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Updated on June 3, 2011

Healthy Horses

Essential oils for horses

In the same way as with humans, essentials oils work on both a physical and emotional level in horses. Like humans, horses have an olfactory system, which means that for physical ailments, applications of oils through massage is effective, while for emotional problems horses can obtain the benefits through inhaling essential oils.

In the case of physical ailments, the essential oils are diluted into a cream or carrier oil base and massaged into the affected area/s. The essential oil molecules find their way into the body via the hair follicles and blood stream. In the case of emotional problems, inhalants are used and receptors are activated which help the body to relax or be stimulated, depending upon the requirement.

If your horse is competing at an elite level care must be taken with the use of essential oils as some will produce positive drug test results. Essential oils such as Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Rosemary are prohibited by many show horse associations. Most essential oils will be metabolised via the urinary system within a week, although some heavier resin-based oils can take longer.


Test any blends you want to use on a small areas on the inside of the horse’s elbow before complete application. If itching or redness occurs, dilute the blend further. A horse’s skin is much more sensitive than human’s, so never apply essential oils undiluted to the skin. If your horse has a reaction to any oils bathe the area with vegetable oil or milk to reduce the irritation. Do not use water as it can increase the chance of a reaction. Use a 3% dilution, which is the same as recommended for use on adult humans. Do not be mistaken into assuming that more oil is necessary because horses are so much bigger than humans, as increasing the dosage will not make a more effective blend – in fact, all you will achieve is to increase the chance of a negative reaction.

When using aromatherapy and essential oils with horses, use common sense. Do not use essential oils on any ailments that you have not had looked at by your veterinarian. Many vets today are open to the use of complimentary therapies.

*Essential oils are best administered under the guidance of an accredited aromatherapist.


Just as we humans are drawn to the oils we need by our sense of smell and our emotions, so too are horses. A horse will show a preference for a particular essential oil. It will also let you know when it doesn’t like a particular oil – watch their eyes and body language. It is very easy to read what is going on by your horse’s reaction.

Ask your horse to show you which one it wants and needs.

This is best done at a quiet time of day, preferably not right before or after a feed. Open the bottle of oil and hold it in your hand about eight inches from your horse’s nostrils. Give the horse enough room to move toward or away from the oils. Watch for reactions that tell you whether the horse likes the oil or not. As you know your horse well, you will know what signals to look for.


When a horse is interested in an oil it will smell the oil intently for a long time. Generally the lip will curl and the horse will follow the aroma around or try to nibble at the bottle.

Use these oils once or twice per day.


The horse has a sniff, checks it out, has a look around an comes back to the bottle. Their ears might be forward and their nostrils slightly flared, but they are not totally focused on the oil. Use these oils once per day.


The ‘I’m not interested’ look is when the horse turns away from the aroma and does not want to play. Do NOT use this oil at this time.

Horses will generally need oils for between one and two weeks. You will be able to judge from their reactions when they are no longer needed.


It is a challenge to give specific recipes for horses. Whether looking to address a physical or emotional challenge, it is recommended that you follow the same guidelines used as for creating blends for humans.




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