I don’t know why it took me so long to discover essential oils, but they’re quickly becoming one of my new favorite remedies for just about anything. (My personal favorite so far is Tea Tree Oil, which I use on skin breakouts–much better than store-bought creams!) I’m slowly building my essential oil reserve as I learn about more and more uses for them. I recently interviewed Equine Massage Therapist, Lisa Carter, who is a big fan of using essential oils, and that gave me the idea to write a post on essential oil uses for horses.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are natural compounds derived from seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. These oils give plants their distinctive smells, help protect the plant against predators and disease, and aid in pollination.
Essential oils have been used in medicine, beauty/ hygiene, food preparation, and religious ceremonies for thousands of years in many different cultures. It seems they are just now being rediscovered by many of us Westerners, though. Today, essential oils are used for massage, alternative medical therapies, beauty applications, and well-being. Their uses are many.
Essential Oil Application
Essential oils are typically used in three methods:
- Topically–Since essential oils are immediately absorbed by the skin and into the bloodstream, they produce fast-acting results. They are commonly used in massage for their restorative and calming effects. They are also natural disinfectants which help heal skin conditions and wounds.
- Aromatically–Inhaling essential oil is often used for soothing or other emotional issues.
- Internally–Some essential oils are used in dietary supplements to maintain well-being or promote healing of specific conditions. While many essential oils are safe to ingest, some aren’t. Never ingest an essential oil without advice from a trained professional.
Safety Tips for Essential Oils
Even though essential oils are all-natural, there are some safety tips we should follow when using them for ourselves, our horses, or other pets:
- Purchase only 100% therapeutic-grade essential oils and follow directions on the label.
- Essential oils are usually used diluted with carrier oils, such as coconut, olive, sunflower, or vegetable oil for topical applications. They may cause redness or irritation if used on the skin undiluted.
- They should not be used in the eye (duh!) or ear canal.
- Do not ingest (eat/ drink) essential oils, unless you have consulted professional advice.
- Discontinue using an oil if you or your horse has a reaction (skin, respiratory, stomach.)
- Consult a physician or professional trained in essential oil use if you or the animal is pregnant. (Like acupressure, essential oils can be deceptively potent!)
Essential Oil Uses for Horses
Essential oils can be used for numerous equine conditions. For physical issues, you can dab the oil directly on the affected location. For respiratory issues, dab on the chest and then let the horse inhale the oil. For emotional issues, let them inhale the oil and you can dab it on their forehead or poll. Here are some specific conditions and essential oils which can help to remedy them.
*Note: If a horse turns his head away from an essential oil when you let him sniff it, he is showing you that he doesn’t prefer that oil.
Rain Rot: Tea tree, Lemongrass, Geranium essential oils.
Thrush: Thieves, Tea Tree, Thyme, essential oils. You can place undiluted oils directly on the frog for severe cases, or soak cotton balls and tape them on or put on a hoof boot for 24 hours.
Abscesses: Tea Tree, Oregano, Thieves, Lavender essential oils. Make a foot soak using selected oils, Epsom salt and warm water. Soak for at least 20 minutes to encourage the abscess to open and drain.
Sheath Cleaning: Thieves, Myrrh, and Rosemary essential oils. Add a few drops of Thieves oil to KY jelly or a mild cleanser. Then add 1/2 gallon of water to clean the inside of the sheath. (Thieves oil is also recommended for swelling in the sheath.) To clean the outer part of the sheath, add about 5 drops of Myrrh and Rosemary oil to pure grade vegetable oil.
There are also several essential oils that repel biting insects–see this post for homemade fly spray recipes that use essential oils.
Important Note: Always consult your veterinarian if your horse has a serious condition. Essential oils are not meant to be a substitute for responsible veterinary care.
Sources: (for more information about essential oil uses for horses, check these out)