Using essential oils aromatically means allowing your horse to inhale the aroma of the oil. There are so many ways to use essential oils aromatically on and around horses. Here we list 6 of our favourite methods that will allow your horse to benefit from these amazing oils safely, easily and effectively!
The ways you can facilitate this method are almost as vast as your imagination. Follow these simple guidelines to help get you started on using essential oils for your horse.
We have divided the article into a summary section (Pony Points) and a more in-depth look (Draft Edition). Be sure to scroll down to the end of the article and leave us a comment! We would love to hear from you. Specifically, let us know how you would like to use essential oils aromatically for your horse.
1. Essential oils can be used aromatically for emotional support, respiratory support or to deter pests from barns or other areas.
2. A diffuser is easy and straight forward for you to use personally. Diffusing essential oils can help you be calm, centred and focused when getting ready to work with your horse. You can also diffuse essential oils in barn areas directly for your horse. Do not use a heat-based diffuser.
3. Essential oils naturally diffuse themselves into the air because of their highly volatile nature. Please read our article What Are Essential Oils
for more info. Basically essential oils will diffuse off any surface you put them on.
4. Caution: don’t let the diffuser (whatever it may be) be accessible to the horse(s) to chew or otherwise get into trouble with.
5. A horse’s sense of smell is far greater than yours so do not overwhelm him. Start with one drop of essential oil at a time. Increase only as tolerated and needed.
Why use essential oils aromatically?
Using essential oils via inhalation is the least invasive way to experience an essential oil.
Aromatic use can benefit the respiratory system and provide emotional support. It can also be very effective in deterring pests from barns, trailers or other areas.
Even though you or your horse might "just" be smelling the essential oil, the aromatic compounds in the oil still have a powerful therapeutic effect on various body systems.
We have a whole article on the science behind using essential oils aromatically. Please click here to read it, so that you are informed and ready to use the essential oils therapeutically for your horse and even yourself!
The most common method for using essential oils aromatically is via a diffuser.
A diffuser is effective, efficient and often pleasing to look at. It is one of our favourite way to use oils aromatically. A good quality water based diffuser is the best all around option. Do not use a heat based diffuser as it can alter the chemical makeup of your oil.
Even though we highly encourage diffusers, using them safely in your barn/riding space is often not feasible. Here are some other great options for gaining the benefits of aromatic use of essential oils.
6 great ways to use essential oils aromatically on and around your horse:
- Let the horse inhale the aroma of an essential oil from your palms. This is the easiest and safest option. Simply place 1 or 2 drops of the oil in your hands, cupping them together in the shape of a little bowl for the horse to smell. Allow the horse to smell the oil for as long as he likes or as long as you want to hold your hands steady for him. You may notice that a horse will sniff with one nostril first and then the other, or go back and forth. Horses will also intuitively inhale an aroma until they have had their fill and then turn their head away. Never force a horse to inhale an essential oil by restraining him.
- Spray essential oils on horse blankets. You can add essential oils into a 1-2 oz glass spray bottle and top off with pure water. Shake the bottle before using. Also be careful if doing turnout with other horses as this may encourage them to chew on the blanket, depending on oils chosen. Many horses really love essential oils! Another great tip is to spray essential oils on blankets during the off season, as this can help keep critters from using your blankets as nesting material.
- Apply to halter or bridal at the nose band. Be very sensitive to your horse as they have a much stronger sense of smell so always only use 1 or max 2 drops for this method and be prepared to change equipment if they do not like the constant presence of the oil. We suggest you first test the oil by letting the horse smell it in your hand to see if they like your choice.
- Drop essential oils on a rag or post outside a horse's reach, but close enough to smell. Give horses the option to move away from the aroma.
- Soak a hand towel or face cloth in 2 cups of hot water and the oil you desire, wring out and drape over the noseband of your horses halter. Be careful to drape and NOT cover the nostrils. Note that this method will allow for some topical effects as well.
- Saddle pads or breast collars. Remember to place the oil on the top or outer side, not the inner side in contact with the horse during a workout, as you will then be using the topical method.
Words of Caution
Be careful when spraying oils on bedding or stall walls as some horses may be tempted to eat rather than sniff whatever you have sprayed it on. All of a sudden the shavings smell incredibly tasty! This may lead to a very serious problem with a case of impaction colic.
You can still use essential oils as part of your cleaning/sanitizing process. Just make sure that the horse is not around to chew on things while you are working in the stall or barn area. Wash walls and remove any bedding sprayed with essential oils prior to the horse returning to that area.
Our best advice: never leave your horse alone with an object that has essential oils on it which could be ingested in part or whole. It is not for fear of ingesting the oils necessarily but rather whatever the oils are on. You do not want your horse attempt to devour shavings, wood posts or other materials.
Should my horse choose its essential oil?
There is a theory called Applied Zoopharmacognosy coined by Caroline Ingraham, in which you let the animal choose the essential oil they want. You watch for any signs the horse displays of either positive or negative qualities after smelling a specific oil. The horse might turn away its head or start inhaling the aroma more intently, for example.
This method allows for the horse to self-medicate and although we realize this can be effective it also has limitations. We feel this is best for emotional work but not so reliable when using oils to support an underlying condition in which you are assisting with your knowledge of the properties of the specific oil you are wanting to use.
That said if your horse has an extreme aversion to an essential oil, please respect that.
Keep in mind that your horse has a much more sensitive sense of smell than you and you may simply be overwhelming them if you get a negative response. The horse may like the oil but needs a less concentrated amount.
Remember: ONE drop!
That is all, nothing more. And offer from a distance at first. Amanda’s 5 year old daughter once smelled Rose straight from the bottle. “Yuck” was her response and she was in complete disgust and avoided all essential oil bottles for a bit. Yet 10 drops of this potent essential oil in 250 mL of water is her favourite spritzer to spray on her bed sheets. Just a couple squirts from the spray bottle is all it takes to create a lovely aroma. That equates to a tiny portion of one drop in a room being the ideal amount for one particular human’s preference of the intensity of rose. Your horse is the same; he will have his own opinion about the aromatic intensity that he enjoys.
Using essential oils aromatically for your horse can be an incredibly rewarding and beneficial experience.
It is a great way to target some emotional concerns and increase bonding between you and your horse. Make sure you have good quality pure essential oils (read our article on purity here
) and add them to your tool bag of natural solutions!
Please share this article with your horse friends and remember to leave a reply in the comment section. We'd love to know how you would like to use essential oils aromatically on and around your horse. What specific concerns would you like to address? You can also email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Amanda and Daniela
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Melissa Shelton DVM, The Animal Desk Reference II Essential Oils for Animals (Melissa Shelton, September 2018)
Carole Faith, Essential Oils for Horses A Source Book for Practitioners and Owners (J. A. Allen, 2002)
Nayana Morag, Essential Oils for Animals (Off The Leash Press, 2011)
Peter Holmes Lac MH, Aromatica Volume 2 (Singing Dragon, 2019)
dōTERRA, Essential Oil Specialist course 2020