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Horses and Essential Oils: How Do They Help?

The essential oil and aromatherapy trend in the equestrian community is all the rage these days.  Suppose you questioned this trend and decided to try it. We all have doubts about trying something new on our horses, but you can find the right essential oil to help your horse with the proper research on using these excellent natural oils.

Using essential oil aromatherapy on your horse will help support your horse’s emotional and physical needs, including issues with nervousness, skin problems, spooking, wound care, and grooming. The benefits for your horse include reducing anxiety, relieving pain, reducing inflammation, repels insects, increasing energy, strengthening the immune system, improving digestion, and speeding up wound healing. 

Scientists have found that essential oils have many positive effects on human biology and that essential oils can also help horses. How should you use them? Which essential oils are beneficial for horses? Find answers to all your questions here.

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is applied with essential oils as an inhalant, and it can be used topically and internally to help stimulate the body’s natural healing.  Aromatherapy is a holistic wellness treatment used on humans and animals alike for thousands of years. 

The modern pharmaceutical industry did not start until the turn of the 20th century. All of our medicines were plant-based before then.  The first medicinal drugs existed in herbs, roots, plants, fungi, and vines that all came from natural sources.

Aromatherapy is a natural approach to health and wellness that is not necessarily a replacement for modern medical methods.  Aromatherapy has few side effects if used correctly, with knowledge and care beneficial to humans and animals alike.

How Does Aromatherapy Help Horses?

Aromatherapy with the use of essential oils stimulates your horse’s sense of smell. Your horse’s olfactory system triggers a reaction in the brain that causes your horse’s endocrine system to release neurochemicals.  These neurochemicals elicit emotional responses in your horse, instilling a sense of calm, stimulation, contentment, or a variety of other responses. 

The antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties of these essential oils can help many ailments in your horse. Lavender, in particular, helps alleviate high levels of stress and anxiety in your horse.

Aromatherapy with essential oils can also be used on horses for digestive problems, skin infections or irritations, muscle pain, restlessness, sleeping problems, and even mood swings in mares.

Which Essential Oils are Safe for Horses?

You can use these safe essential oils on your horse:

  • Peppermint
  • Bergamot
  • Basil
  • Chamomile in all varieties
  • Cedarwood in all varieties
  • Lavender in all varieties
  • Mandarin
  • Eucalyptus
  • Sweet Orange
  • Frankincense in all varieties
  • Sandalwood
  • Lemongrass
  • Palmarosa
  • Juniper
  • Vetiver
  • Geranium
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen and Tea tree oil should be used with caution

IMPORTANT NOTE: Tea Tree oil is toxic if ingested.  Please be careful when using Tea Tree oil on your horse. 

Which Essential Oils are NOT Safe for Horses?

Essential oils you should avoid using on your horse include:

  • Anise
  • Blue Tansy
  • Birch
  • Clove Bud
  • Camphor
  • Garlic
  • Yarrow oils

How is Essential Oil Therapy Used on Horses?

Essential oil aromatherapy can be used in two ways:

Essential oils can be used Topically

Essential oils are easily absorbed through the horses’ skin and enter the bloodstream to provide quick results. Essential oils are commonly used in massage therapy and will help heal wounds faster.

Essential oils can be used Aromatically

Inhaling essential oils is another typical way to use them. Inhaling essential oils can help improve emotional health and well-being as well as physical health.

When you are using essential oils on your horse, you should always purchase high-quality therapeutic oils. Stay away from lower-quality oils because they aren’t as effective as the higher-quality oils. 

When you apply essential oils topically on your horse, it is recommended that you always dilute your essential oil with a suitable carrier oil like coconut oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil first.  Some common side effects when oils are not appropriately diluted first include; irritation, redness, itching, watery eyes, sneezing, and even burning of the skin.

How to Use Essential Oils on Your Horse

A horse’s sense of smell is far more advanced than a human’s and is strongly linked to their behavior.  Essential oils are highly concentrated and have proven to be significantly effective for helping horses with many ailments.

Before you use any oil, first let your horse sniff the new oil from your hand.  If your horse turns his head away, your horse tells you he disapproves of the new scent. Don’t use that particular oil.

When you work with essential oils, always work in a well-ventilated area so the scent does not become too overpowering for your horse. It’s important to talk to your veterinarian and ask him about essential oil use.  It is essential to clarify essential oil use with your veterinarian before using any oils on your horse.

The most popular way to release essential oils into your horse’s environment is by using a nebulizing diffuser.  A nebulizer emits the essential oils quickly and effectively over a large area using cool mist technology.

For a calming effect, apply a few drops of essential oil in your hand and offer it to your horse to smell first while you are watching your horse’s reaction. Remember, these oils are potent, and your horse’s sense of smell is far more sensitive than yours.

When you offer up the oils to your horse, you ideally want to see your horse licking, sighing, closing his eyes, or dropping his head and neck to indicate he is relaxing. To achieve calming effects, use before your event so that your horse learns to associate the sense of the oil with being relaxed, and then offer it again use after the competition

When to Use Essential Oils on Your Horse

Use essential oils on your horse for Stress, Anxiety, and Nervousness

One of the most common reasons to use essential oils on horses is to calm down nervous horses. If your horse is high-strung and easily excited, try introducing a nebulizing diffuser with Lavender essential oil. Lavender oil, in particular, will help alleviate levels of stress or anxiety in your horse.

Use Essential Oils on Your Horse for Muscle Spasms and Pain

When your horse is experiencing any kind of muscle pain or spasms, then using Basil, Lavender, or Marjoram essential oil can be used in a topical solution. However, just make sure you dilute your essential oils in a 20:1 ratio with a carrier oil like Sweet Almond oil or Virgin coconut oil.

Use Essential Oils on Your Horse for Respiratory Issues

For respiratory problems, essential oils can be rubbed onto your horse’s chest, so your horse can inhale the oil and take advantage of its health benefits.  When applying essential oil topically directly to your horse’s skin, always dilute your essential oil first.

Use Essential Oils on Your Horse for Overused Stiff Muscles

Eucalyptus oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is excellent for treating or relieving the pain associated with overused sore muscles on your horse.

Use Essential Oils on Your Horse for Thrush

Thyme and Tea tree are essential oils that both have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. These oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil before applying directly to the affected area.

What are the Best Essential Oils for Horses?

Experts have listed Oregano, Lavender, and Thyme as the best three essential oils for use on horses.  These three essential oils are often used as an expectorant and will help relieve congestion. However, Oregano should never be used on a pregnant or lactating mare.

Thyme essential oil is a well-known anti-rheumatic and can be used to relieve rheumatic conditions. Thyme is also a good antiseptic that can help prevent the growth of bacteria.

Other Essential Oils That Can be Used on Horses

Essential OilUse
FrankincenseIs for calming horses.  Please note that Frankincense should always only be used topically and never internally.  Frankincense maintains radiant skin when used topically.  This essential oil has six known key constituents and has a great fresh woodsy smell. Frankincense comes from distilling the resin of the Boswellia Carteri tree.
GeraniumHelps with boosting the morale of your horse and will elevate your horse’s mood. Geranium is helpful for moody mares.
LavenderWorks well for calming horses as well as minor skin irritations. Lavender is widely used as a highly popular and proven essential oil for pain and stress relief.
JuniperWhen your horse is experiencing water retention or pain from arthritis, Juniper oil is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial diuretic.
MelroseMelaleuca alternifolia, Rosemary, and Clove. This blend of oils is a cleanser for healthy skin.
LemongrassHas antibacterial properties and proves to be uplifting and calming for your horse.
Tea TreeWith its natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, it can be used as a pain reliever for your horse. Tea Tree is known for helping to get rid of damaging skin bacteria on the surface and virus control for warts. Tea Tree oil has ten known constituents with powerful properties.

Tea Tree Warning note: However, you should also know that tea tree oil is very toxic when ingested and can lead to lethargy, confusion, diarrhea, and even coma or death.  If you use Tea Tree oil topically on your horse, make sure it is diluted correctly, and your horse can’t lick the oil.
ChamomileGives your horse support with anxiety, anger, or nervousness. Chamomile can be applied directly to your horse’s poll.
Peppermint OilIs versatile and a great essential oil that can be fed to your horse. It can be very comforting to your horse’s digestive system, and when any digestion issue pops up, it is one of the go-to essential oils.
BergamotThis essential oil is terrific but uses it carefully on your horse if he has pink skin as this oil has a photosensitive property. Bergamot is excellent when combined with lavender oil and will give your horse highly relaxing results.
ValerianComes from the Valerian root itself, and this oil offers a reconnection and grounding support. It works wonders when applied to the coronary bands and cannon bone areas of your horse.
CloveThe high proportions of eugenol in clove oil is an arthritis relief option that supports joint function and healthy inflammatory responses. Clove can be irritating at full strength. Make sure to use it diluted in a carrier oil or spray-on form. When Clove oil is combined with Peppermint or Wintergreen oil, it is an excellent warming option for tired muscles after a hard show or workday.  Add it to a spray bottle and apply it directly to the legs.  As this oil combination will not evaporate quickly, do not add a standing wrap over the top.
WintergreenIs an excellent all-purpose natural essential oil that is historically used for tendonitis and arthritis relief.  Wintergreen is primarily composed of methyl salicylate, which, when metabolized, produces salicylic acid.  Aspirin shows the same active element when metabolized. Use Wintergreen with caution when giving it to your horse orally over long periods, especially if your horse is already on a bute regimen.
CopaibaCopaiba can be found in medical records dating back as far as the 1400s. Copaiba oil is high in beta-caryophyllene. When Copaiba was studied, it showed positive results when used for pain reduction. Copaiba oil is easily found and available across Brazil and commonly found in local pharmacies.

Some recipes for using Essential oils on your horse

These recipes will show you several easy ways to mix and blend your essential oils to gain maximum benefits for your horse.

Pain Relief Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

To mix this recipe yourself, take a small spray bottle and add the following ingredients:

  • 6 drops of Lavender oil.
  • 6 drops Wintergreen, or you can use Peppermint oil if preferred.
  • 1 capful of Thieves (contains clove oil).
  • 6 drops of Panaway.
  • Optional – 3 drops of Oregano oil.
  • Add enough witch hazel, distilled water, or apple cider vinegar to fill the container.
  • Shake gently and spray on muscles or legs.

Itch Relief Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

In a spray bottle, combine the following to apply directly to your horse’s coat.  Rub it in well with a soft cloth into the affected areas.

  • 10 drops of Lavender oil.
  • 10 drops of Melrose.
  • 10 drops of Tea Tree oil.
  • 10 drops of Frankincense oil.
  • Add 2 Tablespoons of fractionated coconut oil.
  • Add distilled water to fill the sprayer.

Itching is always a big problem in a barn, whether you have one horse or several horses. The changing seasons, flies, shedding, other stinging insects, and dry weather can damage manes and tails. Itching is uncomfortable to horses and creates negative behaviors.

Horse Coat Conditioner Essential Oil Recipe

Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle and apply.

  • 1 part vegetable Glycerin.  You can use less if you want a smoother finish.
  • 15 drops of Lavender oil.
  • 10 drops of Cedarwood oil.
  • 5 drops of Orange essential oil.
  • 5 drops of Rosemary oil.
  • 3 parts distilled water.
  • Mix gently and apply directly to your horse’s mane and tail. Keep in a warm place during cooler weather.

This recipe is especially great for detangling manes and tails. Keep a version of this handy coat conditioner around for our horses to get a quick fairy knot removal and for tail rubbing all year round.  This is a quick and easy recipe if you are new to using essential oils on your horses, as all of the elements are likely familiar and easy to obtain.

Tick Spray Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

Combine all these ingredients in a large spray bottle. Spray onto your horse’s body, focusing on his legs and underbelly every four hours during his time in turnout.

  • 1 cup distilled water.
  • 2 cups distilled white Vinegar.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or Almond oil.
  • 2 tablespoons Lemon juice (optional)
  • 4 drops Peppermint essential oil.
  • 4 drops Eucalyptus essential oil.
  • 4 drops Citronella essential oil.
  • 3 drops Palo Santo essential oil.
  • 3 drops Cedarwood essential oil.
  • 3 drops Thyme essential oil.

Fly Spray Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

Mix the Olive or Neem oil, Vinegar, Epsom salt water, and Garlic powder. Divide into one-ounce spray bottles and add the essential oils. 

  • 2 ounces Olive oil or Neem oil. Unfortunately, this does not have the best smell.
  • 1 cup white Vinegar.
  • Epsom salt water – Dilute 1 cup Epsom salt to 1 gallon of water.
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic powder.
  • 6 drops Black Pepper essential oil.
  • 6 drops Citronella essential oil.
  • Alternative ingredients for this recipe:
  • You can substitute the Garlic powder for Garlic-infused water.  Remove the oil from your recipe.
  • Take fresh organic Garlic cloves and place them in a glass container with distilled water – one liter of water for one head of garlic. Let that sit for several days before use.

Wound Salve Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

Combine the clay and essential oil in a container.  Apply liberally to minor wounds on your horse to promote the healing process.

  • 1 cup Bentonite Clay.
  • 20 drops of Lavender essential oil.

Proud Flesh Prevention Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

In a spray bottle, combine water and essential oils. Spray on your horse’s legs twice daily.

  • 1-ounce distilled water.
  • 6 drops of Tea tree essential oil.
  • 6 drops of Clove essential oil.
  • 6 drops of Rosemary essential oil.

Calming Blend Essential Oil Recipe for Horses (Use a 3-Oil Combination)

Choose any three of these essential oils and add six drops of each of the three oils to distilled water in a spray bottle.  Spray the essential oil blend on your horse’s neck and chest 15 to 20 minutes before a stressful event.

  • 1-ounce distilled water.
  • 6 drops of Lavender essential oil
  • 6 drops of Frankincense essential oil
  • 6 drops of Cedarwood essential oil

Or any of these in a 3 combination.

  • 6 drops of Valerian essential oil
  • 6 drops of Roman Chamomile essential oil
  • 6 drops of Vetiver essential oil.
  • 6 drops of Jasmine essential oil.

After-Bite Spray Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

Add all these ingredients to a spray bottle and shake it well.  Spray directly on bug bites, or spray it on a gauze pad and place it on larger bites on your horse.

  • 1-ounce distilled water.
  • 6 drops Lavender essential oil.
  • 6 drops Chamomile essential oil.
  • 4 drops Basil essential oil.

Hoof Conditioner Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

Combine all the ingredients and stir well. Rub into your horse’s hooves.

  •  1 cup fractionated Coconut oil.
  •  2 tablespoons Sweet Almond oil.
  •  4 drops Frankincense essential oil.
  •  4 drops Lavender essential oil.

Muscle Rub Essential Oil Recipe for Horses

Add all of the ingredients to an eight-ounce spray pump bottle. Shake well, spray and massage onto your horse’s sore muscles.

  • 1/4 cup Grapeseed oil.
  • 1/4 cup Wheat germ oil.
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Almond oil.
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil.
  • 5 drops Wintergreen essential oil.
  • 5 drops Peppermint essential oil.
  • 5 drops Oregano essential oil.
  • 5 drops Eucalyptus globulus essential oil.
  • 5 drops Elemi essential oil.
  • 5 drops Vetiver essential oil.
  • 5 drops Lemongrass essential oil.
  • 5 drops Thyme essential oil.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Essential Oils on Your Horse

  • DO – start slowly and watch for a reaction from your horse.
  • DO – be patient with your horse and allow your horse to process each oil.
  • DO – always dilute the oils if they are being used topically or internally.
  • DO – limit the number of oils you offer your horse each time.  Less is always more.
  • DO – apply the essential oil to yourself for the first few days to test before applying it to your horse.
  • DO – start with the lowest recommended dilution.
  • DO – be familiar with your horse’s health issues and speak to your veterinarian first to help you decide if using essential oils is the right choice for your horse.
  • DO – use vegetable-based oil or milk to wash off or if your horse reacts to essential oils if you got some oil accidentally in your horse’s eye.  The albumen content of the milk will help to dilute the essential oils and soothe the skin.
  • DO – use caution with topical application of hot essential oils like Oregano, Clove, Thyme, Cassia, and Cinnamon oils.
  • DON’T –   never present undiluted essential oils to your horse.
  • DON’T – force essential oils on your horse if your horse shows aversion. This may lead to an adverse emotional reaction from your horse.
  • DON’T – add essential oils to your horse’s food.
  • DON’T – use essential oils on or near your horse’s eyes, nose, ears, or genitals.
  • DON’T – use water to wash off or dilute an essential oil that you’ve already applied.  Water will increase the irritability of essential oils to the skin.
  • DON’T – put any essential oils on your horse’s halter.
  • DON’T – put any essential oils in your horse’s water bucket.
  • DON’T – put oils directly in your horse’s eyes or in his nose or ears.
  • DON’T – use essential oils on your horse right before a competition – 24-hour rule.
  • DON’T – Never force oils on your horse.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying essential oils:

  • The species and genus name of the plant should be listed on the essential oil bottle.
  • The essential oils should be bottled in a dark glass bottle.
  • Don’t buy low-cost oils that are below the market price. They are low quality and for fragrance purposes rather than therapeutic use.
  • Buy your essential oils from a reputable company.
  • Essential oils should be low-pressure steam distilled.
  • Third-party lab results should be available to the public. If they aren’t available on the company’s website, call them directly and inquire.
  • The essential oil company should control the farming of the plants from seed to bottle.
  • The soil in which the plants used in essential oils are grown should meet USDA organic guidelines.
  • The essential oils should not contain any synthetic ingredients.
  • Essential oils should not feel greasy or oily when applied to your skin.
  • The essential oil company should be able to confirm that they have safely used their oils on animals.
  • The essential oil company should also guide you to use essential oils for animals and people safely.
  •  You should be able to quickly contact the essential oil representative and ask questions before purchase.


Essential oil use in humans and animals has been around for centuries, starting as far back as Biblical times.  Essential oils are derived only from plants and are frequently manufactured by distillation to extract oils.

Essential oils for horses are steadily gaining popularity as more and more horse owners learn about their usefulness. While essential oil treatments are by no means a replacement for veterinary care, essential oil aromatherapy can be helpful as a wellness treatment to help your horse stay healthy and happy.

Once you learned the basics and which essential oils are safe for use on horses, and what benefits they offer, using essential oils for horses is something you can make part of a routine for your horse. 

Essential oils contain antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties and can help several ailments in horses.  Use essential oils on your horse for natural pain relief, itch relief, coat conditioner, and calms his anxiety.

Anrie Diedericks

I've been around horses since I was 6 years old and started competing at the age of 9. Horses are my greatest passion and I am thrilled to be able to share my 23 (and counting) years of experience and knowledge with you.

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