Essential Oils and Nervous Behaviour

By Catherine Bird

Essential oils such as Basil and Lemon help bring focus to the horse who is worrying about what is going on elsewhere.

Nervous horses can be unnerving to ride, and then we as riders get nervous in response, and then our horses respond to our nerves. a very jittery nervous cycle that manages to create a vortex of energy all of its own. Essential oils and flower essences can provide a way to help you and your horse step out of this cycle.

To get the most out of essential oils when working with nervous horses is to work in a way where you yourself also get the benefit from the aroma. When an essential oil molecule is inhaled messages are transmitted to the mind of both you and your horse. As soon as an aroma is inhaled, the receptors within the nasal cavity define what the essential oil has to offer the body and neurochemicals begin to be released throughout the entire body within nanoseconds, tuning up the endocrine system so the body can cope better with likely challenges. The scent molecule is very powerful and there is no need to apply these essential oils to the muzzle; you just waft them under your horse's nose and invite him to let you know how much he needs.

We can use this process to bypass normal thought processes and help your horse step out of the vortex of nervousness that has been generated, and then you can both step forward together. For the horse that is difficult to read you may want to gather together a collection of essential oils that will address nervousness from different aspects.

Combine this with adding a Bach flower essence to the drinking water of a nervous horse and you go a long way to overcoming some of these barriers to a fright-free ride. With the chronically nervous horse it may also be wise to take the Bach flowers that target your horse's type of nervousness and wipe on him as you saddle up or have handy for when you return from your ride to clear any issues that may have been triggered during that time together. You can take these essences at the same time to help you not reflect back to your horse the same nervousness, so again the cycle can be stopped from flowing on to another vortex.

Some horses will be nervous because there is a strong desire to "serve" and get it right for you. They may worry openly about this, or appear to be self-contained and only show this worry when they have trouble giving you what you want. Juniper is the essential oil I use with these horses. It helps them to release the worry and then offering them Orange essential oil gives them the reassurance they need to be able to feel they are in a safe place, no matter how the movement you request is performed. This frees them up to then give their best without the restriction of their own expectation. This horse could also be supported with the Bach flower Red Chestnut, which helps to lift the feelings of over-concern and worry from the subtle bodies.

For the horse that spooks at shadows, we need to help ground him. The Bach flower essences Clematis and Cerato are excellent for horses whose nerves are on edge. Horses who give that startled jump along the trail need to have their feet planted on the ground. Vetiver is a very earthy and calming essential oil that will bring your horse's attention back to his feet. Patchouli will also do this, and often a horse stuck in this pattern will respond to the alternate use of each essential oil. Combining this with the TTEAM wand work is very beneficial for the horse who seems to float above the ground.

For the horse who is unable to concentrate because he is busy looking everywhere around him and not paying attention to you, we need to bring his attention back to you with essential oils such as Basil and Lemon. Both of these help keep your horse's focus and stop him flipping around to see what is happening further up the paddock or what the noise is coming up behind him. The Bach flowers Scleranthus and Vervain are useful for this horse to help him keep his mind on the task at hand and keep his mind from separating from his body and your requests.

For the horse who is nervous because he may have been abused in the past, it can be a bit more complicated. Sometimes this behaviour is ingrained from a long time ago so we need an essential oil like Rose to help access some of those deep-seated memories. Helichrysum is another useful essential oil to help release old or intense traumas. When you offer this essential oil to a horse with an abusive past, you will often see him go back inside himself and his eyelids will flicker as he releases these painful memories. The Bach flower essence Honeysuckle is useful here to help release the past, especially if you are having trouble connecting with this horse.

We can also use essential oils energetically to address nervous behaviour. For those of you attuned to one of the many forms of energy medicine or with a natural healing ability in your hands, simply place into your hand a drop of the essential oil you wish to infuse into the body of your horse and place your hand over one of the major organs. A fearful horse will respond well to Frankincense infused into the loins with your intention targeting the kidneys; Mandarin essential oil is useful over the pancreas when frustration is the key emotion; you can target the reproductive organs by placing your hands over the sacro-iliac joint with Ylang Ylang; and Rose essential oil on your hands with one cupped on the front of the chest and the other on the chest between the front legs will help with grief and releasing attachment to the past. You can also use your Bach flowers in a similar way, either on their own or combined with the essential oil of your choice.

It is very important that you consider all aspects with a nervous horse. Sometimes nerves can be addressed nutritionally; often a nervous horse needs some magnesium added to his feed to help bring him into balance, or the temporary use of calming herbs such as chamomile, valerian, passionflower or vervain to help with adjusting to whatever is making the horse nervous.

Training is also important with the nervous horse. You do not want to be rushing in with force and strong expectations; you need to nurture this horse along until you have a mutually respectful relationship where both of you can build trust. Sometimes when we are the only person working with our horse and this spiral of nervousness takes over, it is very hard to step aside of it and find a solution. An outside person can come in and help you find some simple solutions to whatever you and your horse have found to be an issue. Essential oils work very well when combined with good training techniques and they also help you understand your horse on more levels so both of you can grow together.

You can be creative with how you employ the scents of essential oils, so relax and have fun with this amazing therapy. Both you and your horse can benefit from aroma to build many bridges of understanding and achieve your goals in horsemanship together.

It is important that you do not replace veterinarian care with essential oils. Some horses may need treatments that can only be determined by your veterinarian.

About the author:

Catherine Bird is an Aromatherapist, Medical Herbalist and Massage Therapist specializing in working with horses. She is based in Sydney , Australia and consults in person and via the Internet worldwide. She is the author of "A Healthy Horse the Natural Way " and "Horse Scents". Catherine also offers the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course, and can be contacted through her website,