I found this article very interesting… and a friend told me that she cuts lavender from her garden, spreads the sprigs on the trailer floor, so that when her horse stomps or steps, he will get a whiff of lavender. She said it “really works!”. Her horse is much calmer while trailering – and she cannot believe how simple of a solution!
Lavender is the secret to keeping a horse calm, scientists find
Lavender is the secret to keeping a horse calm, a new study by scientists have found.
Horses are constantly put through stressful events such as being moved on trailers, bathing, clipping, vet visits, hoof trims, bridling, and saddling.
The new study, which was published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science found found significant signs of stress reduction in horses that inhaled lavender from a diffuser.
“You don’t need a diffuser, really. Just put a few drops of lavender essential oil on your hand and let your horse sniff.” For the study horses were startled by an air horn and then provided with humidified lavender air.
The horses’ heart rates increased in response to the air horn but returned to normal more quickly in those that inhaled lavender.
Credit: Xun Zou / EyeEm
In a second study, Prof Baldwin enlisted nine dressage horses of varying breeds and ages. Each horse was led to a small paddock and held by a volunteer while a diffuser containing lavender essential oil was held near the horse’s nose.
A monitor tracked heart rates and heart rate variability for 21 minutes total – seven minutes before the introduction of the diffuser, seven minutes with the diffuser in close proximity, and seven minutes after it was removed.
“The heart rate didn’t change; what changed is what’s called the parasympathetic component of heart rate variability,” she said.
“One of the parameters of heart rate variability is RMSSD, which is the relaxation part of the autonomic nervous system. If RMSSD goes up, that indicates the horse is relaxed. We found that when the horses were sniffing the lavender, RMSSD significantly increased compared to baseline.”
The data were supported by the horses‘ observed behavior, which often included relaxation signals such as neck lowering and licking and chewing while the lavender was being inhaled.
The experiment was repeated with water vapor and chamomile, neither of which produced a similar calming effect.
The researchers say lavender may be a better alternative to tranquilizers which have a long term effect.