© Catherine Bird
|Essential oils are a tool you may not have considered to
add to your preparation before going to compete at your dressage competition.
They are something you can use, purely for their scent, to help you and
your horse maintain a calm focus and avoid the anxieties attacks.
Aromatherapy, the use of essential oils works with our sense of smell.
We get attracted to a scent, inhale
With horses, their sense of smell is keen and they operate primarily
on what we term in ourselves, the old
In this article I will address the use of scent. The essential oils also have a physical action if applied directly to the body, however this needs to be in a carrier which is not attractive when performing a dressage test.
To get the most out a scent from an essential oil, you can decide on
some of the qualities you and your
Your Basic Essential Oil Kit
The dressage horse and rider always benefit from a quick sniff of basil before a test, as it sharpens the mind and helps retain focus on the task at hand. Basil is useful if you and your horse are nervous where you both can’t keep your mind on the test ahead. It is also useful if you have scheduled a third test and fatigue is setting in. Basil will help draw on inner strength and access your memory to help you and your horse through your test.
Bergamot is a favorite for dealing with "butterflies’ in the tummy nerves. It eases away anxieties and clears the air so pre event jitters do not incapacitate you. It encourages you and your horse to overcome the stress of competition and allays frustration.
It is traditionally the ‘tantrum’ remedy in small children and will calm your horse in minutes if he is being the difficult demanding child. Chamomile gives patience, peace and calms the mind. It is highly sedative so do not use on a mild behavior, keep it for the serious ‘refusal’ or difficulty in getting your horse back on the trailer to go home.
It is also an essential oil that freshens up an environment and useful
to have around for horses that are confined in stables for long periods
of time as it lifts the spirits and creates a ‘bush’ feel in the stables.
This is the ‘fear’ essential oil and useful when you can feel a heart beat rise between your legs when you most need your horse to compete. It can alleviate fear of the future and worth you inhaling if you are prone to worrying excessively before each test. Your thoughts do affect your horse so clear those in yourself and your horse is less likely to show this behavior. Frankincense also clears feelings of indecision.
This essential oil balances hormones and its moods. I like using this
on young, moody, and sometimes-temperamental fillies, though it’s very
useful with mares at a dressage competition if they are
Lavender will take the heat out of emotionally steamy situations. When
stress is causing disruptions to
This oil is a favourite to burn at home when learning dressage tests, or to sniff while walking the course the day before a cross-country event. It helps you retain your learning. Lemongrass is a good essential oil to have on hand if you or your horse are not a morning person and have drawn a test at the beginning of the day.
Vertiver is not usually a favorite amongst riders, though horses gravitate
to it when they need a good solid grounding essential oil. It addresses
debility as well as physical and mental exhaustion. If you are a competitor
caught in the trap of using sedatives, vertiver will help you ease your
horse off them and then
Using Essential Oils
How I have described the use of essential oils here for their aroma is safe for you and your horse. As your horse’s skin is much more sensitive than your own, NEVER apply essential oils to his skin undiluted.
If your horse does have a reaction to essential oils or you accidentally get some in his eye, never use water to wash them off. Water will increase the irritability of essential oils to the skin, use your vegetable base oil or milk. The albumen content of milk will help dilute the essential oils and sooth the skin.
If you are competing at a level where you are tested for prohibitive substances some horse associations list essential oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint as performance enhancing and do restrict their use. When you apply a physical application to the skin of your horse, some oils are active enough to show in urine tests within four hours.
Your horse will be the best guide as to the essential oils that can
help him most. If he shows no interest, then he is unlikely to need calming
or to focus. If he shows a great deal of interest, allow him to inhale
The reason you are using essential oils and their aroma is to make life easier when competing and training, so relax and enjoy them. The more fun you have with them, the more ‘good’ memory associations you have to stimulate each time you and your horse play with the scents.
|Catherine Bird is a Sydney-based qualified Aromatherapist, Medical Herbalist and Massage Therapist specializing in treating animals. Her clients include the NSW Mounted Police as well as showjumpers, eventers, endurance, dressage and racehorses along withdogs and humans. Catherine is a member of the International Association of Equine Sports Massage Therapists.|
|Author of Horse Scents, Making Sense with Your Horse Using Aromatherapy the recommended text for Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course.|
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