Healing with Oils

Highlights from our first Essential Oil Therapy for Equine Owners Workshops at Furzedown Farm, Weymouth.

What is Essential Oil Therapy? Its a bit like aromatherapy for people, but its for horses. It does not involve massaging oils into the body as horses are far too hairy for that kind of thing. Besides your horse would probably not appreciate being placed up on a massage table.

Horses will inhale essential oils with one nostril or two, they may show a Flehmen response to work an oil further into the body. They may indicate they want to lick the oil, sometimes using the front of the tongue and sometimes using the back. All different methods of entry into the body which help them heal and balance any issues.

If horses were free to roam they would firstly select flora for nutrition and then for any medicinal qualities to help balance their body. Field Biologist Cindy Engle’s book called Wild Health is full of many wonderful examples of how animals innately self select to stay healthy. With Essential Oil Therapy we can bring back more of the plant kingdom to our domesticated friends, and provide environmental enrichment.

If you are interested in learning more, we are running more workshops at the farm throughout the year. See workshops for details.


Basil (top photos) and Tom (bottom photos) have the same selection of oils to select (each person represents a different oil). They both select different oils in different ways and have different responses and reactions. Basil is more private preferring to release emotions out of view, he needed a rest of about 20 mins before coming back to the door to select again. Tom was happy to share his responses in front of everyone and keen to select.


The Flehmen response or lip curl facilitates the transfer of particles into the Vomeronasal Organ (VNO) or Jacobson’s organ located above the roof of the mouth via a duct which exits just behind the front teeth of the animal. Dave shows this well after selecting an oil he wants.
Jac can not do this response likely due to nerve damage from previous bridal use. Caroline Crane (CEO at Furzedown Farm) offered Jac some Bowen and Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) work to help facilitate healing. This video shows his physiological response to the work and he is selecting some peppermint to work with after this body work.


Whilst the horses were being offered oils, One of the pigs started pushing the wheelbarrows out of the way to make a clearing to come under the fence onto the yard. Caroline and Hannah went over to the pigs to see which oils they were after.
‘Pepper’mint Pig’s response after some peppermint oil was to lie down immediately. The water bucket method may be useful with pigs should they wish to ingest the oils (see below ‘water bucket method’).

IN THE FIELD: Horses will be more relaxed to work with oils in their own home be that field or stable. If in field, you may have to work with the herd as a whole and in some cases that is what is needed. Once your horses are used to being offered oils as a herd/in the field, it becomes more relaxed and horses often have time alone to process any issues without being interrupted by others.

Equine, Therapy, Essential Oils, Zoopharmcognosy
Grace selects oils whilst other herd members continue their business

WATER BUCKET METHOD: Max was on a two month box rest after a leg injury. I placed three different coloured water buckets in his stable (orange, yellow and purple) so Max could self select three oils from these water buckets and he could work with them over a 24 hour period. The blue bucket is just for plain water and his stable is well ventilated.

I selected a few oils that Max may choose for physical repair and/or emotional well-being. If he is keen, I put a few drops of one oil in one of the buckets. I started filming after he had chosen peppermint and I had placed drops in the purple bucket. I have jasmine next, to see if Max wishes to work with this oil. I accidentally dripped a bit of peppermint on the straw so in the video you may notice Max detects it and comes back to my hand to check if it was the same (its not). On my hand is Jasmine, which although Max liked was more keen to go back to the peppermint which he eventually discovers is floating on top of the water in the purple bucket.

Max self selected peppermint daily over his box rest period whilst other oils were only selected for a limited time.


The horses selected from the green powders and Barley Grass was a firm favourite


My pony Jac (above) received a body work session from osteopath Hannah Lawrence in exchange for a place on the essential oils workshop. Jac seemed happy with this and was certainly more spritely the following morning.

IF YOU ARE A DOG OWNER: We now have combined our horse and dog workshop as most people own both. Our cat workshop is separate as we generally use dried herbs and make our own herbal toys (help being creative with sewing is available). Our next workshop (level 2) moves more into topical remedies and kinesiology.

In our next Essential Oil Therapy blog we catch up with students to see how they have been using the workshop information with their own horses.

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