The Dressage Horse and Equine Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is becoming accepted as a viable complimentary means of care, along with massage, chiropractic, acupressure, homeopathy, magnetic therapy, and therapeutic touch, for humans and animals alike. Most of my experience has been with dressage horses. This article outlines how aromatherapy can be used for the dressage horse.
Dressage is a complex sport that is not only physically demanding, it also relies on the mental conditioning of the horse and rider team. It takes years of training for a horse and rider team to reach their peak, in performance and competition, compared to other equine athletes. Aromatherapy can assist the dressage athlete. Aromatherapy is a perfect resource for helping keep these horses in balance, as Essential Oils work on many levels helping the body balance physically, mentally and emotionally .
Aromatherapy utilizes Essential Oils, which are made up of compounds that are the reason plants have historically, been used for healing purposes. Aromatherapy is also becoming more common as a means of managing the well being of many high level equine athletes. I personally have had the pleasure of working with several of these wonderful horses and have witnessed positive results.
When I go to work on a horse, I take 2 blends with me. I offer the horse a chance to choose one of the 2 blends. It is very easy to determine the horse’s preference by their response. One of the blends, Shoe-Thyme, has oils which are blended to balance a horse that is emotionally stressed. The other, CMW, is to balance a horse that is physically stressed and holds tension in the muscles. I may offer a single oil to gain more insight on the horse’s present state. For instance, if the horse chooses Show-Thyme, I may offer ylang ylang which helps geldings with confidence, and mares needing hormonal balance. Or sweet orange which is a calming antidepressant for a horse that may be missing his pasture mates. If the horse chooses the CMW blend I may offer black pepper which has a slight analgesic effect and relaxes muscles. Another option is peppermint that is energizing and also helps with respiratory strength.
I proceed to use the chosen blend, allowing them to inhale, which is immediately absorbed into the system via the olfactory center in the brain and the circulatory system via the lungs. The horse responds by lowering his head or chewing or even closing his eyes. I use a combination of the essential oils and Acupressure, moving from the head, poll, crest, back, front legs and back legs on both sides. I usually work with them for about 30 to 40 minutes which includes soft massage, unblocking energy meridians and stretching exercises, specifically designed for dressage horses. I stretch out the tail to open and stretch the lower spine. I stretch out the shoulders and haunches. The essential oils are helpful as I work to keep the horse calm and to directly affect the muscle group and pressure points I am working on at the time.
Stallions are prominent in Dressage. This presents special challenges due to the number of mares and stallions there who need to be focused on their job and not mother nature. Some people have used a mentholated salve in the noses of stallions and mares to prevent them from smelling each other. This product is toxic if ingested and irritating to sensitive areas like noses. It melts and has an unpleasant taste if the horse licks it. There is a product available that works, is non toxic, and tastes sweet. It is made with Anais essential oils and beeswax. It gently blocks the smell center and also has a calming effect on the horse. As the beeswax melts it is pleasantly sweet to the horse.
Often I am asked for aromatherapy for the rider if they are experiencing tension as that could be transferred to the horse. I also try and teach the person responsible for grooming or riding the horse how to use the essential oil blends, and stretching exercises to use at home as it is very beneficial for schooling as well as the show ring.
The results are horses that are calmer, more focused and systemically balanced. Riders confirm this by relating stories of bigger more fluid movement and a more relaxed horse, and a positive experience for the rider.