Essential oils for mares and hormone health.

Essential oils for horses

Understanding moody mares

qflowersIt’s that time of year! Your mare is moody, pulling faces when you saddle her, not concentrating when you ride, harassing the geldings and rubbing her mane! Her hormones are running riot and you don’t know what to do.

First, a little understanding is in order: What are hormones? Why do they affect behaviour? Is there anything to be done?

Hormones are bio-chemicals responsible for regulating many functions in the mammalian body, most famously the reproductive cycle. The hormones commonly associated with the reproductive cycle are oestrogen and progesterone, but in fact there are many more hormones involved, many of which are multifunctional. Anything that affects one hormone, whether natural or unnatural, affects the whole system, throwing everything out of balance.

Mares are seasonally polyestrus, meaning they do not cycle year round. Hormonal activity is affected by the amount of sunlight, so mares usually come into season as the days lengthen and will not cycle during winter months. In warm countries mares can come into season year round, but the season will be much less obvious in winter.

Most mares have approximately 21 days between ovulations and remain in season (estrus) for three to five days at a time. At this time the ova is released and ready to fertilize. Mares will actively seek to mate at this time showing characteristic signs of ‘winking’ their vulva, and ‘squirting’, depositing frequent small amounts of extra acidic urine, which is often thick and white and can coat hind legs and burn off hair. They can also be more vocal and responsive/reactive with other horses.

Just as with we humans, the hormonal changes that occur throughout the estrous cycle affect mood, and the release of the ova can cause discomfort in the lumbar area. Young mares coming into season for the first time are often highly uncomfortable at this time physically and mentally. I believe many of the behavioural problems associated with ‘hormonal mares’ develop from our lack of tact in helping our youngsters through this time. I know that I pin my ears back and snap to keep others out of my space at this time, why should my horse not act the same way?

Essential oils for sensitive mares

I deal with sensitive mares in two ways, through management and with essential oils. First of all you must make it clear to your mare that you have heard her distress. Don’t ride at this time if she shows signs of discomfort such as head shaking, objecting to being saddled, or bucking.

When you are handling her hind end, picking up feet or cleaning under her tail, do so with tact as she may feel vulnerable, or be tight in her back muscles. In general, if you pay attention to her needs and accept her state of mind you will reduce the problem almost completely.

I then use essential oils to balance hormones and reduce inflammation. (listed below)

yarrowThe role of the liver

Apart from the ‘moody mare’ syndrome, common problems that I am asked to help with are mares that stay in season all the time, or mares who do not come into season at all. In Traditional Chinese Medicine these are both indications of a Liver imbalance, so I use essential oils that strengthen the Liver along with hormone balancing oils. A herbal liver detox is also recommended, early Spring is the best time for this.

The oils I use for hormonal balance

In order of frequency
Rose (Rosa damascena) is a powerful hormonal balancer, yin strengthener, encourages self-acceptance and relieves resentful anger
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) regulates hormones and can be used for both lack and excess, it also strengthens the receptive yin energy and helps you feel settled within yourself.
Bergamot, ( Citrus bergamia) tonic to the genito-urinary system, a pick-me-up, relieves frustration and depression. Particiularly useful post-parturition
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus) a very strong hormone tonic, especially good for older mares or those who have a very strong cycle with a lot of displaying and squirting.
Clary sage (salvia sclarea) stimulates production of progesterone, anti-spasmodic, warming and comforting, particularly good for mares who suffer from tension and back pain
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and emmenagogue, this is one of the best oils for relieving the physical discomfort of hormonal changes, particularly if there is not much physical evidence of ovulation
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) stimulates liver function and circulation, topical analgesic, I use it for mares who become sluggish and lack focus at this time
German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) works much like yarrow and I use it when there are clear signs of physical discomfort. Most frequently this is selected by younger mares in their first year of season.
Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is anti-spasmodic, warming and comforting, good for those who got tight-backed and grumpy

Essential oils that support healthy Liver function can be used in conjunction with any of the above oils. Some of my favourites are, juniperberry (Juniperis communis), carrotseed (Daucus carota), and angelica root (Angelica archangelica).

Case study

A 20 year old thoroughbred-cross mare.
Heidi (as she was known) had always had dramatic seasons, her discharges were copious and smelly, her mood became dreamy and distracted and she wanted to be in physical contact with other horses at all times, leaning into them when ridden out in company. Her person asked me for oils that might help as the squirting was unpleasant and had started to damage the hair on her hind legs, and she now seemed to be cycling every two weeks.

Heidi needed chasteberry, geranium and angelica root, diluted in sunflower oil, 3 drops to 5 mls. Each oil was offered to her separately and she was interested in them all, going into a deep trance with the angelica root and licking the chasteberry avidly.

After 3 days she rejected angelica root but continued with the chasteberry and geranium for a couple more days.

Next time we noticed Heidi starting to come into season, we offered the oils again. She had no interest in the angelica root, mild interest in chasteberry and sustained interest in the geranium. The season was greatly improved with a marked decrease in emissions and greater concentration levels.

The seasons continued to improve for the whole of the year. The following spring she was given herbs to cleanse her liver and offered the oils again as her first season started, she had minimal interest in the chasteberry. That year her seasons were normal, she cycled regularly and with a minimum of display.

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    1. Hi Jordan, if you look around the site you will find the answer to this question 🙂 You could try the free intro course as a good basic explanation of oil use.

  1. I have a 16 year old thoroughbred mare who has a terrible time during her cycle. She bangs herself against the barn, fence, etc anyway I use essential oils and have used them on my animals. Which oils / blend have you seen the most success with for mares who experience pain during their cycle?

    1. Hi, best oils to offer for painful cycle are either German chamomile (matricaria recutita) or clary sage (salvia sclarea). I would also offer geranium or rose to balance the hormones.

  2. all of this info SO helpful! any advice for our gelding who becomes a “stud” when our mares are in heat? He goes so far as to mount them!

    1. This is not unusual and causes no harm. But if you want to calm him down you could try marjoram, jasmine absolute or Roman chamomile

  3. Our 14 year old mare pony is a welsh/thorough bred cross. She’s very loving with people all the time but a nightmare in the ring with other horses or ponies when in season. She has flunked shoe classes right off the bat b/c of her sourness in a show ring. Can you recommend something?

    1. I have great sympathy for horses who are asked to perform for us when in season. So my first suggestion is don’t show her then. However if she is self-protective when in season (what you call sour) it is most likely because it’s somewhat uncomfortable (period pain). You can offer her any of the essential oils mentioned in the above article, and see which ones she likes.

  4. hey i have a male doll face persian cat 1.6yrs old and he is very aggressive and want to bite all the time, even after neutering him this problem persist. what kind of essential oils should i use to calm him and also how do i use them on him? pls help

  5. Hi and thank you for all this valuable information. When offering the oils mentioned, do you combine any or just offer each one separately?

  6. Hi
    I have a three year old who hasn’t come into season yet. She is slim and has a slight crest. I believe she may have a hormonal imbalance. What would you recommend?

    1. Hi, I would recommend you have some blood tests done to see what is going on. You could also offer her geranium or rose otto essential oils to smell and see how she interacts. If she is very interested it is possible there is a hormonal imbalance and the oils will help, but there are many reasons for not going into visible season. First one being there is no fanciable male in the vicinity.

  7. Hi i have a problem with 12hh Newforest 8 year old she has become a night mere with being ridden back teeth ect done she has become so bad kids can not ride her i
    I’m 56 had a alot of horses but this one has me at my wits end even had me off i need help to sort this problem

    1. I would get a local body worker, osteopath, Masterson Method or similar. Sounds like she is in pain. It could also be hormonal. Try offering essential oils of yarrow and/or rose