Essential Oils to Assist with Hoof Problems

By Catherine Bird

Essential oils offer natural help for horses with hoof problems. As a component of rehabilitation, the use of these essential oils can be helpful in two ways: There is the direct physical action - such as with external application - to assist with the healing of tissue, and there is the olfactory response - aromatherapy - that assists with identifying and addressing some of the underlying issues that could be contributing to the hoof problems.

Initially I narrow down through knowledge my choice of essential oils to offer the horse. When I am deciding on which application of the oils to use, I believe it is still always wise to offer the horse the scent, no matter how much knowledge I feel I have. If the horse is attracted to the scent, even when selecting a physical application, the oil is likely to be more effective than if I were to impose my will upon the horse with what I think is best to help him heal his body.

If I look simply at the feet, then my choice of essential oils would include but not be limited to:
Tea Tree, Patchouli, Carrot Seed, Yarrow, Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium, Juniper, Sweet Orange.

Some of these you will look at and wonder why, so to give you further insight into the wholistic nature of aromatherapy, this is why I chose these essential oils as an offering:

Tea Tree and Patchouli are highly antifungal, so if my horse selects either or both of these I would consider using them in a carrier to apply directly to the hoof to assist with early stages of thrush. Patchouli also brings awareness and surety to the feet, and if a horse has difficulty feeling the ground beneath him because the health of his hoof does not support his body solidly, then Patchouli will help provide a sense of being more in contact with the earth below him. I have found this very useful with horses such as thoroughbreds that have raced and come away from the track with poor quality hooves.

Carrot Seed is always a good indicator to me to question the utilisation ability of the gut. If a horse with a hoof issue is attracted to this essential oil, I begin to query diet and look at protein levels and the amount of sugar intake.

Yarrow helps me decide if the horse needs herbal support, especially if he has already selected Carrot Seed. Yarrow is a nice gentle anti-inflammatory and also a gentle support to the kidneys and liver. It is a primary herb when dealing with a laminitic horse, so if the horse selects Yarrow essential oil, then I will follow up by suggesting he receive this herb in his feed. Lavender will support this choice as it often indicates heat in the body and helps soothe the body, mind and spirit during times of stress.

Similarly I offer Chamomile, especially in a horse who has suffered chronic feet issues. After a while the discomfort travels up the legs, and muscle tension is carried throughout the body. If the horse's olfactory response shows attraction to it, Chamomile essential oil applied to these ‘spastic’ muscles will benefit him, as will the dried flowers added to his feed.

Exhibiting an attraction to Geranium often indicates to me that the horse is in pain as it is a mild analgesic, and/or suggests that there may be hormonal involvement. This in turn guides my follow up. Juniper indicates similar issues, and if a horse goes for this essential oil, I often support the liver of such a horse with the herbs dandelion root or milk thistle and gently detoxify the body. Juniper may indicate the presence of drugs or drug residue, or a build up of foodstuffs that have not been able to be assimilated by the horse’s body.

Finally, Sweet Orange is one of my favourite essential oils to offer any horse, and I rarely have a session with a horse and not offer Sweet Orange at some point. I use it in two ways - one as a thank you to him for working with me and allowing me to help him, and secondly to let him know that his issues have not gone unnoticed and we humans are attempting to help him. Sweet Orange is from the peel of the plant and when offered to the olfactory sense, it gives a feeling of a warm sunny hug. It is also a supportive and gently detoxifying, so it assists some of my earlier offerings.

The key to success with using essential oils to assist your horse with hoof problems is to always treat him as the unique individual he is. There are so many elements to healing and many layers to be addressed, and by respecting this and finding what is appropriate to each case brings about a healthy, happy horse who will contribute to a healthy equine society.

About the author:

Catherine Bird leads Australia’s equine natural health industry from her base in Sydney using aromatherapy, herbalism, kinesiology, remedial massage and equine bodywork. She is the author of A Healthy Horse the Natural Way and offers the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course. As the Division Head of the International Equine Body Worker Association (Australia Division), Inc., Catherine has dedicated time to ensuring a high level of education, information and professional care for horse owners. www.happyhorses.com.au

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