You are here

A Fair Haired Beauty

"Whole Horse" Homeopathy Works Inside and Out

Iris moved into my barn in the summer of 2008 as a temporary boarder, and immediately, I was struck by her beauty. She was such a pretty thing, slender and graceful, with finely shaped legs. A seven-year-old overo* paint horse, Iris had blue eyes in a predominantly white face. She couldn’t have been more agreeable when I met her. But there was one thing that affected her appearance…

Eye to eye

 Painted Horse

Bucket dosing

In our barn, the buckets are never shared, so I could safely put Iris’ remedy in her bucket. Our buckets are refilled from a hose several times a day and cleaned once a week. So Iris got a more and more dilute solution for a week after the remedy was added. Since horses really mess with their water when they drink, and the pressure from the hose “shakes up” the water, this was the horse barn equivalent of what homeopaths call “potentization” successive steps of diluting and shaking used in the manufacture of homeopathic ­remedies—with each step increasing the strength of the remedy.

To eliminate any traces of a homeopathic remedy remaining in a container after use, it is recommended that containers be subjected to high temperature (e.g., boiling water). While boiling ­buckets is not possible, we thoroughly clean them and put them in the sun for several days. I have treated several animals with homeopathic remedies in this way and have not had any problems.

On the lower lid of Iris’ right eye, there was a growth that shouldn’t have been there. It was not large, perhaps 1 cm by 1/2 cm, but it was raised above the skin and noticeably darker than the surrounding lid area, brownish against her white skin. Both the mucous membrane of the eyelid and the skin directly below the eye were involved. The owner volunteered that Iris had originally had a growth on her upper lid as well, but it had been surgically removed a year or so ago, taking some of the upper eyelashes with it. The surgeon had not excised the lesion on the lower lid, probably because its removal would have left the eye unprotected. The owner had been told it was an epithelioma, a tumor originating in the epithelial tissue (skin and mucous membrane), which can be either benign or malignant.

Aside from being unsightly, the problem with an eyelid tumor in a grazing animal such as a horse is that the eyelid protects the eye from the perils of grass—sharp blades and dry, stick-like stems that might scratch an eye. In Florida, our Bahia pasture grass with long, strong stems can be particularly hard on eyes. As a tumor grows, it can prevent the eyelid from closing, which leaves the eye unprotected and dry. Eventually, even a benign tumor can lead to infection, injury, and possibly blindness. If malignant, of course, a tumor can foreshadow devastating effects.

Finding a “whole horse” remedy

Iris would be staying at our barn for a few months, and I was asked to treat her with homeopathy. According to homeopathic philosophy, everything that occurs within a living organism comes from the activity of the vital force, as Samuel Hahnemann, homeopathy’s founder, explains in his book The Organon of Medicine. Like all symptoms, tumors express a mistunement of the vital force. A skin tumor presents us with visible evidence of mistunement, and as it resolves under successful treatment, visible evidence of a return to health.
As Hahnneman states in the Organon (paragraph 189): “…no external malady…can arise, persist or even grow worse without some internal cause, without the co-operation of the whole organism…” In other words, the tumor, like all symptoms, arose from a disturbance in the deepest interior of Iris’ being. Hence I knew that Iris would benefit from a “whole horse” remedy. If I could follow the clues to identify a remedy that addressed Iris as a whole, it would “tune” her vital force and thereby resolve the tumor.

Homeopaths select a remedy based on unique and individualizing aspects of the patient’s symptoms, but I could find nothing remarkable about the tumor itself to point to a particular remedy. Iris also appeared healthy in all other ways, so I had no other physical symptoms to guide me. I would have to learn all about Iris—her habits, her personality, her likes and dislikes, etc.—to find a remedy to strengthen her as a whole.

I had many questions to investigate. What was Iris’ behavior within the herd when she was pastured with a group of horses at her last home? What was her behavior when being ridden? What else did the owner have to tell me about her? The answers gave me the information to identify the correct remedy for Iris.

Bossy, spooky, & sunburned

I learned that Iris was a bossy mare in the field with other horses—she would bite or kick to “get her way.” She was always alert and scanning her environment as if looking for the next surprise. In her stall, she was “spooky,” startling noticeably, especially at strange or loud noises around the barn.

Paradoxically, while being ridden, Iris was known for her obedience. She was of average friendliness to people and expressed periodic interest in the barn “goings on” by sticking her head out of her stall door to investigate. She was very sensitive to the sun, and her pink nose was always peeling from sunburn even though she only went out to pasture early and late in the day when the sun was low. No further history was available, as is often the case when horses have changed hands.

Paint horses have various color presentations, but all have sizable areas of white hair over unpigmented (pink) skin. Paint horses may be prone to sunburn on the white parts, especially if the white is on the face and nose as Iris’ was. The human equivalent would be a very fair-skinned person. Horses in Florida are exposed to a lot of sun, so Iris’ coloring made her vulnerable.

Since Iris’ coloring seemed to be a contributing factor, I thought of vitiligo, a human disorder characterized by pigment loss that produces milky-white patches (depigmentation) on the skin. It is associated with autoimmune diseases, and the white areas are sun sensitive. Along with this, I chose the following repertory rubrics (listings of symptoms and the homeopathic remedies known to address them) to analyze her case. I generated this chart using MacRepertory software:

Fair Horse Chart

After consulting my materia medica books to review the top-ranked remedies in the chart, I chose the homeopathic remedy Lycopodium. This remedy has an affinity for the skin and has been known to be successful in carcinoma. Iris’ tumor was on the right side, as are many symptoms that Lycopodium addresses. In addition, this remedy fit her apprehensiveness and the surprising fact that, though Iris started at noises, she was not bothered by thunderstorms. People who respond well to Lycopodium are reassured to know there is someone in the house with them; the horse world’s equivalent would be living in a barn, where Iris was very content. Individuals who benefit from Lycopodium are known for bullying, domineering behavior to family and those with less authority (the other horses in the field), and obsequiousness to superiors (the rider), so Iris’ social behaviors pointed to this remedy as well.

Although Natrum carbonicum was a close second remedy, Iris did not demonstrate the mild kindness so characteristic of those who need Natrum carbonicum. She was too bossy with other horses! 

I put Lycopodium 30c in Iris’ water bucket.

Watching the tumor change

The next day, the tumor became redder and appeared larger. The eye began to weep. I interpreted this as a good sign, since this activity in the area of the tumor showed that Iris was responding to the remedy and that improvement would likely follow. Iris’ eye wept for two weeks. During this time, the tumor resumed its previous color. Remarkably, despite the earlier surgery there, Iris’ eyelashes started to grow back on her upper lid.

In three weeks’ time, the remedy response seemed to have stopped. I put Lycopodium 30c in Iris’ water again. On the third day, the eye started to tear and the tumor became red again. Over the next few days, the tumor started to decrease in size and became flatter. The area where it had been was replaced with normal skin.

Three weeks later, it seemed that the reaction had ceased again, so I put another dose in her water. Over the next three weeks, the tumor continued to flatten and reduce in size, while more and more normal skin appeared where the edges of the tumor had been.

In another three weeks, when the reaction had ceased again, I gave Iris a dose of Lycopodium 200c as she would soon be moving on to another barn. My hope was that this higher potency remedy would work longer and complete the cure even without further doses. During the time that remained for me to observe her, the affected area continued to get smaller and was now flesh-colored. Iris also became noticeably friendlier in the barn, having her head out of the stall door more often. This change in her behavior confirmed for me that the Lycopodium was not just reducing the tumor but helping Iris overall, as she was feeling more comfortable and secure. Iris left for another home two weeks later.

Seven months after this, I found Iris again and observed that the growth on her eye was completely gone. And as one more indication of how much stronger she was now, Iris was out in the field in the sun and was not suffering from sunburn on her nose!


This case was a thrill for me as there is no other treatment that would have eliminated this tumor except more surgery, which might well have caused further problems. Even better was helping this animal with a rapid and gentle cure of an affliction that had developed over a long time. It was a real experience in resonance: the correct homeopathic remedy will “work,” even in relatively low potency and even on a one-thousand-pound horse!

*Overo is a color pattern in the American Paint Horse breed, with a light-colored face and irregular, scattered body markings.

About The Author

Polly Millet, MSN, ARNPPolly Millet, MSN, ARNP, began her study of homeopathy in 2002 with the Lake County (FL) Study Group, affiliated with the National Center for Homeopathy. She got “hooked” on homeo­pathy and is now about to ­graduate from the four-year practitioner training program at the Florida Academy of Classical Homeopathy. Having served for three decades as a ­professor of nursing, Polly teaches Human Health Sciences at the Academy.