How do I know if my horse likes an essential oil?

Responding to Essential Oils

Working with such an individual technique that aromatherapy provides, you will find each horse has its own way of responding to the essential oils. How they show interest or disinterest will be unique to each horse, though there are some commonalities you can look for to help you decide if your horse wants or does not want the essential oil you have selected.

Photo by Olia Gozha on

One important foundation to aromatherapy is that you must ask your recipient if they like the essential oils you are going to use. This is common both to the human and horse scented world. The theory being, if the organism is attracted to the selection, their bodies will respond in a more positive way to achieve the desired goal. If they do not like what you have selected the emotional reaction may actually block the healing you wish to achieve.

The age of the horse has to be considered. The younger the horse, you have to be discerning as to his curiosity level, anything to the young horse will be interesting, it is up to your skill and knowledge of the horse to decide what is relative for that individual horse. He may show interest in all the essential oils you offer him, yet only two may show an increase in his respiration rate. These will be the two you base your approach upon.

An older horse may simply hang his head over the bottles you offer. He may do this with every bottle and it can be difficult to determine which ones he finds more interesting. Again it may be a quickening of his breath or he may flare his nostrils a little more. He may drop his lip or lick them to help you decide on what one he will best respond to.

Generally most horses will have degrees of likes and dislikes. A positive response could include:

  • Stepping towards you, allow enough space for him to do this without being impeded.
  • Mouthing at the bottle, remember your shelf life of the essential oils is shortened dramatically when contaminated, so stay alert to be able to pull the bottle out of the horses reach.
  • Increase of breath or breath feeling heavier on your hand
  • His facial expression or eyes may soften
  • Flehmen, the best response, your horse is capturing the scent in his curled up nostril to get the most he possibly can.

Negative responses may include:

  • Turning head away.
  • Walking away from you.
  • Visibly closing nostrils.
  • If restrained, trying not to breath in the scent.

How to offer essential oils to your horse

As your interest in this topic increases so will the range of essential oils you add to your collection. With up to 200 different essential oils could be available to you, it is a good idea to get familiar with a smaller range first and then add as you knowledge grows.

When in a session with a horse, try and limit the number of bottles you offer to ten. This helps to get a true response. If you offer too many his ‘brain’ can get confused and if he gets confused he may give you confusing signals as to what will serve him best. So it is helpful if you have an knowledge of what each essential oils does so you can keep your choice to an appropriate level.

Simply uncap one bottle at a time. All you have to do is move this bottle towards his nostrils, keeping the top of it 4 to 6 inches from his nose. He will have begun to sense the aroma when you first uncapped the bottle. By giving him the six inches of space, you have offered him an invitation to inhale or withdraw so that you can get a clear response from him.

Try not to crowd in on him, allow him the space to make his decision. Be mindful of your body language, some insecure horses will look to you to see what you expect, you have to enter his space as neutral as possible, so again his response is his and not what he thinks you expect.

If you decide he likes a combination and you are going to blend together in to a topical application, it is polite to offer the combination in the bottles before creating your blend, and again once the blend is made offer to him to get his approval before applying to his skin.

The benefits

Once you have a good idea of each of your horses responses, then you have a tool that can offer valuable insights his personality and his general wellbeing.

The worrying horse may select juniperberry, whilst the angry horse may select roman chamomile to help you manage his tantrums. A horse with an inefficient gut utilisation may go for carrot seed, while a horse fighting a viral infection may choose eucalyptus radiata.

The most valuable aspect of using essential oils and the principles of aromatherapy with your horse is the bond it helps you build and strengthen. It increases the amount of trust there is between the two of you, and as this trust grows so does how each of you relate and understand each other.

Essential oils are meant to be fun, so as you uncap each bottle next time you play with your horse, do just that. Play and enjoy the experience.

If you want to learn more – see the Equine Aromatherapy Course page

Catherine Bird


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