The Synergy of Essential Oils

Janine is learning which oils Sharni approves of and wants in her blend.

By Catherine Bird

The use of scent with horses can be a wonderful experience. The horse's sense of smell is more acute than our own. Instinctively, the horse knows within nanoseconds if the essential oils you have selected will be of benefit to him. This gift will enhance your relationship with your horse on many levels - you can address physical problems, mental and emotional issues as well as developing the spiritual aspects of your relationship.

 When using aromatherapy with horses we can use one essential oil at a time or we can blend together several essential oils. When we begin to use more than one essential oil in combination with others, we can create magic with the results. When you use one essential oil you get a result, but when combining two essential oils you are not doubling that result, you are often increasing it many times more. It is this enhanced 'energy' that is expressed by the blend instead of the individual oil we want to capture when combining essential oils.

The first thing to remember when blending essential oils, before we even select our oils, is intent. Your intention when working with essential oils is intrinsically important; your thoughts need to be focused and to come from a quiet place within you. If you are thinking of what groceries to buy or the argument you had earlier in the day, that will be the energy you transmit to the oils as they blend together.

I was in a class of thirty aromatherapy students and we all made up the exact same blend. Each of us placed the same number of drops into the same quantity of vegetable oil. At the end of the process we all inhaled each blend. No two had the same aroma. What made each blend unique was the student's focus at the time of making the blend. What had been added to the blend was the essence of the person and her intention when combining the essential oils. When you are making a blend of essential oils for your horse, attempt to quiet your mind and allow your healing intentions to come from your heart; this will ensure a harmonious blend.

Now that you have prepared yourself to blend essential oils for your horse, we have to decide how we will do this. There are three ways to determine which oils will blend best together. Each is subjective but valid, and only meant to be a guideline to help you find what works best for you.

Using Notes

Horse Rescue Robbie keenly counts the drops of essential oils Sharon is dispensing.

The note of an essential oil is used in the perfume industry to give an indication of the rate of evaporation. Perfumeries designate an aroma as a top, middle or base note.

Top notes evaporate quickly. They create the first impression of your aromatherapy blend and often evaporate within 20 minutes. Middle notes evaporate within an hour and they provide the body of your blend. Base notes are the heavier essential oils and can take hours to evaporate; you often add them to your blend so it stays on the skin and is appreciated longer.

If you choose this method of blending it is desirable to have at least one oil from each of the categories. If you have a top, middle and base note represented you can rely on the blend to be well rounded.

Strength of Odor

Another way to blend essential oils is by odor intensity. Some essential oils have a strong odor and if you blend them with an essential oil that has a weak odor, they will overpower the scent of the weaker essential oil.

With this method each essential oil is given a number. This number signifies where the essential oils fall in comparison to other essential oils in odor intensity. The simplest way to do this is to class the stronger essential oils as a 1, mid range essential oils as a 2, and weaker essential oils as a 3. Some systems get more complicated and will broaden the range to ten or twenty.

To get a balanced blend in odor intensity you then take these numbers into account. The number is simply a guide to which ratios to use. For example basil is strongly scented so is a 1, lavender is a 2, bergamot is 3. To get a blend of these oils where none of the oils overpower the scent, you would blend them in a ratio of one:two:three - one drop of basil to two drops of lavender to three drops of bergamot.

This blend of oils is also balanced from a perfume's perspective as basil is a base note, lavender is a middle note and bergamot is a top note, thus giving you a representation of each rate of evaporation.

Blending Chart


Odor Intensity




































Tea Tree


Middle to Top

This chart is a guideline on what notes and odor intensities apply to ten commonly used essential oils.

Ask your horse

Basil essential oil is great for helping your dressage horse to focus on a test. It is also specific to address muscle spasms, especially those that have developed over time and are rigid to touch.

Bergamot essential oil is to calm 'butterflies-in-the-tummy' nervousness. It is also the first essential oil you consider with skin disorders.

Chamomile essential oil will calm any temper tantrum or stubborn refusal to accept help. It will help with old muscle injuries and will help the muscles utilise magnesium to reduce the recurrence of spasm.

Frankincense essential oil is for fear and anxiety. It is also rejuvenating and will help with symptoms that are slow to heal. It offers peace of mind to older horses.

Geranium essential oil will bring most situations into a balance. It is an essential oil mares seem to prefer and it has a mild analgesic action useful when there is soreness discovered during a massage.

Grapefruit essential oil is an uplifting essential oil useful when horses are tired. It is also a mild detoxifying essential oil and useful in recovery after operations or serious illness.

Juniper essential oil is for the worrying horse; it stills the mind. It removes build-ups of toxins and is useful with horses who are a little stiff after their first event or a new training regimen.

Lavender essential oil calms frazzled nerves of both the horse and rider. It is also cooling when applied to any inflamed tissue.

Lemongrass essential oil opens the way for clear thought. It is useful in addressing tears in muscles or damage to myofascial tissue.

Mandarin essential oil will restore a happy and easygoing attitude to tasks. It addresses smooth muscle tissue and skin that lacks tone.

Marjoram essential oil will calm any sexual over-interest. It is also useful where bruising has occurred.

Tea Tree cleans the air. Its antiseptic properties make it an essential first aid item to have in any tack room.

The third option when blending essential oils is simply to ask your horse. Offer each of your essential oils to your horse, one at a time. Waft the uncapped bottle under his nose slowly and then slowly draw the bottle away. If the horse follows the bottle or shows interest with the Flehman response, this is an essential oil to add to his aromatherapy blend.

The essential oils for which your horse shows no interest are best not added to his blend. Those he shows a moderate interest in would only need a drop or two added, whereas those he shows a huge interest in should make up the larger portion of your blend.

How many oils in a blend?

I find the best results come from combining three or four essential oils. If you blend more than six, the blend becomes too complicated to be appreciated and may confuse the horse. You may be missing the issues you are attempting to address. By keeping the blend simple, it allows the complexity of each essential oil to be expressed within that blend.

With horses, because their sense of smell is well developed, you never need to create a strong blend of essential oils. A 2.5% dilution of essential oils into cold-pressed vegetable oil or aloe vera gel will give you the desired result; any stronger than this and you may be wasting money. For every milliliter of vegetable based oil, you simply add one drop of essential oil. For example, if using one fluid ounce of vegetable oil, which is the equivalent of 30 ml, you add 30 drops of essential oil This will be enough to address most issues with your horse. Some dropper inserts in essential oil bottles deliver a smaller or larger drop, but if you stick to this ratio you will have an effective blend.

When making up your blend, use a stainless steel or glass container. Unfortunately plastic is reactive to the volatile essential oils. Apply your blend of essential oils when you make it. If you have to store it once blended, it will have a shelf life of no more than three months. This can be extended if you store it in a dark, cool place.

The most important ingredient in your aromatherapy blend of essential oils is FUN. Let this be an experience both you and your horse enjoy, mix with a little love, and both of you will discover new delights from the world of scent

About the author:

Catherine Bird is a Sydney-based qualified Aromatherapist, Medical Herbalist and Massage Therapist specializing in treating animals. Her clients have included the NSW Mounted Police, Olympic level competitors, and horses in all disciplines as well as backyard pets. She is the author of Horse Scents, Making Sense with Your Horse Using Aromatherapy, which is one of a series being developed and she offers the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course worldwide.

For more information see, and, or email Catherine directly at