. It would require an assisting climbing grid mounted to the wall. It should also be planted in such a way that the horses can only nibble at the sprawling vines, but not eat the plant down to the root. Other fast-growing climbing plants such as hops, jiaogulan (lady’s ginseng) or nasturtium with its strikingly bright flowers are suitable around the stable yard. They can all cover unsightly walls and provide a cooler climate in the inside of stables and shelters. These climbing plants should always be planted in such a way that the plant itself is protected from being completely eaten down by the horses, instead the horses should have controlled access to nibble on the sprawling vines without damaging the plant.

Wild perennials and herbs

Wild perennials and herbaceous plants are ideal for planting at the edge of the paddock or grazing fields outside the fence. Walkways can be designed in such a way that the wooden fence is protected between large stones reaching far into the centre of the paddock, wild shrubs and herbs can contribute to a structured living environment. Individual beds in corners can be set up and planted in the paddock or on the track system, which helps to prevent low-ranking horses from being pushed into corners and getting themselves into a position where they find themselves suddenly trapped and struggle to get away safely.
Herbs can also be planted in raised beds in and around the outdoor living space, provided that the plants are protected from browsing by a grid so that the horses can only eat the part that grows through the grid, so ensure sufficient regrowth. Raised beds can also be integrated into the design to add structure and enhance the visual appearance.
So-called ‘herb patches’ can also be integrated in the paddock or track system. These are best fenced off to allow a few square meters to grow and mature without interference from the horses. Initially, this will mainly benefit bees, bumblebees and other insects, but over time these herbs will also sprout in other parts of the field, accessible as healthy snacks for the horses, if sufficient time has been given to flower and seed. It is important to protect the plants, from being eaten down or trampled on, until they have matured, so they can sow their seeds across the desired meadows.

Planting offers many advantages

You don’t have to be a landscape designer, with a little creativity and foresighted planning, you can make a big contribution to biodiversity with relatively little effort and of course provide the horse with something to do and a more varied diet. Flowering and green plants are a beautiful sight and provide a far happier environment then one that just consists of bare sand and gravel. Planting also helps to provide shade and lower temperatures, which is particularly beneficial for horses on hot midsummer days.

Heather is said to have various healing properties, which is why it is often used in naturopathy. It is also very pretty to look at and provides food for bees during its flowering period in autumn before their hibernation. © AdobeStock / Karim

Suitable perennial and herbaceous plants

Here is a brief overview of perennials and herbs that are suitable for horse yards:
Marigold (Calendula officinalis/arvensis): has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and mucous membranes, aids digestion.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare): antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antitussive, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, digestive.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis): expectorant, for dry cough, pharyngitis, gastritis.
Verbena (Verbena officinalis): stimulating for kidneys & liver, chronic respiratory diseases, strengthening effect on the nervous system, antispasmodic.
Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia): anthelmintic, anti-bloating, soil conditioner for other plants.
Heather (Erica): for skin diseases, blood purifying and diuretic.
Chamomile (Matricaria discoidea): digestive, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, analgesic, soothes the stomach, for colic, promotes wound healing.
Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus): anti-inflammatory, digestive.
Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare): for irritated mucous membranes, coughs, stomach complaints.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): antispasmodic and calming.
Mint (Mentha): antispasmodic for respiratory diseases and digestive complaints.
Mallow (Malva moschata): Protects mucous membranes, gastritis, dry cough.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): aids digestion, stimulates appetite, relieves cramps, diuretic, stimulates circulation.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): has a positive effect on the respiratory organs, is antispasmodic, expectorant, disinfectant, bactericidal and fungicidal, has a positive effect on the gastrointestinal tract.
Chicory (Cichorium intybus): Detoxifying, anti-inflammatory.
Meadow sage (Salvia pratensis): has an anti-inflammatory effect on the mucous membranes, soothing, antibacterial, for respiratory diseases and gastrointestinal problems, inflammation of the mouth.
Wild carrot (Daucus carota): Diarrhoea, mild kidney problems.
Widow flower (Knautia arvensis): diuretic, for oedema, blood purifying, expectorant, metabolism stimulating.
Many plants whose positive properties are well known often grow by themselves if you let them, such as milk thistle, stinging nettle, goutweed, ribwort or mugwort.

You can find out which trees and shrubs are suitable for planting in around the stable and yard HERE.

Team Sanoanimal