'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Posts tagged ‘aroma’

Essential oils for colic

Yesterday when visiting one of my favourite properties  the morning was disturbed with the thought that another horse on a property down the road was in need of assistance. Fortunately the vet was called and knowledgeable horse people were on hand to help the owner get her horse upright and eventually releasing some good sized poops. It reminded me of this article I wrote a decade ago, the advice is still valid and hopefully you won’t ever need the information.

 

Colic

The word ‘colic’ is one most horse owners fear hearing. There are many clinical signs that can be associated with colic to give an owner an early warning. The most common include pawing repeatedly with the front foot, looking back at the flank region, curling the upper lip and arching or twisting the neck, repeatedly raising a rear leg or kicking at the abdomen, lying down, rolling from side to side, sweating, stretching out as if to urinate, kneeling, straining to defecate, distension of the abdomen, loss of appetite, and a decreased number of bowel movements.

In its strictest definition, the term “colic” means abdominal pain. Over the years, it has become a broad term for a variety of conditions that cause the horse to exhibit clinical signs of abdominal pain. Consequently, it is used to refer to conditions of widely varying etiologies and severity. To understand these etiologies, make a diagnosis, and initiate appropriate treatments, the veterinarian must first appreciate the clinically relevant aspects of the horse’s GI anatomy, the physiologic processes involved in movement of ingesta and fluid along the GI tract, and the extreme sensitivity of the horse to the deleterious effects of bacterial endotoxin that normally exists within the lumen of the intestine. Reference Merck Manual www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/21700.htm

As most horses will not exhibit all the above clinical signs, they are a reliable indicator that your horse is in pain. For your veterinarian to make a diagnosis and decide on appropriate treatment he will need to thoroughly examine your horse and consider your horse’s past history for any such episodes. Your horse may have colic because the wall of the intestines has become excessively stretched or otherwise damaged by gas, fluid or feed, excessive tension or obstruction of the bowel, twisting of the intestines, or inflammation or ulceration to all or part of the intestinal tract.

For your vet to be best able to assess your horse, have the following information ready to provide:

The history of the present colic episode and previous episodes, if any. This must be ascertained to determine if the horse has had repeated or similar problems, or if this episode is an isolated event. The responses to treatment are important information as well.

The duration of the episode(s).

The horse’s heart rate, and whether it is normal or has changed.

The colour of the oral mucosa and its speed of refill.

The severity of the pain.

Whether feces have been passed, and their quantity and characteristics.

The horse’s deworming history (schedule of treatment dates, drugs used).

The horse’s dental history (when the teeth were floated last, and whether anything was extraordinary)

Whether any changes in feed or water supply or amount have occurred.

Whether the horse was at rest or exercising when the colic episode started.

Even the colicky horse who shows little interest in anything else may show a keen interest in an essential oil.

Even the colicky horse who shows little interest in anything else may show a keen interest in an essential oil.

When using aromatherapy with a horse who has suspected colic, our aim is to help relieve his pain or stress while waiting for the vet to arrive. As you can see from the brief points extracted from the Merck Veterinary Manual, colic can have several causes and it is very important that you have your veterinarian do a thorough examination to have the best possible outcome for your horse.

Some horses can become dangerous when they are experiencing pain. They can strike out as a reaction to the pain or to annoying outside stimulus you provide while they are distracted by the pain. Because of their olfactory application, essential oils are easily implemented and of remarkable benefit while waiting for your vet.

All you have to do is waft an open bottle under your horse’s nose and let him tell you which essential oil is going to help him the most.

Essentials Oils to Offer in a Colic Situation

Roman Chamomile is very useful to let your horse inhale if he is pawing and chewing at his side; it helps with more aggressive behaviour in a horse that is in pain. It is also useful with a horse that is becoming difficult to handle while uncomfortable.

Peppermint, Fennel and Aniseed will assist a horse that has gas; the scent will assist with its dissipation. These essential oils are also digestive stimulants so in some cases can help improve the motility of the gut.

The cleansing effect of Lemongrass or Lemon may also appeal to your horse. Lemongrass particularly stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and has an affinity with smooth muscle, such as that which lines the large intestines.

If you or others at the barn are generating fear around this horse, you can use Frankincense. A few drops in a spray bottle of water with a dash of white alcohol or detergent to disperse can make it a useful spray to clear the air. This can be combined with Bergamot for its ability to clear anxiety; Bergamot is a digestive stimulant and commonly referred to for keeping in check “butterflies in the tummy”. Bergamot is also useful if your horse’s colic has been preceded by a bacterial or viral infection.

Where you suspect some of your horse’s pain may be due to spasm, you can still use Roman Chamomile, however you may also offer Basil or Marjoram to help ease discomfort. Combining these will address spasm effectively and without feeling intrusive, especially with winter time colic where the body needs warming – and for this you could make a blend in cold pressed olive oil, as it also warms the body to apply, if your horse is obliging.

One blend of essential oils I have used with success with horses that are showing early signs of colic is 2 drops of Basil, 5 drops of Bergamot and 3 drops of Lavender in a tablespoon of cold pressed vegetable oil applied to the abdomen of the horse. This blend eases discomfort and stress so the horse is more comfortable while you wait for the vet to arrive.

During winter, Ginger or Pepper essential oils can also bring warmth to the body just from their scent. As some early herbalists believed that most illness was caused by cold invading the body, these two essential oils may just be what is needed. They both target the digestive system and stimulate it into working with more ease.

When recovering from a bout of colic, your horse can be offered essential oils such as carrot seed, garlic and thyme to help his body rebalance the gut and its function so he can again have an efficient digestive system. However you can also offer any other of the above essential oils to your horse; his response may give you further insight into his general disposition after the event.

The added bonus with having these essential oils with your horse while waiting for the vet is that as you offer them to your horse, you also inhale and smell the scents and this will help you with your stress levels. The calmer you are when your horse is in pain, the better both of you will deal with the situation.

It is important that you do not replace veterinarian care with essential oils. Some horses with colic may need either medical or surgical treatments which can only be determined by your veterinarian.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 5 Issue 5 – 2003 written by Catherine Bird

Energizing Oils – essential oils for the unambitious

Do I have to?

Do I have to?

Well, this could be a delicate topic, as no horse really likes to be referred to as a plodder, or worse still – stubborn, resistant, possibly even lazy! Now, it is important that you make sure there is no physical reason for your horse being called one of these names. Perhaps his muscles are not able to do what you want, or, as in the case of George, you may find a medical problem – my mate here had a bladder stone, and no matter how many essential oils we would have used before the discovery we would have had a very resistant horse with anyone on his back.

Essential oils provide a gentle way to give our equine friends a little push along, to save us squeezing until our legs just seem to have no more squeeze in them. The scent molecule is underestimated in its ability to have an effect on how our horses “think” and “feel”. This tiny entity registers with the cilia in the nasal passages and this sends impulses to the brain where we can stimulate the mind and body, or calm the body. The limbic system reads the impulses and then the hypothalamus gland sends a myriad of messages to the whole body and its glands. It is believed to even communicate to every cell in the body when it instructs the release of neurochemicals, which then have the body wake up, or slow down.

So let’s look at essential oils that will help motivate the “unambitious” horse.

Basil for its amphoteric action

Basil essential oil is one that can bring focus to the mind. Sometimes a horse can be perceived as being lazy, where he is really having trouble comprehending what you are asking of him. You need to get clearer in your asking, as well as helping his mind tune into your way of communicating. Amphoteric,
from Greek amphoteros, “each of two”, from ampho, “both”, means basil will either relax or stimulate the mind and body. This is often an early choice when working with an unambitious horse, as sometimes it is not necessarily in need of stimulation, but more a need to have some focus amongst too much stimulation.

Bergamot to uplift

Bergamot is one of the essential oils we get from citrus plants. It is expressed from the peel of the plant and can be the trigger for photosensitivity, so it is best not to apply to the skin if your horse will be exposed to strong sunlight. However it is a wonderful winter time essential oil to waft under the nose of your horse – if he is a bit tentative during the colder weather, Bergamot will ease these anxieties and help him move forward with confidence.

Grapefruit to brighten

Not every horse is able to be paddocked 24 hours a day, and in some countries where land is limited and performance horses need to be stabled most of the day, grapefruit is the essential oil to bring a little sunshine into their lives. Before morning feeds for these horses, it will help lift their spirits, improve their digestion and have them a little more giving when asked to work.

Frankincense if the horse is recovering from illness

Frankincense was once one of our most highly valued commodities, many battles fought over the land it was cultivated on. The religious connection in raising the soul and cleansing the spirit can also assist a horse who is reluctant to return to ridden work after an illness or spell due to the need to recuperate from surgery or injury. Frankincense is used to assist with rejuvenation and this is useful when the unambitious horse needs to be freshened up.

Rosemary is one of the most stimulating

Rosemary is one of the most stimulating essential oils available to non-aromatherapists, and will assist in lifting your horse out of any lethargic state of being. A sprig of rosemary is often worn in remembrance of soldiers who have fallen at war – “Lest we Forget” – r for rosemary, r for remembrance – so it will also help your horse remember his cues. Be careful as most rosemary essential oils contain camphor and this is a prohibited substance on most show circuits.

Ginger to spice things up

At the beginning of the 1900’s racehorses used to be “gingered” (by rudely placing some ginger root into their, ummmm, anus). The stewards would sniff under the tail of the winners to determine if this had happened. Ginger is a warming essential oil and will wake up the senses if you waft this essential oil under your unambitious horse’s nostrils.

The Horse’s Olfactory System

In the case of stimulating and invigorating essential oils, the locus ceruleus is the part of the brain triggered which releases noradrenaline. Other essential oils that will have some relationship here include cardamom, juniper, lemongrass, lemon and peppermint.

The compelling power of odours on the psyche has been recognised since the earliest of times Aromatic woods, gums and herbs were burnt in ancient temples to drive out evil spirits who had often been perceived in making those around them tired and lethargic. An ancient Egyptian perfume was said to “lull to sleep”, while the Ancient Greeks documented certain odours to improve mental alertness and concentration.

The Romani gypsies across Europe would often rub herbs together to release the scent under a horse’s nose to have a desired effect.

We have all individually been influenced by a perfume, for better or worse.

Essential Oils are not for the competition circuit

These are just examples of how you can use essential oils to “wake-up” your equine companion. However, you do have to respect ‘where your horse is at’ when you do this. Always have your veterinarian check your horse for any other medical reasons as to why your horse may have become lazy. Are you making his training and time with you interesting enough for him as well? Don’t forget to have some fun time with your horse and really enjoy your time together.

If your horse has a career as a race horse or is on the show circuit, do not breech any codes of conduct or competition rules. These ideas are to assist you with training and spending time with your horse; they are not to be used to stimulate your horse during competitions nor are they to be used when a horse is exhausted from not being prepared adequately for such a competition.

Along with rosemary, other essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus are stimulating but also contain camphor. Some associations list these as prohibited substances and will test for their presence because they can be used to screen the presence of other banned drugs. However if another competitor reports you using these essential oils at a competition you may find yourself being called before a committee for disciplinary action, and in some of these cases, testing is not required.

To get your desired results

Simply take the time to offer your horse a selection of any of the essential oils listed. Don’t push the bottle up his nostril, simply waft each bottle about six inches away from his nose. He will be able to assess if this is an essential oil that will help him with his lack of ambition. If it is, he will lean towards the bottle, deepen his breathing, and maybe even give you a flehmen response by curling his top lip to trap as much of the essential oil in his nasal cavity as he can.

He may decide the essential oil you offer him is not to his liking. If this happens he will turn his head away or even try to walk away from you.

Note each of his responses and this will also give you a guide as to why your horse may be a bit lazy to your requests. Also note how his choice changes each time you spend time with him, as his responses will not always be the same each time. He may have a strong attraction to one essential oil for a week or so; other days he may change his choice on an hourly basis.

The more you explore these responses, the more you will begin to understand your own horse’s individual needs, and your own relationship will take on a fuller dimension. Over time you will find your horse will become a more willing companion as this develops further.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 5 Issue 3 – 2003 written by Catherine Bird

 

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Does your horse like your scent?

Aaaahhhh

When you first start offering essential oils to your horse, it may not be clear what the preferences are.

With younger horses they may look like they are interested in every bottle you waft under their nose, you may find the only indicator is the strength of breath they take to get more of the scent they like.

The horse in this pic got me very excited when he dropped his tongue out at the bottle. However his handler stated he did this all the time, be it when being groomed, riding or just ‘because’. He was clear though with his likes and dislikes and would turn away from the ones he disliked.

Other horses may indicate their preference by stepping forward for the essential oil they prefer. Older less expressive horses may simply lean forward.

The more time you take and not rush the selection, the better you become at picking up the subtle signs. It may be the look in the eye changes, the horse choose his favourite by not moving away from one particular essential oil.

The sign I always enjoy is the flehman where the horse curls his top lip and lifts his head to capture the scent. Even then, some horses will do this with nearly all the scents I offer so to determine a preference I may reoffer and find he then only selects a few, or I offer one essential oil that is quite different to see if he truly like the first selection.

Remember not to offer too many in one session, eventually he can become overpowered and switch off to what you are trying to achieve.

Sometimes you will have very demonstrative selections, other times you need to read more subtle signs. The key with either type of response is to watch closely at the way the horse responds and see if you can pick a pattern. The overly demonstrative can be just as hard to decide on his preferred scent as the one who may only slightly flare one nostrils as he hangs his head over the bottle.

Grapefruit is a refreshing and uplifting scent for this time of year, be you in the warm Australian sunshine for Christmas or experiencing the wet in England or the cold in the US at the moment. If your horse is unsettled by your current weather conditions anywhere, Sweet Orange will give them a reassuring hug. For those in colder climates, a waft of Ginger will help warm them from within. For those in the Southern Hemisphere Peppermint can help cool an overheated horse experiencing the stifling effects of a heatwave.

All these scents just need to be wafted under the nostrils from the bottle, no need to physically apply for these purposes.

Frankincense is always appropriate at this time leading up to New Year, helping you release the stress of the past year from you and your horse by warming a few drops in the palm of your hand and wiping your own and their auric field with that intent. It helps start the new year with a cleaner slate and open you up to what the spiritual aspects of the year to come may have to offer.

 

written by Catherine Bird