When it comes to our animal companions, we always want what’s best for them. Horses make no exception and many people wish to enjoy great moments with them. That’s why, for many of their ailments, one could use essential oils for horses.
In this post, you’ll be learning more about:
- The way aromatic oils can help a horse feel better, physically and emotionally.
- Some of the best aroma oils to use for various situations and ailments of your horse.
- A few helpful tips to get your horse familiar to a certain aromatic essence. The horse will choose a favorite. However, it needs time to acknowledge the scent and create connections. Those connections will be between you, the scent and its mood.
- Ways to use Aromatherapy oils for horses safely.
- General safety tips to avoid unnecessary complications for you and your horse.
- An entire section of essential oil recipes for your horse’s well-being and health.
Best Essential Oils for Horses to Support Their Health & Well-Being (Tips & How to Use)
Horses are majestic animals. They’re intelligent, beautiful and very useful (in competitions, hard labor, etc.). But they are not as easy to care for as a dog or a cat.
They are large animals that need special care and attention. Even though they are massive, they’re also very sensitive. Horses can be very moody and emotional too. In other words, besides the basics (food, shelter, grooming, training, etc.), a horse needs to feel loved.
They can get scared or stressed by new activities, every day. Especially since these activities don’t usually match their instincts.
Aromatherapy has proven to be a great complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Primarily, it uses the olfactory system or sense of smell. The sense of smell of a horse is much more developed than a human’s. It is not however more developed than a cat’s or a dog’s, which are more sensitive to scents.
It is not just the horse’s sense of smell that is different than ours. Obviously, it’s also its physiology, body mass, skin and hair. Therefore, essential oils for horses must be used carefully and progressively.
How Can Essential Oils Help Horses?
The sense of smell of a horse is strongly connected to its behavior. What it eats or how it recognizes its foal, for example. These (and others) are governed by scents.
It has been noticed that horses know what plants to eat for therapeutic purposes. They seek certain plants, during certain seasons, to get what they need for a proper functioning and health.
This is the reason why Aromatherapy is so useful in horse care. Essential oils are plant extracts, very concentrated and bioactive. When the plant is alive, they’re useful in many situations.
These aromatic oils can protect it from predators or other invasive species. They can also attract pollinators and ensure the survival of their species.
The aromatic oils make the immune system of the plant. During steam distillation, we extract these oils. We then use them as potent natural medicines. Many modern medicines are based on plant constituents. For example, we have morphine from poppy seeds and aspirin from the willow tree.
Essential oils are:
- Antibacterial and antiviral,
- Anti-anxiety and stress,
Why would you want to use Aromatherapy oils for horses? There are many reasons for that. The oils can be used for:
- Digestive problems and parasites,
- Skin irritations and inflammation,
- Respiratory infections,
- Skin infections (warts, wounds, etc.),
- Wound healing and bleeding,
- Muscle pain,
- Joint pain (osteoarthritis),
- Anxiety, stress and fear,
- Sleep problems,
- Mood swings,
Skin infections in horses are caused by Staphylococcus species. They’re bacteria that live on both the animal and human skin. A study tested 9 essential oils for their antimicrobial effects. Almost all showed positive antimicrobial activity against S. xylosus.
Some of those essential oils were Cinnamon, Palmarosa and Clove. Peppermint, Oregano and Thyme were just as effective. Researchers concluded that the best oils for horse infections are Oregano and Thyme.
German researchers also tested the antibacterial effects of essential oils. Their study supports the use of essential oils in veterinary medicine. They found Tea Tree, Oregano, Lemongrass, Thyme and Winter Savory to be the most potent oils.
However, the German researchers don’t recommend generalizing the effects of these essences. Before treatment, tests must be done for each individual patient. Thus, they recommend individual testing for each essential oil to be used too.
An aromatogram is one of the best tools to find out the efficacy of an oil for a specific pathogen. It can personalize treatments with essential oils for horses, humans and any other creature.
What are some of the best essential oils for horses? The choice depends on the purpose and ailment. There are many aromatic oils that can deal with just as many ailments. The key is to know what the horse is suffering from.
It is necessary to consult a veterinarian before using any natural remedy. If they’re not used properly, essential oils can and will harm your horse.
Here are some of the best Aromatherapy oils you could use for your horse’s health:
- Tea Tree – As research suggests, Tea Tree oil is a natural antibiotic. It has strong antibacterial and antiviral effects. Tea Tree is also anti-inflammatory and pain-reliever. Rubbed onto the skin, it can warm it up.
- Frankincense – Is one of the best calming oils for horses. Frankincense essential oil can be used to soothe fear and to calm down coughing episodes. Regardless of its quality, you should not give your horse Frankincense essential oil internally. Not without talking to the vet first!
- Geranium – This essential oil for horses can help keep their morale up. Geranium can also help them in their convalescence periods.
- Thyme – An antibacterial and immune booster, Thyme essential oil can also ward off insects.
- Cinnamon – Is among the best antibacterial essential oils. Cinnamon can help the tissue regenerate and improve the blood circulation. It can also be used against mud mites and pain.
- Oregano – Is known for its strong antibiotic and antiviral properties. Oregano can improve digestion, kill parasites and even warts on horses.
- Lemongrass – Is another good antibacterial essential oil for horses. It can also be calming for some horses and uplifting for others.
- Peppermint – This essential oil is full of beneficial effects. Peppermint oil can be used as pain reliever for muscles, joints and sprains. It can also improve digestion and repel insects and bugs. Plus, it can also stimulate the nervous center.
- Palmarosa – Good antibacterial and antimicrobial. Palmarosa is anti-inflammatory and insect repellant too.
- Clove – Is another very strong calming and anesthetic-like essential oil for horses. It can kill bacteria and fungi, repel insects and relieve inflammation.
- Juniper – The oil can help with water retention and arthritis pain. Thus, it’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and diuretic. It can also stimulate the nervous system and improve the horse’s mood.
- Eucalyptus – This type of essence, especially E.radiata, can help the respiratory system of a horse. In other words, it can be used for respiratory infections. It is also antibacterial, antiviral and soothing.
- Cajeput – The oil of Cajeput is part of the Melaleuca family, which makes it related to Tea Tree. Thus, Cajeput is also a good essential oil for horses because it’s antibacterial. It can also help with respiratory problems.
- Yarrow – Not a very popular essential oil for horses, Yarrow is full of benefits. It can be used to calm down fear, dermatitis and insect bites. Being anti-inflammatory, Yarrow can also be used for urinary infections in horses.
- Neroli – An uplifting essence, useful against sadness and depression. Neroli is one of the best calming essential oils for horses and humans alike. Horses can feel these emotions after the loss of a companion or while recovering from a surgery.
- Lavender – Is soothing for the nerves and skin. It can be used for scratches, insect bites, burns, etc. Lavender is one of the best calming essential oils for horses. An experiment used Lavender essential oil to see its effects on stressed horses. It showed that the oil was able to decrease heart rate during acute stress.
- Garlic – This could be one of the best essential oils for horses. Garlic oil has immunostimulant effects. It means it can strengthen the immune system of the horse. The oil is a strong antibacterial and can also protect from parasites.
- Rose – Great for an overworked, exhausted or fearful horse.
- Roman Chamomile – This oil variety for horses is calming and anti-anxiety. It can be used for horse colic, summer dermatitis and mud mites.
- German Chamomile – The German aromatic essence is very soothing for the nervous system. It has anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, this Chamomile oil for horses can relieve skin irritation and/or inflammation.
Of course, the list can go on. It’s important to always do your research in advance, for each new oil you want to use. Check out its interactions and side effects and then consult with your vet. Tell him the chemical constituents of the oil, so he can give you the proper advice.
Here are a few quick examples of essential oils you can use for various horse problems:
- Wounds: Tea Tree, Geranium, German Chamomile, Lemon etc.
- Aches: German Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, etc.
- (Osteo) Arthritis: Juniper, Chamomile, Cajeput, etc.
- Colds: Eucalyptus, Cajeput, Peppermint, etc.
- Fear, anger, restlessness: Lavender, Frankincense, Rose, Neroli, etc.
- Essential oils used for COPD in horses: Cinnamon, Thyme, Oregano, Garlic, etc. Studies found that some of those anti-inflammatory plants have great potential. They could reduce the respiratory rate in horses with airway obstruction.
Tips to Get Your Horse Used to Essential Oils
Earlier, I was saying that horses know instinctively what herb they need to feel better. The beneficial effects of that plant are given by its essential oils.
Distilled essential oils though, are highly concentrated plant extracts. The horse will know immediately if it likes the essence or not. Here are a few tips and conditions to consider before using aroma oils on your horse(s):
- Take each new bottle of oil to the horse’s nose for approval. Look for moments when it’s calm and relaxed. It seems to know exactly what plant it needs.
- Try giving your horse new scents to smell each day, but limit this to 5 essential oils for horses/day. Give the horse 20 – 30 minutes before presenting another essence.
- Don’t force an essential oil on a horse. If it likes an essence, it’ll exhale and try to grab it or simply curl back its upper lip (flehmen behavior). Researchers from the Sussex University reveal that horses communicate with their ears. Pricking up the ears means interest, while pinned back ears means anger. Flopped down ears show that the animal is relaxed. Interest is also shown when the ears suddenly prick up. If the horse likes an oil, before application/treatment, it would be best to let it sniff it twice a day.
- Pay attention to the nostril the horse uses to inhale from the oil bottle. It is said that the left nostril is connected to the emotional part of the brain. And the right nostril is connected to the physical part.
How to Use Essential Oils for Horses
One of the most important things to remember is to never apply undiluted essential oils on a horse. They are much too concentrated and can burn, irritate or sensitize the horse’s skin. You can dilute/mix them with light or dry carrier oils.
Carriers are vegetable oils that penetrate the skin/hair fast and don’t leave a greasy residue behind. Examples: Sweet Almond, Macadamia, Rice bran, Hazelnut, etc.
Aloe Vera gel can also promote good oil absorption. Thick oils like Avocado, Borage, Wheat Germ, etc. should be avoided.
A blend of essential oils for horses should contain no more than 3 aromatic oils. They must all be “approved” by the horse, and the one it likes most to make most of the blend.
Young and very old horses and foals are usually more sensitive. Pregnant mares are also sensitive and some essential oils can induce contractions.
The dosage and frequency of application in these cases, should be approved by a doctor. As it should be with any other remedy, no matter the age or gender of the horse!
Start by mixing 2 – 6 drops of aromatic oil per Oz carrier oil. Treatment with Aromatherapy oils should not last more than 2 weeks. Talk to the vet first, to decide what dose and time are right for your horse’s condition.
Make sure he knows about the constituents that make the oil you want to use. No one horse needs the same amount and time to heal as another.
An essential oil blend for horses can be applied:
- On the forehead,
- Between the ears (poll),
- The crest,
- Stomach area,
General Safety Tips (Aromatherapy for Horses)
Aromatherapy can be a very effective way of improving a horse’s health. It is an awesome way of improving your own health too. But there are a few things one should keep in mind when using them. Especially when they’re used on animals.
- First, seek a veterinarian’s help and advice before using an essential oil for horses.
- For your horse’s safety, research well your oils and ask questions.
- Test any new oil bottle for allergic reactions. Dilute a drop and apply on the skin of the horse. If nothing happens within a day or so, it means the horse is not allergic to it.
- Avoid using essential oils on or around horses younger than 3 months old. The same goes for pregnant or nursing mares. Some oils have estrogen-like effects.
- Avoid using the same essential oil for a long period of time. It’s best to alternate between them.
- Some essences (like citruses, cinnamon, etc.) are phototoxic. This means the horse should not be exposed out in the sun after a topical application. The effects should wear off in 24 – 48 hours.
- Avoid using Aromatherapy oils around the horse’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Never inject these oils either.
- Don’t replace the horse’s medicines with essential oils without prior medical consultation.
- Can essential oils for horses be taken internally? No, they can’t, unless you’ve talked to the vet first. Avoid placing drops of oils on its forage or snacks.
- Use milk or vegetable oil to remove essential oils from eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Water can only spread them further into the sensitive membranes.
That being said, I think it’s time to get practicing. Check out these next therapeutic recipes that can be used on horses.
Essential Oil Recipes for Horse Care
Whether you have favorite brands to buy your oils from or not, there are many available options. They can be doTERRA, Young Living and any other brand you trust.
The important thing is for the oils to be 100% pure. Check out how to decide which oil is pure and which one is not.
Remember, there are no “therapeutic grades” for Aromatherapy oils. It’s just a marketing thing, so feel free to buy from whoever you feel confident. You can make a small collection of essences that your horse likes and try them for a short period of time.
Let’s see some simple blend recipes to try on your horse, when needed.
Essential Oils Recipe for Respiratory Problems in Horses
- Eucalyptus radiata essential oil: 2 drops
- Tea Tree essential oil: 2 drops
- Frankincense essential oil: 2 drops
- Carrier oil: 1 Oz (30ml)
Mix the oils together and give the blend a good shake before each use. Apply a small amount on the chest and the neck of the horse. Use gentle massage movements and make sure all the blend has been absorbed before you leave the horse alone.
You can also leave out the carrier and hold the bottle for the horse to inhale for a few minutes. Hold the bottle tight to avoid it from being taken away and perhaps ingested.
Essential Oils Recipe for the Horse’s Hooves
- Roman Chamomile essential oil: 2 drops
- Thyme essential oil: 2 drops
- Oregano/Cinnamon essential oils: 2 drops
- Sweet Almond oil: 1 Oz (30ml)
Give the blend a good shake before each use. Gently warm half of the amount and apply on a compress. Apply the compress on the damaged hoof. You can place an elastic medical band to hold the compress in place.
Change the compress 2 – 3 times a day until the wound closes off. This hooves blend can also be used for mud mites, hoof rot and other injuries.
Essential Oils Recipe for Warts on Horses
Young horses get warts on their muzzles. As they get older and develop an efficient immune system, they will not get them again.
If they do however, and those warts are placed somewhere else (in the ears for instance), you should take the animal to the vet immediately. Those can be treated with surgery.
Otherwise, you can try a simple blend. Yet, the wart virus usually goes away on its own. It takes a few months to run its course.
For this recipe, you’ll need:
- Thyme essential oil: 2 drops
- Cinnamon essential oil: 2 drops
- Oregano essential oil: 2 drops
- Olive oil: 1 Oz (30ml)
The amount of essential oils for horses can be increased, but only after you’ve talked to the vet first. Apply on the affected area a few times a day.
Essential Oils Recipe for Scratches in Horses
- Lavender essential oil: 2 drops
- Frankincense essential oil: 2 drops
- Tea Tree essential oil: 2 drops
- Carrier oil: 1 Oz (30 ml)
Give the blend a good shake and apply on the scratch. Massage it gently into the disinfected wound. You can apply a band-aid if you want to or you can leave the wound to breathe. The oxygen will speed up the scarring process.
Essential Oils Recipe for Colic in Horses
- Oregano essential oil: 4 drops
- Thyme essential oil: 4 drops
- Roman Chamomile essential oil: 4 drops
- Carrier oil: 2 Oz (60ml)
Shake the blend and apply a moderate amount on the belly of the horse. Massage it in until the blend is well absorbed. You can repeat before or after each meal of the day.
The abdominal pain (colic) should be confirmed by the vet first. Talk to him about your intention of treating the colic with essential oils for horses.
Anti-Flies Aromatherapy Spray Recipe for Horses
- Lavender essential oil: 15 drops
- Peppermint essential oil: 15 drops
- Garlic essential oil: 15 drops
- Distilled water: 17 f. Oz. (500ml)
- Spray recipient
Add the oils into the water. Even though they don’t mix, when you shake the bottle, the oil molecules will break into tiny droplets. Spray the horse’s hair with this spray recipe avoiding the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. The oils are known to repel insects such as flies, ants and other critters.
Essential Oils Recipe for Horse’s Anxiety
- Lavender essential oil: 6 drops
- Bergamot/Sweet Orange essential oil: 5 drops
- Ylang-Ylang essential oil: 5 drops
Let the horse inhale from this blend from your hand or diffuse a few drops around it. You could also infuse a cotton pad with this recipe. Place it near the horse. Make sure the horse doesn’t reach it.
If and when you diffuse essential oils around horses, make sure the place is well-ventilated. Do so for 20 minutes tops, 2 – 3 times a day only.
Horses are lovely creatures that deserve the best care possible. For that, you must keep in touch with a veterinarian to ask questions when needed. The horse also needs regular checkups.
Very important! Never try to treat your horse of something without it being confirmed by the vet first. Luckily, horses are not as sensitive as dogs or cats. This means you can use essential oils for horses without much trouble.
Has your horse ever came in contact with an Aromatherapy oil? If so, how did it react and was the treatment successful? I look forward to hearing from you.