Essential Oils for Horses

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

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:

  1. Purchase only 100% therapeutic-grade essential oils and follow directions on the label.
  2. 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.
  3. They should not be used in the eye (duh!) or ear canal.
  4. Do not ingest (eat/ drink) essential oils, unless you have consulted professional advice.
  5. Discontinue using an oil if you or your horse has a reaction (skin, respiratory, stomach.)
  6. 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.

Nervousness/ Anxiety: Valerian and Lavender essential oils.

Hormone Imbalance (Mare issues): Clary Sage and Geranium essential oils.

Muscle Spasms: Basil, Lavender, Marjoram essential oils.

Sore/ Overused Muscles: Eucalyptus, Balsam Fir, Lavender essential oils.

Scratches/ Greasy Heal: Tea Tree, Lemongrass, Myrtle, Lavender essential oils.

Rain Rot: Tea tree, Lemongrass, Geranium essential oils.

Sarcoids: Thieves, Tea Tree, Oregano 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)

Experience Essential

doTerra: An Intro to Essential Oils

How to Use Essential Oils for Horses





Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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31 Responses

  1. Hilda Luke says:

    hi, my horse has skin problems, during weather changes or in summer times, his skin gets very itchy, so he rubs on the stable walls etc which makes his face and neck area around mane, patches of skin with no hair, our instructor has advised us to use tea tree oil mixed with grape seed base oil and put on his troubled skin areas. can you please advise the portion of tea tree oil to mix with the base oil, say if i want to make 100ml of the base oil, how much tea tree oil should i put in.
    thanks very much.

  2. Rosemary Kehoe says:

    Looking for an oil(s) that will relieve hives in a horse – he is allergic to several grasses and carrots – they have changed his feed, he had straw instead of shavings – everything that could be done has been done, any advice?

  3. sally says:

    Hi Rosemary, We were both exhibiting at the British Eventing Show in Ardingly in March. I had mobile field shelters and stables and you (or maybe it was your Dad) had your lovely products. Apart from buying some beautifully scented shampoos etc I also bought some Equioil-Treats from your stand which my horses love. Where can I buy some more please?
    Many thanks, Sally

  4. Kim Gray says:

    I was wondering if you had something to suggest for Cushings. I have two with the disease and they have been on Prascend for a few months. They are doing much better, but I was hoping once the tumor shrinks and their symptomology is gone not to keep them on pills the rest of their lives. Is there an oil that would be good for maintaining the pituitary? My vet said he isn’t opposed to trying something different than the pills. Thank you.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Kim,

      I don’t know of any specific oils to use for Cushing’s horses, but I do know that having a variety of oils and letting horses self-select which oils they’d like to ‘smell’ or have applied is usually the best way to use oils. They will let you know if they want the oil or not. But I do have another suggestion for your horse if you haven’t already looked into it–chaste berry. Here is more information: Good luck!

  5. missy says:

    Hi, I have a mare that traveled alot, came from kill pen and coliced twice, vet was called all looked ok after banamine and he did an internal exam and evertyhing looked good but colic re-occured in 2 weeks and then ulcer symptoms. She was treated a month with gastrogard and now in u-gard and tract guard through smart pak. She also has aloe Vera on daily and flax seed. Now we feel its hind gut ulcers. Whats your reccomendation for a oil to heal her and what would be your recommendation for amount and applications? Thanks in advance

    • Casie says:

      Hi Missy,

      I would recommend lavender, peppermint, and ginger for aromatherapy. These are all soothing to the digestive system. Have you looked into giving her a good probiotic? That might help as well.

  6. Carol McClure says:

    My 26 year old gelding is having a lot of stiffness in his hind end area! He’s not walking much because of it. Which oils would help him? I am a doTerra rep and have oils available to me!

    • Casie says:

      Hi Carol–I recommend checking out this article. I immediately thought of peppermint, but the article offers several other suggestions as well. Also, I would highly recommend looking into feeding turmeric to your gelding. Good luck!

  7. Mimi says:

    Great info

  8. Heather says:

    If a horse shows no adverse response to an oil, can it be used ? For example the use of tea tree or lavender for use of sores or overused muscles. When we introduced the oil (lavender) to our mare she did not respond badly, she smelled it and returned to eating.

  9. Kathy says:

    Hi, I volunteer at a horse rescue and a few of our horses there have summer itch from the fly bites!! I was told to use peppermint to put on the horse’s to keep the flies away! I was told this works better than the fly sprays that just don’t do the job! What do you suggest? It is starting to get warm in Arizona and want to get this problem under control before it gets out of hand! Thank you for your advice!!!

  10. kirsty says:

    hi, my horse is very itchy is there anything temporarily I can put on him? we are changing his diet as much as we can until we get stables as he doesn’t react well with grass. His digestive system doesn’t work that well as he is a rescue and its coming out as an itch to show that its not working properly, also the heat contributes. Do you have any suggestions like chamomile or peppermint just to sooth the itch as much as possible while we are sorting all his health problems out? Thanks in advance! 🙂

  11. Vicki Lynn says:

    Hello. I’ve read that immune supporting oils can help horses with strangles.. but do you know which ones would be most beneficial for relieving strangles? Thank you. Vicki Lynn

    • Casie says:

      Hi Vicki, I’ve not dealt with strangles, but I would suggest lavender, any of the citrus oils (lemon, orange, etc.), and maybe peppermint.

      • Cindy says:

        Casie, I’m trying to find out how to make (ratio) an immune boost (for strangles) and Thieves is highly regarded for immune boosting. How do I figure out how much to add as well as how to administer?

      • Nan says:

        Wondering about oils for horses with lung problem… upper airway is blocked….

        • Casie says:

          Hi Nan,

          I’m not sure what you mean by ‘blocked’. That sounds pretty serious and you may need a vet to check this horse out. But for horses with heaves or lung congestion, peppermint, lavender, or eucalyptus oil can be helpful.

  12. Ellin says:

    Hi I make my own infused oils which is like essential oils but made with oil and you do not distilled but can my horse digest then Im rescueing about 200 from slaughter and they will be lacking water so can I put some in the water food etc

  13. Donna says:

    Hi Casie, I was referred to your site by Jillie of One Good Thing, as I had asked her about using Lemon Essential Oil for getting dried manure out of my horse’s tail. It is still too cold here to give her a bath – it’s actually snowing like crazy right now! Anyway, the dried manure is like concrete – and any thing I have tried doesn’t help – trying to avoid having the hair break off. The mare doesn’t seem to lift her tail out of the way when she has a bowel movement – so it just kind of slides down her tail. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you. Donna

  14. Lisa says:

    Great info, I love using essential oils! A couple things to note- For moody mares, and women too! The geranium and clary sage are so great, but beware that clary sage can dry up milk in a lactating female, on the contrary, rose geranium can help to increase milk supply.
    Also if using essential oils on eventing horses, or horses used in the show ring that may be subject to drug tests, some essential oils will show up as a false positive on a drug test, so FYI, do some inquiring with the vet board/ competition board, before using them prior to an event.

  15. Debra says:

    My 5 yr old gelding has a sarcoid I have tried several things ! ( expect the exterra cream ) I prefer natural ! What would u suggest

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