Essential Oils for Horses
Essential Oils and Why you Should Consider them for Horses
Essential oils have been used for horses for decades. As a teenager hanging around the stables after my riding lesson, I can recall a vet telling my riding instructor to use a combination of essential oils in place of her normal fly spray because something in that spray was irritating a particular horse. Of course, at that age I didn't really know what he was talking about and I was more interested in how to jump properly than what products were best for the horses I rode.
Some years later, when I finally had my own horse, I began educating myself in the area of using essential oils for horses and now these remarkable substances are a key part of my horse's care. Before I get into the finer details, here's a brief description of exactly what essential oils are and where they come from. Essential oils are extracts from the leaves, seeds, bark, resin, roots and flowers of certain plants.
While extraction methods do vary, the most common is steam distillation. Essential oils are fragrant and can have a variety of powerful effects on humans and animals. As you would expect, every oil his different. Some are anti-inflammatory, some calming, some stimulate, some useful in repelling insects.
Typically you'll find oils blended together with so-called carrier oils, such as coconut oil, which helps penetration through the skin. Once absorbed, through the horse's skin, or through inhalation (if using a diffuser or spray), the nervous system reacts by creating physical and emotional responses.
The Best Essential Oils for HorsesHorses are vulnerable to a variety of ailments - both physical and emotional. While essential oils won't necessarily be appropriate for each and every health issue, they are many areas that they can help with. these include:
- Sore Muscles (Peppermint, Lemon, Rosemary)
- Overheating (Peppermint, Rosemary)
- Hoof Maintenance (Tea Tree, Lavender)
- Abscesses (Oregano, Lavender, Tea Tree)
- Anxiety & Nervousness (Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Vetiver, Violet Leaf))
- Rain Rot/Rain Scald (Tea Tree, Chamomile, Patchouli, Lavender)
- Sweet itch (Chamomile, Mugwort, Ylang Ylang, Geranium)
- Thrush/Foot infections (Tea Tree, Thyme, Manuka, Eucalyptus)
- Sarcoids and Warts (Lavender, Tea Tree, Bergamot, Carrot seed, Frankincense)
- Mud Fever (Manuka, Chamomile, Thyme, Lavender)
- Scratches and Grazes (Tea Tree, Lavender, Yarrow)
- Hormone Balance (Clary Sage, Rose)
- Insect Repellent (Peppermint, Cedarwood, Neem Oil, Tea Tree)
Seek professional assistance for serious issues: Essential oils can have a powerful effect on your horse if used correctly but they are not a cure-all. Make sure you speak to your vet if you feel there is a serious health issue. My personal preference is for a vet who is well-versed in holistic as well as standard methods of equine care.
When it Comes to Essential Oils for Horses, Purity Matters
Not all essential oils are created equal. For example, some manufacturers of the most popular oils (such as French Lavender, which is used extensively by the cosmetics industry) use extraction methods and dilution that produces large quantities of low-quality oil. Even worse, some have even been use artificial scent to disguise poor quality oils.
For perfume, oil purity isn't a big deal but when you are using essential oils for your horses, other animals or yourself!, then quality is critical. Make sure that you purchase essential oils or blends of therapeutic-grade quality.
If in doubt, ask the company you are looking to buy from. I've been through this process myself, when I was founding Unleashed Oils. It took weeks to get the answers I wanted from different suppliers. However, it was worth the effort to ensure we had access to the right quality oils.
Using Essential Oils with Horses
When NOT to use essential oils with your horse. As a general rule, I would not recommend using essential oils on pregnant mares or very young foals. For older foals, it's important to get the dilution correct because you do not want to overwork their liver and kidneys.
Concentration and Dilution. Our blends of essential oils for horses include carrier oils (such as coconut oil and aloe vera) and hydrosols (essential oils mixed with purified water) to increase absorption but also to ensure dilution. If you are planning on using individual oils or making your own blends then do your research on how to correctly dilute. For the application method - it's going to vary depending on your goal.
For example, with fly repellent you simply spray your horse's coat, making sure to avoid sensitive areas like eyes, mouth, inside of the ears and genital areas (when applying near those areas, apply to a cloth and rub gently). For a calming effect, you might use a diffuser or a fine spray for inhalation.. For formulations such as wound gel and special anti-inflammatory blends you would apply directly to the problem area.
Next Steps If you're looking for detailed information about essential oils for horses, a good place to start is Aromatherapy for Horses, by Caroline Ingraham. If you're looking for some ready-made, high-quality blends for a specific purpose, then be sure to check out our store or, if it's something we don't make, ask us about it on Facebook or Twitter and we may be able to give you some advice on where to look.