• Jan Baker

Can I use essential oils with horses?

The simple answer to this is yes.

Of course, it's more complicated than picking an oil and just using it.

Horses have a well-developed nasal cavity and a keen sense of smell, but they don't possess the metabolic oddities of cats in terms of essential oils. It is possible, therefore, to use essential oils to treat a number of horse-related issues. Things like spooking, nervousness, skin problems, wound care, hayfever, grooming, hoof care and as an insect repellent.

Obviously, if you are using oils as a skin rinse or shampoo, quantities are going to be somewhat larger than for a cat, but the basic principle of proper dilution remains. *

One of the most common but unsettling experiences to deal with when you are handling your horse is an attack of fear or anxiety. Once the incident takes shape, emotions come into play and continue the spiral of energy that can lead you and your horse down an unpleasant path if not treated appropriately.

And whilst Aromatherapy should never be a substitute for good training methods, it will give you some helpful support when you encounter blocks or resistance to your techniques.

For horses in need of soothing:

Juniper - Relieves worries

Lavender - Soothes and nurtures - also use when a tantrum is developing!

Chamomile - Provides deep relaxation

Sweet Orange - Gives your horse a happy hug of warmth and security

Basil, Lemon & Cypress - Provides focus

Patchouli - Provides grounding

These oils are best inhaled. To do this, place a couple of drops in your hand, rub them to warm them slighly, and then hold your cupped hands under your horses's nose. If you've chosen the correct oil(s), you should see a response within minutes.

In chronic cases, it may be best to apply a properly-diluted blend to your horse's neck or chest for best results, and a qualified aromatherapist can help you with this.

Lavender or Lemongrass helps with mosquitoes. Use Thyme or Geranium for ticks, and Patchouli for midges. Frankincense can be used for wound relief and to prevent scarring.

If you want to make up an essential oil kit for your horse, these are the best oils to start with:

Basil, Bergamot, Chamomile, Eucalpytus, Frankincense, Geranium, Lavender, Lemongrass and Tea Tree. I recommend doing a little research on how these oils are helpful, so that you know when to use them for best effect - some of them I've listed above for you.

You may find that your horse turns away from the oil(s) when you offer it/them. This is not uncommon; it simply means that it's not the right oil to use. If this happens, my advice is to try a different oil. Remember, it's important to give your horse time to process the oil(s), and not to offer too many at once. Less is definitely more in this case!

NOTE: The only oil that I would actively avoid, personally, is Wintergreen. This is because of the high amount of methyl salicylate in it, which is quite toxic, and could cause a severe allergic reaction if used incorrectly.

As a side note, if you are competing with your horse, I recommend making sure that you also consult a professional before using essential oils, as the chemical composition of some of the oils do contain constituents that will test positive for some associations.

For example, The American Horse Association has listed Eucalyptus and Peppermint as prohibited. Also, any essential oil with a high camphor content, such as Rosemary, should be used with care.

You should also not use oils 24-hours before any competition - check your rules on this beforehand to be absolutely sure.

I also wouldn't recommend putting oils on your horse's halter, as it is quite intrusive for the horse. He (or she) cannot escape the scent and if they don't like it, it may cause quite a lot of unnecessary distress.

Further, don't put oils directly in a bucket of water for them to drink. I would never give a horse any oils to ingest.

Obviously, take care to avoid the ears, eyes and internal structures of the nose - oils are very powerful, and you should ideally waft the oil about 6 inches under the nose, so you can gauge the reaction.

A horse who likes the oil(s) may lean forward, widen his/her nostrils, breathe more deeply, or even do a Flehman response (curling the lip and trapping the scent in his/her nasal passages). You'll get to understand your horse's reaction to them, the more you use the oils.

As a rule of thumb though, if in doubt, always check with your vet.

Stay safe, as always

Jan x

*I do not endorse Doterra essential oils or their methods of use

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