Aromatherapeutic Horses

Using aromatherapy with horses helps the owner and therapist connect with each horse on a physical and emotional level that may be difficult to obtain without the use of essential oils.

The scent molecules access the horse's and owner limbic system. It takes nanoseconds for their body's to respond to the instructions the hypothalamus glands receive from the olfactory bulb. The limbic system is the seat of emotions and various neurochemicals govern how we express each emotion. Our patterning is expressed by how each of the endocrine glands is programmed to respond, with the scent molecule we are able to bypass our patterns and access a new pathway if desired.

On a physical level, the essential oil molecules are both inhaled and absorbed across the alveoli in the lungs or they are absorbed via the hair follicle into the bloodstream when applied to the skin. The molecule structure of the essential oils then targets smooth muscle tissue or in the case of the constituent camphor, attaches itself to the heme portion of the blood to circulate throughout the body.

When you take the horse as a  WHOLE and work on both levels at the same time you will find you will access more dimensions of healing in less time. By chipping away at a physical problem neglects where the issue began, in the emotions. By dealing only with emotions, you will only address what is current, and the backlog of emotions will stay stored in the body tissues until you address this physically.

"Blue" is a case history that exhibits how our body and emotions are so intricately linked, even in the equine.


Last week I was invited to massage a client's new horse. He was a Stock horse cross of some kind and a lovely dark chestnut and with a very Australian name, Blue. Now Blue taught me a very valuable lesson last week, he reminded me of the importance of being aware of a problem before you can address it. Healing can only go to a certain level if you are not participating and becoming aware of what you need to address in your life, with horses this is no different.

Blue was totally "not there" during most of his massage. He gazed off across the escarpment, he ignored any of his owners attempts to stop him from chewing on the tufts of grass, and he had himself so removed from the massage it was very difficult to make a connection.


He had been a show jumper and was now learning dressage, so he had a few shoulder issues. As I massaged them I found the muscles were as unresponsive as was Blue's attention to me. His owner even commented that her new horse was not "with us" and she was concerned he was not participating.

The turning point to this massage came when I decided it was time to apply some aromatherapy to his shoulders. I chose essential oils that addressed muscle spasms, but that also helped the mind to focus. As soon as my hands were under Blue's nostrils he became alert. Eyes widened, he held his head up high and he began to show an interest in what I was doing. When I applied the oils to his shoulders you could feel his attention observing me this time and the muscles finally began to ease out of their spasms.

Blue's awareness was triggered by Juniper that dissipates worry. Sometimes we can be so concerned about what may be about to happen, that we totally disassociate from the event. In this case, Blue was disassociating from his massage, it was possible that this was his first experience of body work and unsure of what I may do to him. I also used Basil to help him focus on what I was doing while using Lavender to sooth and nurture him. Mandarin was final essential oil I added, to uplift him and allow him to feel safe with the process.

All these essential oils were blended in a 2.5% dilution into vegetable oil and applied to Blue after he had sniffed the aroma. When selecting aromatherapy for use with your horse, often the physical needs and mental aspects are address by the same essential oils. The mind and body are so intricately linked.

Catherine Bird, Randwick Australia,