essential oils

These essential oil for emotional and physical healing can help your horse on the road to recovery!

Essential oils are a wonderful tool for rehabilitation work. They act on the emotional and physical levels at the same time. You can use them to relieve pain, release trauma, and reduce the stress of medical intervention and stable rest. And because you don’t need to make physical contact when working with essential oils, you can use them to build trust with unapproachable horses.

Shortcut to Trust

In 1997, I was helping people solve problems with their horses. Often, it was just a matter of explaining horse language and teaching people to “speak horse”. However, some horses were traumatized by accidents or past treatment, and had no wish to talk to humans at all. With these horses, it could take weeks or months of patient work until they were ready to give people another chance. But then I was introduced to essential oils!

The first time I offered essential oils to a horse, he transformed in front of my eyes. He had been injured in transit from his first home to a training stable. After a month of box rest and unsympathetic treatment, he was labelled crazy. Now, three years later, I was his last chance.

When I met him he was spinning around his stable, sticking his head out each time he passed the door, but never standing still. In the space of ten minutes, just by inhaling Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) from an open bottle, taking a whiff each time he spun past, he became calm and relaxed.

As he stood with his head dropped over the stable door, eyes half closed, I could see him reconnect with his body. Then he sighed, looked me quietly in the eyes, and recognized me as someone who was there to listen to him. This was not the end of his rehab, but it was a great beginning – the usual weeks of building trust had been reduced to minutes.

This powerful experience inspired me to train in essential oils for animals. Since then, I have seen hundreds of horses heal from trauma, abuse and accident with the help of essential oils. I will share some stories, but first a little about the method I use (and recommend), as it is the key to this transformation.

The Benefits of Self-Selection

Every animal seeks to keep his body in a healthy balance (homeostasis). In the wild, animals will seek out medicinal herbs to correct any imbalance or invasion of pathogens. Scientifically, this is known as zoopharmacognosy. With domestic animals, we apply this instinctive mechanism and offer a selection of essential oils so they can choose what they want.

One of the great benefits of this method is that it tells the horse you are respecting his choices and recognizing his right as a self-determining being. This is the first step to building a full relationship with him, and a strong trigger for the healing process.

Olfaction, the Direct Route to the Brain

Essential oils are the fragrant parts of plants – they are designed to interact with the world around them by scent. Intuitively (and biologically), it makes sense that inhaling an essential oil is a powerful and effective way to use it. Even when a horse licks the oil, it is mostly absorbed through the olfactory system (part of which is in the back of the mouth) – very little makes it into the digestive system.

The olfactory system offers the most direct route to the brain. Essential oils are volatile and evaporate quickly. When you open a bottle near a horse, the oils have an immediate effect on his physical and mental well-being.

How to Choose Essential Oils for Your Horse

• Make a short list of four or five essential oils that suit the problem and your horse’s character and history.

• Hold the open bottle in your hand about two feet away from your horse, so he has space to move towards you, and let him smell each oil briefly.

• Observe which oil(s) your horse smells most.

• Separately dilute each of the oils he selected – three to five drops in 5 ml (1 tsp) of cold-pressed vegetable oil (sunflower is ideal).

• Offer each essential oil separately and let your horse smell or lick it.

Painful Experiences Leave Scars

Negative experiences create mental scars (trauma) that can lead to behavioral changes after the pain has passed. Several aromatics can help clear trauma and any behavior it has triggered. Benzoin resinoid (Benzoin styrax) is one. I was asked to help a horse who had run into a barbed wire fence some years before, resulting in 34 stitches along his torso. Although he had recovered physically, anything that caused him to think about this area of his body, including being groomed or having the rider’s leg touch it, triggered an angry reaction. He bucked his rider off almost every day.

When I first stood and looked at the scar, the horse became fidgety and tried to bite his owner. I offered him benzoin. He breathed deeply, going into a slight trance. I then applied a few drops of diluted benzoin to my hands and very lightly ran them several times along the scar.

The horse released his breath, then touched the scar with his nose. From then on, it was as if there had never been a problem, and he stopped bucking. Not all cases resolve this easily, but it is quite common to clear behaviors arising from a traumatic incident in one or two sessions of inhaling essential oils.

Prolonged Pain Can Be Traumatic

A huge percentage of horses that come to me with problematic behaviors are in pain. One race horse was very shut down, reared over backwards when pushed, and had soft crumbly feet that couldn’t hold a shoe. His muscle patterns suggested he had an ulcer.

For the first few weeks he was with me, he was given an herbal ulcer treatment, and turned out barefoot with some friends. The only human interaction we had was when I offered him essential oils.

He licked a little diluted carrot seed (Daucus carota) daily for a week. Carrot seed repairs cells, particularly smooth muscle (digestive system), stimulates healthy hoof growth, and relieves feelings of abandonment or failure. He also inhaled undiluted yarrow (Achillea millefolium) for three days. Yarrow is anti-inflammatory and releases past trauma.

After five weeks, I invited him into the arena with me – he was happy to start gymnastic exercises, and went on to be happily re-homed.

Essential oils offer a wide range of actions that can heal on many levels. When you offer them for self selection, you increase their healing power. Sharing this healing space together is uplifting for both you and your horse. After a few days, this horse started to seek me out when I appeared in the field. Slowly, the pain wrinkles around his eyes relaxed and his musculature improved.

Top 5 Rehab Essential Oils

1. Angelica root (Angelica archangelica): Opens to healing, liver stimulant, immune stimulant, steadies heart, balances pancreatic function, reconnects you with inner security after traumatic experiences.

2. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Antiinflammatory, anti-allergenic, releases trauma from accident or abuse.

3. Carrot seed (Daucus carota): Repairs damaged cells, increases self-esteem, good for any animal who has been starved of food or attention.

4. Lemon (Citrus limon): Immune stimulant, focuses the mind, helps increase trust in self and others.

5. Violet Leaf absolute (Viola odorata): Analgesic, heart soother, helps build trust and reduces suspicious behavior, good for those who have become over-reactive or bad tempered due to chronic pain.

Nayana Morag is one of the world’s foremost experts in the use of essential oils and aromatic extracts for animals and author of the book, Essential Oils for Animals: Your complete guide to using aromatherapy for natural animal health and management. She has developed a system of animal wellness called Animal PsychAromatica, which uses essential oils, TCM and the reduction of stress through natural management to create true well-being.