'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Posts tagged ‘horse’

Essential oils to assist with hoof problems

Essential oils offer natural help for horses with hoof problems. As a component of rehabilitation, the use of these essential oils can be helpful in two ways: There is the direct physical action – such as with external application – to assist with the healing of tissue, and there is the olfactory response – aromatherapy – that assists with identifying and addressing some of the underlying issues that could be contributing to the hoof problems.

Initially I narrow down through knowledge my choice of essential oils to offer the horse. When I am deciding on which application of the oils to use, I believe it is still always wise to offer the horse the scent, no matter how much knowledge I feel I have. If the horse is attracted to the scent, even when selecting a physical application, the oil is likely to be more effective than if I were to impose my will upon the horse with what I think is best to help him heal his body.

If I look simply at the feet, then my choice of essential oils would include but not be limited to:
Tea Tree, Patchouli, Carrot Seed, Yarrow, Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium, Juniper, Sweet Orange.

Some of these you will look at and wonder why, so to give you further insight into the wholistic nature of aromatherapy, this is why I chose these essential oils as an offering:

Tea Tree and Patchouli are highly antifungal, so if my horse selects either or both of these I would consider using them in a carrier to apply directly to the hoof to assist with early stages of thrush. Patchouli also brings awareness and surety to the feet, and if a horse has difficulty feeling the ground beneath him because the health of his hoof does not support his body solidly, then Patchouli will help provide a sense of being more in contact with the earth below him. I have found this very useful with horses such as thoroughbreds that have raced and come away from the track with poor quality hooves.

Carrot Seed is always a good indicator to me to question the utilisation ability of the gut. If a horse with a hoof issue is attracted to this essential oil, I begin to query diet and look at protein levels and the amount of sugar intake.

Yarrow helps me decide if the horse needs herbal support, especially if he has already selected Carrot Seed. Yarrow is a nice gentle anti-inflammatory and also a gentle support to the kidneys and liver. It is a primary herb when dealing with a laminitic horse, so if the horse selects Yarrow essential oil, then I will follow up by suggesting he receive this herb in his feed. Lavender will support this choice as it often indicates heat in the body and helps soothe the body, mind and spirit during times of stress.

Similarly I offer Chamomile, especially in a horse who has suffered chronic feet issues. After a while the discomfort travels up the legs, and muscle tension is carried throughout the body. If the horse’s olfactory response shows attraction to it, Chamomile essential oil applied to these ‘spastic’ muscles will benefit him, as will the dried flowers added to his feed.

Exhibiting an attraction to Geranium often indicates to me that the horse is in pain as it is a mild analgesic, and/or suggests that there may be hormonal involvement. This in turn guides my follow up. Juniper indicates similar issues, and if a horse goes for this essential oil, I often support the liver of such a horse with the herbs dandelion root or milk thistle and gently detoxify the body. Juniper may indicate the presence of drugs or drug residue, or a build up of foodstuffs that have not been able to be assimilated by the horse’s body.

Finally, Sweet Orange is one of my favourite essential oils to offer any horse, and I rarely have a session with a horse and not offer Sweet Orange at some point. I use it in two ways – one as a thank you to him for working with me and allowing me to help him, and secondly to let him know that his issues have not gone unnoticed and we humans are attempting to help him. Sweet Orange is from the peel of the plant and when offered to the olfactory sense, it gives a feeling of a warm sunny hug. It is also a supportive and gently detoxifying, so it assists some of my earlier offerings.

The key to success with using essential oils to assist your horse with hoof problems is to always treat him as the unique individual he is. There are so many elements to healing and many layers to be addressed, and by respecting this and finding what is appropriate to each case brings about a healthy, happy horse who will contribute to a healthy equine society.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 8 Issue 2

Herbs for the Seasons

blends-2A few years ago now Country Park Animal Herbs asked me to design some blends of herbs for them to assist their clients. Initially we looked at common issues and worked on that idea. But using herbs for good health can be quite limited if one becomes fixated on ‘disease’ so the concept was expanded upon and the idea to help you as horse owners get more in touch with the seasonal needs of your horse and in harmony with nature fitted more with the philosophy of going with the flow and taking the path of least resistance so you could gain the maximum benefit from herbs with the least amount of effort.

Following the flow of nature is not a new concept. Many streams of medicine and cultures follow a seasonal healing cycle, from the Amerindians to the ayurvedic practices of the Indian continent and the Toaist of Asia, even primitive tribes in Africa adhere to the flow of seasons. My traditional herbal training is grateful to the ideas of Culpepper and the like who can then be traced back the humours of Hippocrates that were guided by the seasons to help achieve better health.

All living organisms are composites of rhythm, the cycle of heart beats vary in speed in the morning to that of the evening; the cycle of electrical activity of the brain can occur in nanoseconds; breathing is rhythmic and follows a cycle that keeps all of alive, and many hormones are released in pulses that flow with many cycles. Even diseases have a cycle and rhythm to them while other biological activities are synchronised with the cycles of the moon and sun and governed by the earth’s rotation. Annual seasonal rhythms are more noticeable in animals. It is easier to get your horse to concentrate in winter but at the same time, resistance to infection is lower.

Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn

Sometimes the body is a bit out of step with all the changes from one season to another, and this is why the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn blends of herbs are of so much value to the horse owner.

In Winter and you need herbs such as Nettle to maintain physical strength; the body often becomes congested with phlegm which inhibits its ability to flow naturally and needs the support of herbs such as Clivers, Dandelion Leaf and Yarrow to help the body.

In Spring with this phlegm dissolving, the body’s digestive system can be put under extra strain so plenty of exercise assisted with the herbs included in the Spring blend such as Fennel, Rosehips and Yarrow keep your horse in tune with nature.

Once the heat of Summer arrives, the body may again be robbed of some of its strength and become lethargic, cooling herbs such as Marshmallow Root and Calendula assist the body with the extra strain it is under and also strengthen the skin to meet the conditions.

Finally as Autumn comes upon us, dampness can predominate and weaken digestion again, and the blend we designed for this season with herbs such as Peppermint to assist digestion and Echinacea to prepare the body for the next season come into their own in assisting your horse. Thus keeping our horses in tune with Nature.

When following physiomedical herbal practices, it is important to cleanse the body and if you again use the seasonal blends provided by Country Park you can assist your horse in the best way possible:
In Winter the kidneys are your organ of elimination so the Winter blend incorporates Dandelion Leaf to fit with this regimen.

In Spring the primary organ of elimination is the liver, so the Spring blends incorporates the use of herb Vervain.

In Autumn the herbs Licorice Root and Parsley come to your horse’s aid the elimination that is primary within the intestines at this time.
To complete the selection of herbs for each season we have included wonderful tonic herbs in each blend to further maintain the ideal balance within your horse’s body.
The totality of each seasonal blend is so special, you do not need to give more than one blend to your horse at any one time.

As you can see much thought has gone into caring for the health of your horse along with observances of the cycles of nature and its effects on the body. Being in harmony with the seasons affords you and your horse much more enjoyment with good health and mental wellbeing.

Training Your Horse with Aromatherapy

I was introduced to aromatherapy about three decades ago. At the time I was working at a natural therapy college and it came across my desk as a correspondence course. My skepticism was high, and I laughed at the thought of an aroma having an effect on anyone. Well, I then attended an evening lecture on the topic and found it more convincing and my first modality as a therapist became aromatherapy and I was soon lecturing at several colleges dispelling the same skepticism I had generated myself.

As a rider I was keen to try my new found knowledge on horses, but my peers were not receptive at that time, so I put the idea aside and focused on working with human clients. Then a visit to a psychic convinced me it was finally time to play with essential oils with horses. This was about fifteen years ago and with the help of my State’s mounted police and some local stables at the time, my ideas were tested and I now use essential oils with nearly every horses I am asked to help in my business.

With humans when they inhale the aroma of an essential oil, the scent molecule is registered inside the nasal passages and then messages are registered within the limbic system of the brain. This part of the brain is the same as in the horse, it holds memories, the survival flight/fight mechanism and a complex trigger for the hypothalamus gland into action and instruct the body’s glands to tune up and do their stuff, so we can use essential oils to assist our horses with behavioural and health issues.

One of the most rewarding aspects of using aromatherapy with horses is how quickly they can respond when you are looking at issues that have affected their behaviour. The insecure or the less than confident gelding who holds a traumatic memory from his neutering will often let go of the issue with an offering of ylang ylang; the mare who has been pushed too hard to make the grade and become internalised will often open up to the scent of sweet orange as it gives a warm motherly hug with its aroma; or the horse who may be fearful because of harsh treatment may be able to step into their own once they have been assisted to move beyond this memory with everlasting.

What I find amazing with the use of scent to help our horses, is it is so simply in its applications. In a session, once I have assessed a horse or given it some physical therapy, I will offer the horse a selection of essential oils, often no more than six if I have accurately surmised this horse. All I have to do is open each bottle separately, and waft the open bottle under the horse’ nostrils about four to six inches away. If I have chosen one the horse agrees will assist, he will move closer to me, he may just simply hang his head over the bottle and inhale, or he will do a flehmen to capture more of the scent within his nasal passages. If I have chosen an essential oil he disagrees with, then he may walk away from me or simply turn his head.

If they are primarily essential oils that assist a physical aspect, I may apply a diluted blend to the areas I have identified in a body work session, or allow the horse to taste the essential oil to trigger a biochemical response in his body. For this article I will focus on how we can assist our horse’s mind with a focus on training issues.

Care does have to be taken if you are competing at FEI levels where you may be tested for drug use as some essential oils do contain constituents that will test positive. Some associations list eucalyptus and peppermint as prohibited. Also, any essential oil with a high camphor content such as rosemary should be used with care. As a general guide, most essential oils will be metabolised out of the horse’s body system via the urinary tract within in a week; however, it would be wise to check with a trained aromatherapist as heavier resin based oils or those with high levels of camphor may take longer than this.

Your Basic Mind Kit

Basil
The dressage horse and rider always benefit from a quick sniff of basil before practicing a test, as it sharpens the mind and helps retain focus on the task at hand. It is also useful for the horse who will not pay attention to your requests.

Bergamot
Bergamot is a favourite for dealing with “butterflies in the tummy”. It eases away anxieties and clears the air so pre-event jitters do not incapacitate you. It is also the flavouring in Earl Grey tea so I often recommended a cup of tea to the rider of this horse before competition.

Chamomile
Chamomile is an expensive essential oil, but worth every cent. It is traditionally the tantrum remedy in small children and will calm your horse in minutes if he is being the difficult demanding child. I will consider chamomile if a horse is stamping his hoof to get my attention or to show he is bored and wants to do something else.

Everlasting
Everlasting is the essential oil when a new owner doesn’t know the history of their horse and are finding difficulties with training aspects they find difficult to explain. It is often chosen by a horse who has experienced abuse (however be careful how you explain this to someone as abuse could simply have been a harsh reaction from a handler the horse had previously trusted).

Frankincense
Frankincense is an old wound healer, both physical and mental. The Ancients used frankincense to drive away evil spirits, it is the ‘fear’ essential oil and useful if a horse is reluctant to travel. Use it if you can feel a heartbeat rise between your legs when you most need your horse to keep his composure to compete.

Geranium
Geranium balances hormones and moods. I like using this on young, moody, and sometimes-temperamental race fillies.

Juniper
Juniper is for the horse who worries. You may see his eye crinkle with concern when asked to do something new. They are the horse who is so anxious to please that they are already expecting something to go wrong or not be good enough.
Lavender
Lavender soothes heat, it will take the heat out of emotionally steamy situations. When stress is causing disruptions to preparations during a competition, have lavender handy on a tissue or as a perfume; it will help minimise heated altercations between competitors and grooms.

Orange
Orange gives a warm motherly hug. It is the essential oil you give the horse to sniff as a reward after they have accomplished a task they found challenging. It is also good for the horse that has just moved into a new stable or yard and having trouble integrating.

Ylang Ylang
Ylang Ylang is good for the insecure horse, be it the young horse on his first outing, or a horse just not trusting enough of what you are asking. Interestingly it is also useful with the horse that has come to you from an angry owner, coupled with chamomile it tends to help the horse let go of anger that is not their but that has been previously generated around them and clung to their body.

One important aspect of using essential oils with your horse is to have fun with it. It will help you open up to other areas of communication with your horse and a way to find a connection that may be currently alluding you.

These are potent tools and you do not need to apply directly to the skin to have an effect and if you apply undiluted they may hurt his skin, the power of the scent takes nanoseconds to have a response, so no need to apply to bridles or halters. This can have a reverse effect as your horse’s sense of smell does not fatigue like yours does, so he is stuck with that scent all day and it could become very irritating quite quickly.

Essential oils are not to replace your veterinarian or trainer, they are simply a tool to assist you as a rider with your horse.

Natural support for allergies and skin conditions

get-itch-outZelda, and eight-year-old Arabian, had a beautiful coat when Barbara acquired the mare late in the fall. However, as summer arrived and temperatures began to rise, Zelda broke out in hives. The poor horse itched so badly she rubbed herself raw. Barbara suspected Zelda’s skin problems were due to allergies but when she phoned her local practitioner about getting help, she could almost hear him cringing on the other end of the line. “I knew then that I had my work cut out for me,” she said.

While more horses than ever before suffer from allergies, there is no one shot cure that takes care of the problem. Each case is so individual and what works on one horse may have no benefit to the next. As you consider the information I have to offer here, please remember that if one approach does not work for you, do not give up on your horse. Allergies and skin conditions are multi-layered and, although it may appear your approach is not working sometimes, your horse’s body may just be peeling away at an invisible layer, enabling your next level of treatment to be more effective.

What is an allergy?

The Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary defines an allergy as “an acquired hypersensitivity to a substance (allergen) that does not normally cause a reaction. It is essentially a disorder of the immune system resulting in an antibody-antigen reaction; manifestations most commonly involve the respiratory tract or the skin.”

An allergen can include pollen, dust, feathers, drugs, insect bites and feedstuffs, so your first priority is to eliminate what you suspect may be causing your horse’s allergy. If the allergens cannot be avoided, your veterinarian may suggest antihistamines or corticosteroids. These can provide temporary relief, but in the long term you do need to address your horse’s immune and elimination systems. Natural therapies can help you with this process.

Herbs for the inside and outside

Your horse’s first line of defence is the liver, so any protocol should include supporting this gland. If you believe there is a toxicity or poison present in the body, you’ll want to help the liver detoxify using my two favorite herbs, milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)*. Milk thistle seed helps cleanse the liver, assists with the regeneration of liver cells and protects these cells against the action of liver poisons. Add rosemary in the next phase of treatment as it is a complete herbal antioxidant, a secondary liver cleanser and also hepatoprotective. The powdered forms of these herbs are commonly used.

From a naturopathic perspective, most skin issues reflect an inhibition or dysfunction of one of the other major elimination organs. Look at the liver first, but also consider the kidneys, digestive system and respiratory tract.

If there are breathing difficulties or the presence of catarrh, your horse could benefit from supporting his immune system. My preferred species is Echinacea angustifolia in either its powdered root or liquid extract form. I find I can give these forms long term effectively, whereas the dried leaf does not seem to maintain its potency or efficacy as well and is better suited to short term use.

As your horse’s body begins to detoxify with the liver herbs, Echinacea can fight off secondary infections and help your horse rebuild her immune defences to the allergens. In addition, since Echinacea is traditionally used as a blood cleanser and purifier, it supports the milk thistle and rosemary. These three really make a great team.

*Rosemary should not be given to pregnant mares.

Internal systems are interconnected

Any issues with the lungs lead us to the digestive system. If your horse has a runny nose or gluggy ears in response to the allergens, it could indicate an internal reaction to feedstuffs. My favourite herb to address this with is marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) and I prefer the powdered herb in this situation. In severe cases, paste your horse with one or two tablespoons of herb mixed with water before feeding (use a syringe) or, in milder cases, simply mix it into a wet feed. By addressing the gut in this way, you will soothe the mucosal layer of the digestive tract, which in turn will alleviate the clinical symptoms – the dry and pruritic skin conditions.

Could it be his kidneys? 
If your horse’s urine is irregular, his sweat patterns vary, or your horse has sensitive ears, you may find his allergic conditions respond well to flushing the kidneys. A gentle yet very potent approach to this is adding some freshly picked parsley (Petroselinum crispum) – a nice handful each day – to his feed for about a month. You can use the dried leaf as well; in this case usually one or two heaped tablespoons are sufficient. Parsley also calms the nervous system and serves as a carminative (relieves gas) and digestive tonic, supporting the use of marshmallow root.

You may observe as I work through the body’s elimination processes, that the herbs I select overlap in their functions across each of these body systems. So, as you assist your horse through the various stages of his “line of cure”, your emphasis may shift between any of these systems. You can vary and substitute herbs to further individualize your approach; any bitters including burdock or dandelion root will replace my liver suggestions; immune support such as astragalus or olive leaf could continue on from Echinacea; slippery elm or plantain could address the gut, and mullein or elecampane may help the respiratory tract. Dandelion leaf serves as an easy substitute for parsley.

The emotional toll

If your horse has suffered from a chronic allergy condition, you may also need to address the nervous system. Allergies can really wear on the soul, and after a while most horses become agitated and short-tempered by the constant physical irritation. Again, parsley may assist here as it can be very calming to several body systems. You could also use any of the calming herbs such as sweet flag, lemon balm or chamomile for the same purpose.

Creams, oils and rinses

Topically, you have a wide selection of herbs and essential oils to choose from. I usually recommend calendula (Calendula officinalis), sometimes known as pot marigold, which is an effective local tissue healer when applied in a cream, balm or infused oil to itchy skin. You can also administer it internally to help the body’s inflammatory response come back into balance. Other herbs include aloe vera gel and a rinse made from chamomile flowers.

Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is antipruritic (anti itch), and when applied to a very small section ‘neat’ or diluted into a carrier such as aloe vera gel, this essential oil will take the itch out of most skin irritations. It is safely combined with lavender (Lavendula officinalis) which is cytophylactic (able to stimulate new cells) so the skin repairs quickly. Manuka (Leptospermum scoparlum), another essential oil very effective in healing the skin, has anti fungal and anti bacterial properties and works well with the other two essential oils.

Nutritional support

Once your horse’s body has begun the process of elimination, you can take the next step by supporting her nutritionally. Rosehips (Rosa canina), an inexpensive additive to any feed, is high in flavonoids which nourish the skin and assists our previous herbs with addressing mild infections and soothing gastric inflammation. Clivers or cleavers (Galium aparine) contains high amounts of silica to support the skin, and is a very effective lymphatic cleanser and remedy for skin eruptions, especially where associated with tissue oedema.

Essential oils and aromatherapy

We often think of massage when we talk about aromatherapy, but essential oils can help with allergies and skin problems too. If you are having difficulty in deciding what approach to take with your horse, offer her a selection of essential oils to give you some insights as to where to start your protocol. At the same time, this approach will stimulate and tune up her endocrine system to help rebalance some of the issues that may be underlying the allergic conditions.

My first essential oil of choice is carrot seed (Daucus carota). The scent is an immune stimulator and can indicate if your horse’s digestive system needs addressing. If she shows an intense interest in the scent, your horse can safely lick this one from your hand. This can have a catalytic affect throughout the body to help trigger the liver into action. A horse that goes for this scent may have sluggish digestion, be burdened with worms or need support from liver herbs. This essential oil’s action is so strong, that I check too see if the horse is still attracted to the scent 24 hours later. Often the initial scent and taste will be enough for the body to adjust and restore its own homeostasis.

Addressing your own emotions with Bach flowers and tissue salts

It’s possible that irritating issues in your own life may be contributing energetically to your horse’s condition. Clearing these emotions will most certainly help you but may also help your horse to heal. To this end, I like to include simple flower essences such as the Bach flower essence, Crabapple.

To support this approach, I also include the use of biochemic tissue salts. Kali Sulph (Potassium Sulphate) is a skin nutrient, and is well supported by Silica. If there is a nervous component I may include Kali Phos (Potassium Phosphate), or if my focus herbally is that of cleansing the body, Calc Sulph (Calcium Sulphate).

There are 12 tissue salts in this therapy that follow basic homeopathic principles and each may be employed at various stages throughout dealing with allergies and skin issues. An experienced homeopath could certainly guide you here.

As Barbara discovered when she started working with Zelda, addressing allergies and skin conditions takes a personal approach. Depending on your horse’s condition, it can be simple or be multi-layered. When it’s multi-layered, the key to your success is patience and a keen observance so you know when the next layer of the issue is available for healing. Hopefully, I’ve provided some direction to follow if your horse is unfortunate enough to be inflicted with allergies or skin conditions.

HINT: Another indicator that your horse’s stomach may need assistance is if the flies aggregate around his eyes. In Chinese medicine, the eyes are closely linked to the stomach.

HINT: Add carrot seed essential oil to your calendula cream to give it that little extra range of healing. If I suspect the horse needs further detoxification, I will offer her the scent of juniperberry (Juniperus communis). Juniper will indicate the need to cleanse; it supports the elimination of any toxic build-up and indicates if the horse needs assistance with liver herbs.

 

By: Catherine Bird

First Published in: Equine Wellness Magazine Vol. 1 Issue 1 (pic from their edition)

 

Essential oils for respiratory conditions

aroma71Essential oils are antagonistic to pathogenic organisms on contact, which is why they are so effective when able to enter the respiratory tract directly, through inhalation.
The therapeutic potential of essential oils is yet to be fully realised. An essential oil can cover a wide field of activity and in this article we will focus on the role aromatherapy can play when your horse suffers a respiratory complaint.

Any condition or infection that involves the nose, throat, and lung would respond very well to essential oils. Inhalation is one very effective way of utilising essential oils, as when inhaled directly by the lungs they can cause an increase in protective bronchial secretion, which is beneficial for many respiratory ailments. Also by inhalation they are absorbed into the blood circulation even faster than by oral use so can be a more effective and safer option of use for your horse.

When selecting essential oils for the respiratory system we look for essential oils that are expectorant, antispasmodic, balsamic agents, and/or antiseptic.

Expectorants are useful for conditions with catarrh (mucus) which may include sinusitis, coughs, bronchitis, etc. Eucalyptus, pine, thyme, myrrh, sandalwood, and fennel are expectorants that encourage the passage of phlegm and other material in the lungs up the bronchial apparatus. With many respiratory conditions the self-cleansing action of the ‘mucocilliary escalator’ may get impeded or overloaded, and this is where these essential oils can be useful.

Antispasmodics are useful when your horse has heaves or a dry cough, and include hyssop, cypress, Atlas cedarwood, bergamot, chamomile, lavender and cajeput. They can reduce spasm or tension, especially in the visceral smooth muscle of the bronchial tubes.

Balsamic agents are my choice with colds, chills and congestion and often found in your old fashioned inhalations for when people used to steam their colds under a towel. They include benzoin, frankincense, Tolu balsam, Peru balsam, and myrrh.

Antiseptics are what you use to assist with heavier flu or viral infections; they include thyme, eucalyptus, hyssop, pine, cajeput, tea tree, and borneol. Antiseptics are often described as fighting against infections, however more specifically they are antagonistic to pathogenic organisms on contact. This is why they are so effective when able to enter the respiratory tract directly. They are useful as negative ion generators in a barn where you wish to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

There are several ways your horse can benefit from the use of essential oils when guarding off this condition or helping the body rebalance when recovering from a bug. It is not wise to use a candle burner in your barn, because unattended candles lead to disaster. so please do not do this. You can buy electric diffusers, and some come in protective casings so they can be kept dust free in the barn. You add your pure essential oils to the bulb and a small motor will disperse a fine spray of droplets. This can be set on a timer, and if you were to include an essential oil from each of the expectorant, antispasmodic and antiseptic groups, either combined or singular, you could ward off any lurgies. The balsamic resins will clog up the filter, so avoid these in diffusers. An alternative to this is type of diffuser is an electric ceramic bowl that is heated to help the essential oils evaporate, though there are some changes in the chemistry of your essential oils when you use heat to disperse.

You can extend this inhalation principle to using warmed cupped hands. Simply warm your hands and place a few drops of your chosen essential oil onto them, and cup under your horse’s nose as needed.

If you horse does have a respiratory tract problem, a chest rub is very supportive of the airways. This can be applied daily and rather than using a vegetable oil carrier, which can get sticky and rancid if you are unable to wash it off between applications, use a gel. You can use any appropriate essential oils. Researching the specific actions of each to understand which ones have an affinity with the respiratory tract will help you be more selective. Essential oils are very volatile and potent, so to achieve results with this application you only need a 2.5% dilution. For example, in a 1 fluid ounce bottle, add 30 drops of your chosen essential oils.

A simple chest rub:

  • Eucalyptus 6 drops
  • Frankincense 12 drops
  • Lavender 14 drops

in 1 fluid ounce of aloe gel.

Apply two or three times a day to assist a stall bound horse recovering from a respiratory complaint.

Ginger is an essential oil that is potent and present in the fresh root. Using the essential oil can be irritating to the sensitive horse, however if you cut the fresh root and add a couple of slices daily to a water bucket, your horse can drink the ginger flavoured water (have an alternative water source in case this is not to his liking). Ingested this way, ginger is very comforting and effective for conditions exacerbated by cold and chill, particularly those affecting the lungs and respiratory system.

Atlas cedarwood is useful with most congestions along with stress related respiratory complaints. It is antiseptic, antiputrescent, astringent, fungicidal, mucolytic and sedative.

Benzoin is useful with heaves, bronchitis and chills. It is antiinflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, and expectorant.

Bergamot (may cause photosensitisation in some horses – if skin it is applied to is exposed to sunlight, they may develop a skin rash) is useful with colds, fever, flu, infectious diseases, and mouth infections. It is analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, febrifuge, and a tonic.

Borneol is specific for bronchitis and coughs and is antiviral, antiseptic, antispasmodic and mildly analgesic.

Cajeput is useful for catarrh, sinus infections and viral infections. It is antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, expectorant and a febrifuge.

Chamomile is helpful with allergies and respiratory complaints that may be exacerbated by nerves. It is carminative, antispasmodic and a tonic.

Cypress is very astringent and will help dry up runny, watery mucus conditions, assist with heaves, bronchitis and spasmodic coughing. It is also antiseptic and antispasmodic.

Eucalyptus – Any of the eucalyptus species can be employed with respiratory complaints; E. radiata tends to be preferred for fighting infection, while E. citriodora has bacteriostatic activity.

Fennel is often used in human cough drops, and is useful with asthma and bronchitis. It is antiinflammatory, antispasmodic, depurative, and expectorant.

Frankincense is a primary essential oil for heaves, clearing the airways and relieving the stress that comes with difficulty in breathing. It is antiseptic, carminative, expectorant.

Hyssop is moderately toxic so use it in moderation and not during pregnancy. It is useful with heaves, bronchitis, catarrh and cough. It is astringent, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericidal, expectorant.

Lavender is good with heaves, catarrh, throat infections and cough. It is antimicrobial, antitoxic, carminative, hypotensive, sudorific.

Myrrh is useful with heaves, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, gum infections, sore throats and conditions slow to heal. It is anticatarrhal, antiinflammatory, antimicrobial, balsamic, and antiphlogistic.

Peru balsam is useful for colds, heaves, bronchitis, and coughs (used in old style cough syrups). It is antiinflammatory, antiseptic, balsamic, expectorant, and parasiticide.

Pine is used for colds, flu, heaves, exhaustion from lack of fresh air, sinusitis. It is balsamic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, bactericide, expectorant and restorative.

Sandalwood is preferred for dry persistent coughs, often irritated by dust or exercise. It is a pulmonary antiseptic, bactericidal, expectorant, fungicidal, and tonic.

Tea tree is used to disinfect, for heaves, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, and sinusitis. It is active against bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Thyme is used for chills, colds, flu, infections, heaves, bronchitis, catarrh, and coughs. It is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, expectorant, and rubefacient.

Tolu balsam works primarily on respiratory mucous membranes, chronic catarrh, and ‘cold’ chest complaints. It is antitussive, antiseptic, balsamic, and expectorant.

It is important that you do not replace veterinarian care with essential oils. Some horses may need the attentions of your veterinarian.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 7 Issue 1

Chamomile – the calming herb

Chamomile, Anthemis noblis or Matricaria chamomilla, depending on the species you select, is an herb that can assist you with your horse. Lets explore the use of the herb, the homoeopathic remedy which only contains the vibrational qualities of the original plant, and the essential oil made from the distilled flower.

Chamomile the Herb

Chamomile is a hardy perennial herb that was often used in Europe as a pathway plant or strewn along walkways due to its aromatic properties in the Middle Ages. It was an herb that was employed in a garden to help ailing plants in its midst, and nine times out of ten it would see a drooping plant recover when a chamomile plant was placed close to it.

The carminative properties of chamomile have been documented over centuries and in one veterinary text I have from 1886 refers to the use of Anthemidis Flores for its carminative and stomachic properties.

Today we can use chamomile with our horses for complaints that are exaggerated by nervousness. A very effective and simple method of using chamomile that I have found is in the form of making up a bucket of ‘tea’ with the human tea bags and using it to dampen the hard feed. This is one of the simplest ways to use chamomile with your horses.

You can add the dried flower heads by the cupful to feed during times of duress, however it is not wise to rely on this long term as Chamomile has been shown to be toxic to the liver with long-term use. It is best not to give chamomile for more than three months at a time and when you do to give your horse’s system a month’s rest from the additive at the end of three months. Some horses can develop an intolerance to chamomile because of its effect on the liver, and if your horse gets itchy skin while on chamomile, take him off it.

Many commercially prepared calming blends do contain chamomile and at some levels of competition a certain amount is allowed, as in some countries chamomile is a field herb. However with more stringent rules constantly being introduced you do need to take care as to how much and when you give your horse chamomile.

The best application for using chamomile as a calming herb with a difficult to handle horse is in your preparation for competitions. It can be used as a tool to take the edge off a situation so that when your horse is facing a difficult situation he will simply accept it as part of the norm. It is not wise to become reliant on herbs; simply see them as a way to assist you to overcome a block in training, or in another instance to help with muscle soreness when you are working your horse in a different way. Some associations are now stating that the use of calming herbs is unsportsmanlike, so please check the rules that govern your sport before using chamomile close to a competition.

Chamomile is an excellent herb to include in your horse’s feed when you are stepping up his training or moving into a different style of riding. It has a high level of magnesium and can help the body ease away muscle spasm or soreness when the new routine has been introduced.

Another application for the herb is pouring a cup or two over the feed of a horse prone to nervous colic. This is very useful when there is an obvious change in seasons. It is also a useful pain reliever when there is inflammation in the body somewhere and can be used as a poultice for painful bruising or muscle injuries.

A tea made from the dried flowers can be useful in bringing out the “blond” in a flaxen mane. The tea can also be used to wash out wounds or to wash stubborn skin conditions, especially those that are hot and irritated.

Chamomilla the Homoeopathic

When giving a homoeopathic to your horse you are often following principles that seem at odds to other therapies; here we are giving the tiniest dose possible to achieve the maximum response. It is important if you decide your horse needs a homoeopathic remedy that you do not administer any other herbs, drugs or feed within twenty minutes of giving the homoeopathic.

Chamomilla is a useful remedy when your horse has a slimy green diarrhoea; you can give a dose of 30C as soon as you notice this and re-dose again in 12 hours if you have not noticed a change in the condition. Do not ignore these symptoms and do call your vet for an opinion.

Its primary use in first aid remedies is with children who are bad tempered when teething. With your horse, if his teeth are sore and causing him to resist the bit in a strong and forceful way, you can administer Chamomilla to ease his discomfort and then call your dentist to address the physical aspects.

It is also a remedy to consider with a horse who suffers a false pregnancy or has inflamed or painful teats. This is a remedy to consider with any horse that develops a thirst and becomes irritable and restless. However the best way to use homoeopathics is with the guidance of a homoeopath, as homoeopaths are trained to recognize all the signs as the symptom picture and match it to the appropriate remedy. While Chamomilla may help your horse, there may be an even better remedy you are unaware of.

Chamomile the Essential Oil

Spider yawning after inhaling chamomile essential oil

Spider yawning after inhaling chamomile essential oil

Roman chamomile is a very versatile essential oil. It is the one I will use with every difficult horse. If a horse is putting on a temper tantrum, chamomile’s calming properties will ease any hysterical or unruly behaviour. It promotes peace, easing worries and removing agitation.

The strong analgesic properties relieve dull muscular aches and stubborn spasms. It will also relieve overworked and inflamed muscles. It is useful for the horse competing in a multiple-day event. At the end of each day, chamomile will help calm the muscles and help the horse relax overnight for the next day. Chamomile has been mentioned as unsportsmanlike with some associations because of its calming properties. It does not contain the constituents that show positive in most prohibited substances tests, however this may change, so all due care should be taken if you are competing at a level where you will be swabbed.

Dry, flaking skin will respond well to chamomile and with chronic conditions use jojoba oil as your base carrier oil application as it is able to moisturise the skin deeply.

Consider chamomile when your horse has suffered repeated infections or is always lethargic. In a weekly blend it will stimulate the production of white corpuscles to aid the body’s defences against low-grade infections and fortify your horse’s immune defence system.

If your mare becomes unmanageable when she cycles, chamomile would be beneficial in her daily care a few days before. It is calming and also regulates the hormonal activity in the body.

Recently I was giving a talk at a college and we used a horse for the demonstration for selecting essential oils. This horse was very non-committal about any of the essential oils offered except for Chamomile. He constantly showed his interest in chamomile, and this suggested to me that he had some muscle soreness somewhere. We un-rugged him and found some massive spasms in his back and the back of his shoulder on the offside (it was his right nostril that kept inhaling the chamomile essential oil).

As you can see, Chamomile can come in many different forms and each can be used with your horse at various times.

When using any of these recommendations remember they do not replace veterinary care and always use common sense with natural therapies.

 

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 3 Issue 8 – 2001

Summer relief

As the weather warms and we thaw out from the winter cold, your horse’s body can be sensitive to their environment. With our weather becoming more extreme it can be hostile to horses.

Herbs can support and strengthen your horse’s body from invasion, making it more difficult for the body’s protective barrier to be compromised.

By addressing the internal health of the horse you will have more success in dealing with this Summer’s allergies and common discomforts such as itch, photosensitivity, headshaking, and annoying bugs.

Relief

With many of these conditions, the herbs a herbalist may suggestion for each condition may cross over and cover other Summer conditions. This helps keep your selection of support to a focused minimum, and address conditions that may be linked.

A Summer herbal dispensary could include these herbs:

Burdock root, calendula flowers, cleavers, echinacea, eyebright, garlic, lemon balm, licorice root, lime tree blossom, marshmallow root, mullein, nettle, rosehips, wood betony, yarrow.

Which herbs to use?

When you first start selecting herbs for your horse, it can be difficult to narrow down the choice. People often think more is better, when two or three herbs will cover off on most of the clinical signs your horse is presenting. If your selection is kept to five herbs or less, you are more likely to achieve a result. It means you have enough of each herb to have them activate in the body. If you select more than five herbs to give your horse at one time, you can be dispersing the properties and in doing so not achieving the relief you are looking for. Look more closely at your selection and see which of your selected herbs is duplicating another herb’s action, giving only one of these duplicated herbs can be enough. Because ‘healing’ is a dynamic process, you can always substitute those other herbs as you see how your horse responds.

How much to give?

For the purpose of this article I am focusing on dried herbs, they are easier for the horse owner to obtain and most easily added to a feed. If you are giving five or less herbs, then the amount of each herb you are giving is most likely to be 1 to 2 tablespoons daily. This will vary with some herbs and some conditions, so use this as a general guide. If you end up selecting only one herb, give up to 1 cup daily. Any more and your horse will not be utilising all that you give, and your money is being wasted.

 

Thinking through your approach

Using herbs is a creative process. You can work through each of your horse’s clinical signs individually and see what herbs address each of these symptoms and where the actions of the herbs overlap. However, when you do this, do not limit yourself to the immediate signs, to be truly effective you need to consider the ‘whole’ horse. Sometimes the key element that helps trigger the healing process is not necessarily the herb you have chosen to heal inflamed skin, it may be the herb that helps the horse’s distress at being uncomfortable.

Itch

Henry at Ferrell Hollow Horse Sanctuary 'scratching his itch'

Henry at Ferrell Hollow Farm Senior Horse Sanctuary ‘scratching his itch’

 

A veterinarian may suggest an antihistamine to help your horse’s own inflammatory response. Calendula flowers have a histamine-like action which can be used for this sort of body condition. If your horse develops hives or hot spots with his itch, then nettles could be the herb you choose. If he wants to be left alone, settle his nerves with vervain.

This may be enough to start with, and apart for the reason they were initially selected, the calendula flowers will cleanse the skin via the lymphatic system; the nettles will strengthen the circulatory system and supports several glands within the body; vervain is a gentle liver and kidney cleanses tuning up these organs so they can better support the skin while his nervous system is settled by vervain’s nervine properties.

This way you are addressing the whole horse!

Photosensitivity

This is where your clinical signs and herb selection begin to overlap. Calendula is again a good herb to chose but this time supported with cleavers to emphasise the cleansing of the lymphatic system, especially if greasy heal is one aspect. This time you may want to support the liver and if the skin is also itchy, burdock root could be your next herb as it cleanses the blood and with its very bitter element wakes the liver up, and the liver can often be linked to photosensitivity.

Headshaking

Headshaking may be associated with an allergy or another aspect of the horse’s photosensitivity. If your horse has photosensitivity and you have read the previous article and decided on those herbs fit your horse, then wood betony may be the fourth herb you use with this horse. Wood betony has nervine properties that help relax tension held in the head and poll. Wood betony can also be selected for allergies which now links us into allergies.

Allergies

Allergies can many and varied and this is where your own insights of your own horse become the key to selecting what herbs to use. They may be a separate entity in themselves, or also be an expression of one of the previous issues. The intricacies of allergies they can be difficult to resolve, so you adapt your approach as you address each aspect with patience and thoughtfulness.

If your horse suffers from runny, watery eyes in Summer. Eyebright is astringent and also has an antibiotic-like action to help cleanse the eye. Eye problems can often be linked to digestion. You may have selected calendula for its histamine-like action, and in doing so it will be astringent and cleansing to the gut.

A cough may be the primary sign of an allergy with your horse, so then demulcent herbs such as marshmallow root powder may be the key herb you select and then with how your ‘whole’ horse determine what herbs you use to support. If your horse is stressed with coughing, lime tree blossom or lemon balm address upper respiratory inflammation and settle distress. Then you may add rosehips, although not noted as a liver herb, rosehip’s vitamin C content nudges the liver’s defences to help with inflammatory responses in the body, and is then a tonic to tissue that is healing.

Bugs

Summer wakes all creatures, and bugs are no exception. The saliva from their bites may be what your horse is allergic to, or they may simply irritate a watery eye. The person who develops a long term effective bug repellent will be the richest person on the planet.

Meanwhile, you can make your horse less tasty to bugs. If you have kept your selection of herbs above low, there is room to add one of these suggestions.

The sulphur in garlic is what repels the bugs when they get a whiff of it coming through the skin. If your horse is in strenuous work, needs medications, or has a sensitive stomach this may not be the best herb to give.

Brewers yeast is an alternate, being high in vitamin B. The theory being, if a body is low or deficient in vitamin B, their blood chemistry is more attractive to bugs that bite. Brewers yeast can also be good for the horse who needs his nervous system settled because to the vitamin B content.

Keep it simple

Keep your approach simple and stay focused so that you are responsive to the dynamic of the healing processes your horse’s body is working through. As you help your horse, your knowledge will grow.

 

First published Natural Horse Magazine 2014