Summer is here! Did you dream of it through the cold winter months? The clear warm days, the long evenings with lots of time for hanging out with your horses. But now its here and we are sweating, it’s hot, humid, dusty, the animals are bugged by biting insects ……..
Luckily, we have essential oils for every occasion so we can keep our cool and control the bugs aromatically. But before I share my fragrant secrets with you, a few management tips to ensure your efforts are successful.
Summer starts in Spring
I start summer with a good Liver cleanse in spring, so that the skin does not need to work hard clearing out toxins, making it more vulnerable to irritants. I offer essential oils of Carrot seed, or Juniper berry, Grapefruit, and Seaweed. And herbs such as milk thistle seed, (Silybum marianum) cleavers (Galium aparine), nettle (Urticaria diocia) and dandelion root or leaf (Taraxacum officinale).
I put these herbs in bowls for my animals to choose between every day for a week (or as long as they show interest). Each one will take according to his/her needs.
Next, a strong immune system gives increased ‘bug resistance’. If you notice one of your dogs or horses is more prone to bug attacks than others, it is a red flag that tells you to check out what is stressing him/her. Remove the stressor and offer essential oils or herbs to help re-balance.
Make sure your horses have access to a good mineral mix as well, this is even more important in summer when they are sweating more.
Salads in summer
Summer’s heat makes it especially important not to feed heating foods such as molasses, grains or sugar beet. If your dog suffers from fungal infections it is even more important to cut out wheat, soy and all the other “fillers” you find in dry dog food.
Add cooling food, such as cucumber, sprouts (including sprouted oats), orchard grass hay, alfalfa (in small amounts, low protein alfalfa is a very beneficial cooling food. My dogs often liked the horses’ soaked alfalfa nuts as well) and bitter herbs to help digestion. Dogs might also like kefir or yoghurt.
Summer time and the living is easy
Naturally speaking, animals are much less active in summer, moving more at night than in the day. It is best not to ask your horses to work hard when it is hot, especially if it is humid. Everyone talks about conserving body heat in winter, to rug or not to rug and all that, but temperature concerns are easily forgotten in the summer, although they are potentially much more damaging. Especially if humidity is a factor, as this short-circuits a horse’s primary cooling system, sweat evaporation.
Don’t take your dogs out running with you on a hot day, and make sure they can cool down with water whenever they need to.
A bucket full of oils
The horse guardian’s main concern in the summer is how to control flying bugs, soothe itchy skin and keep cool. Because I look at life holistically and always search for the simple solution (laziness is an asset sometimes), I like to take care of all three things at once.
I combine essential oils that cool, repel bugs and calm skin, add them to a bucket of water and slosh on liberally. My herd gather on the ‘forecourt’ in the afternoon waiting for their afternoon aromatherapy bath, then run down to the ‘sand pit’ (also known as an arena) to have a good roll, adding a good layer of dirt and sand to increase bug protection.
Many essential oils are bug repellent, but one of the characteristics of essential oils is that they are ‘volatile’, meaning they evaporate quickly. To give them more staying power you need to use a vegetable oil and at least one fixative essential oil, such as patchouli (Pogostemon cablin ) to slow down evaporation. The carrier oil of choice is neem seed oil, one of the strongest (and smelliest) natural insects repellents we have.
Even when making a fly spray, if you offer the oils so your horse can choose you will get better results. Every creature has a unique chemical make-up which makes a difference to the effectiveness of any topical application. Apart from that, how much more pleasant it must be for your horse to smell good to himself. You often find that horses who hate being sprayed will start to stand still and enjoy themselves when you custom make their fly spray.
Now, I must confess, I don’t ask each of the horses in my 9 horse herd every day exactly what they want. But I offer the blend to them every time I apply, and if they don’t like it (a couple of them don’t always like neem), I don’t apply it. The blend I use can last up to 3 days if really soaked in, (depending on the horse), so I do let them guide me, and don’t insist on everyday application.
My secret recipe
This recipe makes you a 500ml/16oz of concentrate. For horses, add 1 cup to a bucket of water for ‘sloshing’, or dilute 1 part to 9 in a spray bottle. I like to splosh it all over my horses with a large sponge and rub it in well. This helps it to last longer.
For dogs, add a spoonful of the concentrate to 100 ml/1 cup of distilled water or hydrosol of your choice and rub or spray through coat.
When making up a spray, use distilled water or more hydrosols, add a teaspoon of cider vinegar, and shake well. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your horse or dog (see the list of essential oils options below), just keep the same ratio of vegetable oil, aloe gel, essential oil and hydrosol, but this is a blend that works well and smells good.
To make 500 ml/16 Fl oz of concentrate –
- 30 drops Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- 20 drops Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata)
- 5 drops Patchouli (Pogostomen cablin)
- 30 drops Cedarwood (Cedrus deodara or Atlantica)
- 100 ml/½ cup neem oil (Azadirachta Indica)
- 100ml/½ cup unscented, water based gel (aloe vera works well)
- 250-350 ml/8-12 fl oz Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) hydrosol
Add the essential oils to the neem oil, mix into the aloe vera gel, and slowly stir in hydrosol to make up the amount. Shake well, store in a cool dark place, you can add a teaspoon of vitamin E oil to extend shelf life and help skin repair.
My favourite summer essential oils
Any of these can be added to the above blend
Peppermint (Mentha piperita): just the smell is cooling, especially good for dry irritated summer coughs, also as a body coolant after work, there is nothing like peppermint hydrosol for heat stroke. Do not use on broken or sensitized skin.
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides): cooling, grounding, used in India as roofing material to keep out insects and cool the room, smells a little like rain-spattered dirt. Fixative
Lemongrass Insect repellent, especially good against mosquitoes, cooling, (dilute well before using on sun-exposed skin)
Patchouli (Pogostomen cablin): Cooling, grounding, it is a strong fixative oil and really helps soothe itchy skin, and relieves Damp Heat
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): Moist and sweet, this is one of the most Yin supporting of essential oils, especially useful for hormonal Heat.
Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata): Sweet, soft, skin supportive, makes you feel at ease in your body
Spearmint (Mentha spicata): this is a softer, moister cool than peppermint, and has an anaesthetic effect, which can help calm irritated itching.
Cedarwood (Cedrus Atlantica): this is a great insect repellent, and a mild fixative, I nearly always include it in my bug repellents.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): skin soothing, anti-irritant, bug repellent,
There are many more essential oils that can help you get through summer’s heat with your cool intact, these are just the ones I tend to reach for first. Play around with it, with your animal’s help, and see what great blends you can come up with for yourself.
For more about essential oils and holistic wellness for animals check out our courses