Aromatherapy is a different type of treatment, for some physical and psychological problems in horses, which uses essential plant oils (essence). The use of these oils can be traced back to at least 2000BC, the Bible records their use and the Egyptians were known for using them widely. There are records of the use of Aromatherapy in Britain from the 13th century.
The plant essences are mixed with a 'carrier' before they can be used and the quality of the essence will depend on the extraction method. The best oils are obtained using steam distillation and they must then be stored correctly to maintain their quality, in a tightly sealed dark glass bottle. It is also very important that the strength of the essential oil is correct to ensure the desired effect is achieved, overly strong essential oils can have the opposite effect. The 'carrier' is often sweet almond or sunflower oil although a water based gel is sometimes used.
The plant essences can be used for:
and for treating
· sweet itch
· mud fever
· other skin problems
· respiratory problems
· behavioural problems
An aromatherapist will often mix several oils together and offer options to a horse, the horse will pick out their choice by showing more interest in one!
The oils can then be massaged into the horses skin when they will be absorbed via the hair follicles into the body. Alternatively, the essential oils can be administered by inhalation; using a vapouriser in the stable or by spraying onto the rug. The smell of the oils is transmitted to the brain via the Nervous System these messages can then trigger reactions ; reduce pain, encourage calm, balance the body, or stimulate. Herbs often used include:
· Tea Tree
I have written blogs about several of these herbs in the past.
· Horses with oil on them should not be turned out in the hot sun - they will burn!
· Never use essential oils undiluted as they can be toxic.
· Some essential oils are banned from competition.
· Qualified equine aromatherapists will work with the permission of a vet.
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