What Is Equine Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy for horses, just like humans, uses essential oils to promote relaxation and well-being. It can also help with emotions and behavioural problems, specifically calming.
Aromatherapy oils do not dissolve in water and therefore must be mixed with a base or carrier before application. They must not be applied “neat”. The oils are significantly stronger than the source herb.
The base oil can be sweet almond or grapeseed oil.
Just because naturally occurring herbs and plants are used does not mean that aromatherapy oils can be applied without thought or understanding.
Specific oils, targeting different outcomes will be blended in a base oil and applied externally. This could be massaged into the skin and absorbed via the hair follicles or inhaled. Take a look at the video below of Raz sniffing Fennel.
There is a level of crossover between herbs used as a natural feed supplement and essential oils created from that herb – Chamomile is a good example. It must be reiterated that essential oils are for external use only and must not be fed to horses.
An experienced aromatherapist will “test” which oils the horse finds attractive. Natural self-selection and medication is a powerful technique.
Aromatherapy For Horses Can Be Different From That Of Humans
Human reaction to oils can be the complete opposite in animals.
Horses are “prey” rather than predators, and therefore their sense of smell is highly connected to the flight or fight response.
Again to stress that using the wrong oils, carriers or incorrect application can have adverse effects.
Also take care with using specific oils when competing, showing or in any competitive environment, where certain substances might be prohibited.
If you do wish to practice aromatherapy, then our recommended reading is an excellent place to start. We have also set out some courses below, including online for those unable to travel.
This book has been described by a delighted buyer as “the Holy Grail of books on this subject”.
Carole gives complete detail of thirty essential oils for therapeutic use on horses, including application, storage and, most importantly, full handling and safety guidelines.
Aromatherapy for Horses
You can see the reaction of Raz, in the video below, of how powerful the impact of certain oils can be when Bryony offers a fennel inhalation.
The preparation is massaged directly onto the horse, taking care not to apply the oils to broken skin or wounds.
Oils can also cause issues if the horse is left in direct sunlight.
Caroline Ingraham founded the first school of animal aromatherapy in 1995. She is the author of Aromatherapy for Horses.
Nayana Morag became interested in aromatherapy after travelling the world, on her return to the UK, she became a student of Caroline Ingraham. www.essentialanimals.com
Courses and Training Using Essential Oils for Horses
Until recent years aromatherapy for animals did not exist.
Practitioners who had trained as human therapists started developing their techniques in aromatherapy for animals and horses.
Now, like many professions, there is more than one governing body, including IFPA and NAHA in the USA. However, at the time of writing, it appears that the Guild of Essential Oil Therapists for Animals, a UK body specific to animal aromatherapy, has ceased to exist.
It should be noted that all therapists must work within current veterinary legislation.
There are relatively few online courses aimed specifically at horses
Caroline Ingram offers Equine Gateway courses and can be found at Carolineingraham.com.
Kelly Holland Azzaro, RA, CCAP, CBFP, LMT, is a past president of NAHA and has worked in aromatherapy for over 25 years.
Kelly offers a comprehensive, three-stage, animal aromatherapy course that can be completed online and can be found at animalaromatherapy.com