I think these are great questions!
I don't have answers to all, but here are some passing thoughts...
1. I use a mineral/vitamin supplement with my guys so they're always getting base levels of stuff (I use Platinum Performance). Kind of like taking a multi-vitamin every day. So -- I'm with you on using granules as a manageable daily practice. The kind I use was developed by vets not too far from me and they did a LOT of research into nutrition -- I figure they know more than me about this, and as a result I don't have to worry about daily recommended amounts.
2. I add herbs to their feed when I think they could use it -- like you, I'm inclined to add more when there is need, rather than baseline with it all the time. And I go though cycles as a good horsey mom -- for a while I'll be really diligent about making sure that they've got every little thing they might need and then I'll get busy/distracted and not fret so terribly much. So sometimes I'm just too lazy to think about lots of extra herbs in an ongoing way!
(And, I've discovered, after a point all of my fussing doesn't seem to make that much of a difference...)
3. When I use herbs, I feed them either fresh picked, if they grow on the ranch (or free choice when we're wandering and grazing by hand) or dried -- I don't bother with making teas. I figure that's not how they'd get the herb in the wild (am having a lovely image of a herd of horses sitting down to a pot of chamomile tea, though...
) and see above for laziness confession. Dried or fresh topping their feed seems to work just fine.
4. As to your question about when to harvest -- my understanding is that herbs begin to lose potency when they flower, generally. But I'm not too hung up about it when it's stuff we're finding green on the ranch -- I figure it will work in whatever condition it presents itself.
I actually have bought dried nettle at this point (we have it growing on the ranch but I was...wait for it...too lazy to keep cutting it and letting it wilt
...and, more legitimately, wasn't sure how long it would last in California summers when everything fries to a crisp). The stuff I bought was wildcrafted and cut before flowering. Also -- the stuff I've bought isn't ground; it's in bits and pieces -- full flowers for the chamomile, for example, and chopped bits for nettle, meadowsweet, etc. Good question about the plastic vs. glass jars -- I don't know the answer -- I've used glass jars because I love the look at home and have all of the herbs at the ranch either in plastic or in the foil bags they were shipped in. As much as I love the clear glass I use at home, I'm not actually sure if that might shorten the life of the herb -- I've always wondered if sunlight would be likely to cut into its potency...don't really know, though...
Hope some of my babblings are a little helpful, at least! For me, this is one of those places where lots of reading and then my own intuition seem to be a good combination...
Okay, on to other topics...now I need everyone else's help!
My beautiful Circe girl has two owies going at the moment:
1. She has rubbed her mane out completely to bare neck in the middle.
She was rubbing a little before I left town, but has obviously been at it big time in my absence. So, I figure she's itching. I'm going to start feeding her nettle and chamomile again today and adding some milk thistle extract to top her feed (so, Heather, I'm not totally consistent in my herbal applications -- but I ended up buying milk thistle in extract form rather than dried form). Anyone else have any other suggestions about what might help with this?
2. She kicked out and has a swollen capped hock.
I've got the vet coming today and will be using magnetic hock boots on her, but was looking around at herbal options as well....any thoughts?
"Ours is the portal of hope. Come as you are." -- Rumi www.imaginalinstitute.com