'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Posts tagged ‘study essential oils’

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

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.

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