Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils date back several thousand years. The first written records suggest that the Sumerians and Babylonians used fragrant plants medicinally more than 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians were known to use perfumed oils in 3000 B.C.E., and it is well known that the ancient Greeks and Romans used aromatic baths and products for beauty and health purposes.

In more recent history, essential oils have seen a resurgence. They are known to lift your mood and make you feel calmer with just a whiff of their fragrance. Research has shown that they can decrease stress and are capable of positively affecting the nervous system.


The oils work by stimulating smell receptors in the nostrils which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotional patterns and socialization. The horse as a species is a prey animal. Their survival highly depends on having a sensitive limbic system and feeling limbic activity in fellow herd members. It is part of what stimulates the "fight-or-flight" response when a horse feels threatened or to relax and rest when there is no danger.


A 2012 study by the Department of Agricultural Sciences at McNeese State University and published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science looked at the effects of aromatherapy on acutely stressed horses. The study concluded that "lavender resulted in a significant decrease in heart rate and also a shift from the horses' sympathetic system (fight and flight response) to the horses' parasympathetic system (rest and digest)."

In 2017, The Department of Science at Albion College experimented to determine the effect of lavender aromatherapy to relieve stress on trailered horses. They found that the horses that received lavender aromatherapy had suppressed cortisol levels. They concluded, "...lavender aromatherapy has positive effects on horses during stressful situations."

A 2018 study at the University of Arizona published in the Open Journal of Veterinary Medicine found similar results on horses' heart rate variability concluding "lavender is effective as a calming agent for horses."


As one of the researchers said, "The research has direct implications for horsemen and horsewomen who may be looking for new or natural ways to calm an anxious or nervous horse. Traditional tranquilizers often have long-lasting effects, while lavender can be used precisely and exactly when needed. Some horses don't like to be shod. So, when the farrier comes and starts banging around with their hooves, it would be good for that. You don't need a diffuser, really. Just put a few drops of lavender essential oil on your hand and let your horse sniff." - Ann Linda Baldwin, University of Arizona.

Just like with people, your horse may prefer one scent over another. As Marie Pruden of Horsemanship Through Mindfulness explains, "I think it is important to find out what oils a horse prefers when they are calm. If you offer them to them, they will tell you if they can benefit from them. If they don't, they will turn away or not even attempt to smell them. Once I have the ones they like, I know that offering the oil will help soothe in a stressful time. It is important not to offer oils you are not sure they would prefer when they are anxious. It is more about the association."

Try it when your horse is relaxed and happy. Mix some oil with distilled water, and just let your horse breathe it in. You can try one at a time or even make your own blend. These oils have calming effects:

💮 Lavender

💮 Frankincense

💮 Roman Chamomile

💮 Jasmine

Lavender is a prohibited substance under USEF and FEI guidelines, so do not put it on your horses' skin or allow your horse to ingest it. Essential oils should never be taken internally.

Pay attention to your horse's feedback. If you'd like to grow your confidence & improve your connection with your horse, try a few drops next time you are at the barn. Find the right scent, and you have an easy-to-use, built-in toolkit to calm your horse in stressful situations!

Let us know how aromatherapy helps you and your horse. We love to hear from our equestrian community!

Happy riding,

The Equestrian Journal Team

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Do you ever wonder, "What is my horse's temperament?" "Why does my horse react that way?" "How does my personality match my horse's?" or "What discipline is my horse best suited for?"

Using typology or "Equusology," you can answer those questions and gain an understanding of your horse's inherent characteristics, as well as how your personality relates to your horse's.

The testing is designed to provide you guidance on THE BEST WAYS to ride and train your horse based on his basic temperament.

Equusology is a process developed by Melisa Pearce and Carolyn Fitzpatrick in their book Equusology: Deciphering Human and Horse Typology. The book consists of a personality questionnaire for humans, a personality questionnaire for horses, and explanations to help you understand your horse and communicate with him better.

The authors beautifully describe it as "the art of the human equine relationship."

The human temperament test is an abbreviated version of the Myers-Briggs, so after answering a series of 70 questions, you are grouped into 1 out of 16 personality categories:

  • E or I (Extrovert or Introvert): How we orient to the social world and our style of distilling thought.

  • S or N (Sensing or Intuition): How we learn and absorb information.

  • T or F (Thinking or Feeling): How we govern our choices and decisions.

  • J or P (Judging or Perceiving): How we organize our time use and view our environment.

These four categories are combined to create 16 different personality types: ESTJ, ISTP, ESTP, ESTJ, ISFJ, ISFP, ESFP, ESFJ, INFJ, INFP, ENFP, ENFJ, INTJ, INTP, ENTP, ENTJ. Once you have determined who you are and what makes you tick, it is time to find out about your horse.

The horse temperament test applies these same categories to horses. The results teach you a lot about what makes your horse happy and how to play to his strengths.

As Melisa explains, "How can I get my horse to do something easier, faster, better, and with less argument? We leave ourselves out of the equation. We have to listen to the horse as well."

A friend of ours has an opinionated chestnut mare, and she scheduled an Equusology session with Donna Carlson Coaching to learn how to decipher her horse's temperament. She found out some fascinating personality traits of her horse that has shifted her whole perspective on how to work better TOGETHER:

[You refers to the person, and She refers to the horse]

  • She is best suited for a discipline where she can think.

  • She likes structure, policies, and procedures.

  • She learns by taking in her surroundings globally. She may miss minor details because she scans the situation or glances at many things.

  • She could find adventure in not having a set routine all of the time - mix it up. Boredom can appear as disobedience.

  • You prefer stability – she may need variety.

  • You are warmer and kind-hearted – she is more black and white.

  • You may need to be more physical for connection – she may not (I mean heart connection, not riding connection). You can do little things with her like giving extra carrots in her feed bin while standing next to her and talking with her.

  • She is an observer. She is watching for consistency or inconsistency with your cues because she is thinking. She will react by seemingly being set back if she finds an incorrect pattern.

  • She may protest with a head shake or tail wring to express annoyance.

Taking the time to reflect on WHO YOU ARE and WHO YOUR HORSE IS helps you CONNECT ON A DEEPER LEVEL.

Humans and horses have a unique relationship. We are two very different species, each trying to communicate, and we have different ways of reacting to what happens around us.

When you learn to decipher your horse's messages, it can bring a whole new level of trust and cooperation to your relationship.

At The Equestrian Journal, we believe there are many tools to elevate your riding, and Equusology may be one you want to explore!

Happy riding,

The Equestrian Journal Team

To explore Equusology further, we highly recommend Donna Carlson Coaching.

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Updated: Aug 17

You know that feeling you get riding when everything clicks into place and feels right?

It is amazing that point in time when you and your horse overcome a significant obstacle and achieve progress. It is not a fluke - it happens because of your hard work and dedication. And journaling is the easiest way we have found to achieve more breakthroughs and more importantly - recreate them.

There are also other ways to ensure you have more breakthroughs as you progress with your horse.

Tony Robbins wrote several best selling books on personal development, and he has a 3 step process to achieving breakthroughs in any part of your life which easily applies to equestrians:

1) FIND A STRATEGY - Discover a shortcut to get more done in less time. "What is it that gets some people to succeed while others fail who seem to have equal enthusiasm or passion for the tasks at hand? They have insights, distinctions, and strategies that allow them to achieve more quickly." For us that is using the framework of The Equestrian Journal. We have so much information on hand with the internet, you just need to look for the strategies that work for you. So find a strategy, document it in your journal and use it!

2) YOUR STORY - You may have heard us mention limiting beliefs in past posts. "We all have stories — narratives we tell ourselves about why we can or cannot do or achieve something in our lives." Do not get stuck in a story or beliefs that limit you. Empower yourself to write your own success story. Tell yourself YOU CAN, make a plan and use your strategy to get there.

3) YOUR STATE - We all know how our mental state affects the way our horse reacts to us. Did you know your state of being also acts as a filter to how you look at your life and your riding? If you are stressed, change your physiology simply by stopping what you are doing and taking some deep breaths. "Most people only use 20% of their lung capacity taking small short breaths, but 70% of the body’s toxins can actually be released when taking a full breath! By taking the time to fill your lungs and release, you can not only improve your health but also radically decrease the anxiety related to that moment." Box breathing is an amazing technique you can do anywhere, anytime. We find it particularly useful right before entering the ring in competition. Try it now while you are reading this and be ready to apply it when you need it most:

  • Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly.

  • Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.

  • Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.

  • Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times or until you feel calm.

4) "WHERE FOCUS GOES, ENERGY FLOWS" - We often say that focus is one of the keys to being a great rider. Learning to control that focus on your plan for that ride teaches you to stay on cue and be in a high performance state.

As Mr. Robbins summarizes,




Happy riding,

The Equestrian Journal team

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