I began using essential oils with Jasper back in 2008 & in that time I have become more & more interested in their use & phenomenal ability to heal both emotional & physical ailments. Jasper was a huge fan, as have been Bear and Charlie.
Dena Schwartz has been a continued inspriation to us & her website is well worth a look, I would recommend her highly, www.animalaromatherapy.co.uk.
So lets have a little look at what essential oils are and how they might be useful to you and your horse.
Essential Oil therapy (sometimes referred to as Aromatherapy), uses essential oils derived from plants, flowers, herbs and fruits to treat various medical issues. It is one of the oldest forms of healing & preventative treatment, thought to date back as far as the ancient egyptians. Much of this knowledge was lost through the following centuries, although in the early part of the 20th century it saw a resurgence of popularity.
Essential oils have strong scents that vary from floral to more herbal or earthy tones. The oils are offered either through inhalation or through direct skin absorption. The oils work to stimulate & support the bodies own healing abilities, rather then taking over.
You may well have used them on yourself, a particularly common scent is lavender which is often used to relax the mind & aid restful sleep in people.
Horses in particular are very susceptible to scents, more so probably then people,
when a horse sniffs an interesting smell, taking a deep breath & raising his upper lip (known as flehman) he is actually closing the nasal passage so that he can isolate & investigate the smell in more detail.
Essential oils are inhaled through the lungs where the fumes cross over into the bloodstream & are carried throughout the body.
How To Offer to Horses:
Horses will usually be offered a choice of oils & allowed to make their own selections. Their reactions are generally quite clear & it is important to remember never to force a scent onto your horse if he has not clearly selected it. Your horse may show his interest or disinterest in the following ways:
Keen Interest: He may show lip curl (Flehman), he may follow the bottle with the aroma, trying to lick & nibble at it (make sure you hold on tight), it may just be that he shows a long concentrated interest in the aroma, breathing slowly & deeply.
Moderate interest: A few sniffs but not trying to lick & nibble at the scent. slight interest, ears are forward, is easily distracted by the aroma.
No interest: Turns or even tries to move/walk/back away from the aroma. His ears may be back, he has one sniff & no further interest.
Jasper is very clear when he doesn’t want something he literally forcefully pushes it away from him with the side of his muzzle, or will back away from the offensive offering. I also know sometimes he is actually keen on a scent but he stands at a slightly longer distance to it then with other scents. Over time & working with Jasper to allow him to self select his treatments I’ve learnt to read the sometime subtle shifts in his body language that show whether he is really interested or not, but the above is a good guide if you are just starting out.
When offering Japser oils I also tend to stand a little way off 1/2 a meter to a meter this allows him to still smell the scent without it being put directly under his nose but also allows him to move toward or away from it as he wants.
Some useful hints when buying oils:
Quality is essential in selecting essential oils for use, some of the products you see readily available are actually synthetic or adulterated fragrances which may not achieve the desired results & could even go as far as to cause irritation.
Price can be a useful indicator as some oils will notably be more expensive (rose, jasmine, neroli), simply because they are more labour intensive to produce then say an oil like eucalyptus.
It is also important that you are aware of the botanical (latin) name of the oil you require as there may be several oils of the same name, which is the case for both sandalwood & eucalyptus, the respective properties of these similar plants can vary considerably.
An authentic oil is likely to be clearly labelled with the botanical name, part of the plant used, country of origin, extraction process & a batch number.
Caroline Ingraham has a selection on her site www.ingraham.co.uk. I have also had oils from Natura Products Ltd www.naturaproducts.ltd.uk, who have a great range of both oils & herbs on there site & Neals Yard Remedies www.nealsyardremedies.com which is more people orientated. Recently I have used a site called oils for life www.oils4life.co.uk which is a small family run business based in the UK who only supply 100% pure essential oils, but try & offer affordable prices, I was very impressed by there excellent services & the oils do appear to be of good quality.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER:
Caution must be taken as Essential oils are incredibly potent, a little really does go a long way. They are far stronger in their action then the plants they are derived from, so they must be handled with care & used in the correct dilutions. Very rarely should you ever use them undiluted, it is really advisable to seek the help of a qualified practitioner to guide you with both selection & dosage.
It is also advisable to avoid using essential oils on your horse close to competition (some oils may take as long as a week to leave your horses system) if you are competing in a sport regulated with a list of prohibited substances.
There are some very good books on the market if you want to know more, Caroline Ingraham’s books are fabulous & relate the oils & there uses directly to animals, Catherine Birds book “A Healthy Horse the natural way” also has a useful chapter explaining the uses of some of the more common & useful oils. I also enjoyed the book published by Neals Yard (a British company) written by Susan Curtis, which gives you some ideas how you can enjoy some of the benefits not just your horses!!
For More Information, click on the picture below to read other articles and blogs that we have written about essential oils and their applications…