Flower Essences for separation anxiety experienced by horses.
Horses are herd animals, they generally are naturally inclined to seek out and live with other horses. This fact has been documented well both in educational literature and also in fiction where a good number of novels feature herds of wild horses or depict special relationships between domesticated horses.
This strong inclination and desire to live together is a result of both the innate nature of horses – being social creatures- and instinct- their ingrained understanding of “safety in numbers”. For these two reasons mostly, throughout history horses have banded together, first in the wild and later in domesticity- they generally enjoy company and they feel more secure in a group.
Hence, when one horse is removed from another, especially one it is fond of or loves, this can cause anxiety for the horse/s- feelings of loneliness and worry arise. (Where have they gone?, Will they come back?) Furthermore, if the horses have only each other for company, when thus left alone, they can find it frightening as their instincts can register it as life-threatening, a reflex originating from times when wild horses left alone were vulnerable to danger. This anxiety can manifest in different forms of behavior, many which a horse caretaker will instantly recognize: “running the fence”, whinnying, galloping around the field or pacing the stall incessantly etc.
If the separation is only temporary (and especially if repeated separations occur e.g. a horse is regularly showed), thankfully the horse/s can come to realize the separation is not permanent, as they are invariably reunited with their companion/s. Hence, as time goes by, some horses begin to accept (or tolerate!) separation, as is often reflected in their behavior e.g. their whinnying ceases after a period of time. Yet this is not always the case for many horses, and varying degrees of anxiety can at times exist for the duration of the separation, sometimes even if other horses are still present.
Furthermore, if a separation happens to be permanent, the horses symptoms may persist for a lengthy period, or be replaced or complicated by other emotions and behaviors such as depression, eating disorders etc
The horses in question are often also not only the ones experiencing distress on such occasions - concern about the horses state is often experienced by caretakers, especially if the horses behavior poses a physical risk e.g. legs getting tangled in the fence it is running. Also, caretakers are often at a loss as to how to fix such a situation short of reuniting the horses! This is however at times not practical, or even possible, hence alternative solutions are sought.
One approach more and more people are adopting is using flower essences to treat the separation anxiety the horses are experiencing. Flower essences (or flower remedies) are natural remedies that address negative emotional states, sometimes physical ailments, and help to bring about a more positive mind-set. In doing so, they can enhance a horses health and wellbeing. Essences are also generally excellent to use in conjunction with other healing modalities, natural and orthodox, to promote a horse’s well being.
Horses generally respond beautifully to flower essences. They can be used successfully for a wide range of emotional problems that horses may be experiencing, including separation anxiety. In administering essences, we are seeking not to alter the intrinsic or instinctive nature of the horse, simply to alleviate their symptoms, treat imbalances and to strengthen their overall “being” so that they can cope better in the same situation. It is understood horses in the wild can adapt to separation, even isolation and it is our goal to assist our domesticated friends to do so also, albeit hopefully in a much easier, more comfortable way. Flower essences are then a wonderful way to help us achieve this goal!
There are a variety of flower essences that can be used in the situation of separation anxiety, and the final choice will no doubt depend on such factors as the horse’s temperament, history etc as well as the more practical issues of essence availability, cost etc.
Firstly, there are some essences that can be used in a general sense for the anxiety and stress originating from the separation. The best known of these is probably Bach’s “Rescue Remedy”, a blend of 5 Bach flower essences. It is wonderful to use for anxiety, panic, nervousness, etc. Most flower essence producers these days also have amongst their range a similar remedy, hence there is nowadays a variety of “emergency remedies” to choose from.
A number of individual Bach flower remedies could also be useful for very distressed horses: Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasiferus*) for desperation, fear of losing control etc**, Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) in instances of anguish and despair. Other essences to use in such circumstances could include , Warratah (Telopea speciosissima), for despair, shock, intense fear, traumatization and Yellow Pincushion (Leucospermum conocarpodendron) which works on fear of loss of control, fear of deprivation, fear of the unknown
When a horse seems to be “fixating” on a theme e.g.. “where has my friend gone”?, White Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is recommended as it address’s patterns of thoughts that constantly repeat, continual worry etc
Another helpful essence to use for anxiety is Arnica (Arnica Montana). It is similar to the homeopathic medicine made from the same plant, in that it is an excellent first-aid remedy. The essence is useful for the emotions that often accompany emergency situations e.g. physical, mental and emotional trauma, as it has a wonderful soothing effect in times of shock or trauma.
Any soothing, calming essences such as Lavender (Lavendula officinalis), Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) or Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) would also be of assistance. Many ranges from around the world now carry these particular essences, hence they are usually widely available.
There are also several flower essences available to address feelings of loss and separation – for horses missing another horse, it would generally be ideal to combine such essences with those essences used to calm. A well known essences that deal with loss would be : Hawthorn May / English Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) as its address the issues of broken-heartedness, hence softens the pain of separation and grief, relieves sorrow etc
For horses who are needy by nature, clingy, etc and therefore suffer all the more from being separated from their friend/companions, Chicory (Cichorium intybus ) can help, as it works on these attributes. This essence is often used in combination with Heather (Calluna vulgaris ) which helps when one is over-concerned with one’s own life and matters therein.
Some horses may exhibit symptoms of depression even if separated for a short period of time. Some flower essences which may bolster their spirits include Gorse (Ulex europoeus) for despair, hopelessness, Wild Cherry (Prunus avium), to promote gaiety and good humour, Desert Sunflower ( Geraea canescens), to uplift and brighten, California Wild Rose (Rosa californica) or Wild Rose (Rosa canina), to impart enthusiasm and encouragement, Rhododendron (Rhododendron ferrugineum), which brings joy and comfort, and Zinnia (Zinnia elegans), to instill childlike cheer and joy.
Essences for courage are also very helpful for horses who fret when their friends are absent. Some of the best known essences to instill courage and bolster bravery include: Borage (Borago officinalis), also helpful for grief and heavy heartedness, Garlic (Allium sativum) for when experiencing fear and worry etc and Mountain Pride (Penstemon newberryi )
When the separation is a permanent one due to re-homing, weaning, death etc, additional essences may be needed to help alleviate the horse’s sense of loss and grief. Though time and love fortunately often eases the pain horses experience through loss, flower essences are still beneficial to both accelerate and strengthen the healing process. Whilst many of the above cited essences are excellent to use, in the cases of permanent separation, several additional essences may also be helpful. Amongst these are Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) which assists when one is experiencing a painful separation loss of a loved one and Forget Me Not (Myosotis sylvatica) as it helps overcome feelings of solitude or abandonment following the loss of a loved one.
The loss of a loved one, in an addition to being traumatic time, is also one of great change. A popular flower remedy to provide support during times of change is Walnut (Juglans regia ) Furthermore, at losing a friend of family member, some horses can feel rejected - horses are not to know that the other horse/s was in fact removed and not abandoning him/her. A wonderful essences to assist with a sense of abandonment and rejection is Evening Primrose (Crataegus oxyacantha)
At times, the grief and pain experienced by a separated horse may manifest on a physical level, e.g. chest ailments due to grief “sitting on the chest”. Though medical help should be sought to deal with physical ailments, it is usually in the horses best interests for caretakers to also help gently release the emotion impacted/stored in such areas. Some essences which might come into play with regards to this aspect of healing include Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum) if the horse is suffering from internalized grief and melancholy, deeply repressed emotions, Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) for emotional trauma stored deep within the body, Orange tree (Citrus sinensis) which encourages emotional release, favours emotional catharsis and liberates emotional tensions and Dog Rose (Rosa bracteata) for unexpressed grief, inability to express deep emotions and integration and acceptance of pain.
Basically, in any case involving separation, it is helpful to carefully assess the unique situation and individual horse/s involved, as not all horses respond the same to being left alone. Another reason to study the individual in question is that various underlying patterns and issues the horse might have could also be contributing to, or exaggerating, the symptoms. For example, if a horse was weaned too early, this might have created emotional problems in the developing horse- for example he/she might have developed an exaggerated fear of losing someone they love. As an adult, if they again experience loss, this horse, having carried such patterns from a young age, may react more severely to separation than, say, a horse who was weaned at a older age. In such a case, the horse that was weaned too young could benefit also from essences that addressed, eased, healed its “inner foal” issues of fear of abandonment, etc. In healing such old patterns, they would most probably react much better to any possible separation experienced in the future.
Once one have recognized and determined the symptoms and behavior patterns evident/exhibited, one can select the appropriate flower essences to use. This is usually done via reading the essence descriptions and deciding which are appropriate or alternatively via muscle testing (kinesiology) intuition etc or consulting a flower essence therapist, natural animal therapist that uses flower essences, etc.
Having then established which essences will be used, it is time to administer them. This can be done in several ways. If the horse is fed via a bowl and you know the food will be eaten shortly, you can place the drops in his / her feed. One can also place essences in a slit cut into a carrot, apple etc or add to any watering bucket that will soon be used. Placing essences in a horse's food/water is by far the easiest way to administer essences, however one just needs to be sure the food / water will be ingested shortly as heat and light cause essences to deteriorate.
Sometimes however, horses can detect the remedy in their food, water - the alcohol preservative can give it away - and give their feed a wide birth. If this is the case, one can often purchase essences that use glycerine or apple cider vinegar as the preservative, rather than the traditional brandy.
If your horse tolerates syringes in their mouth, you could instead place several drops of essence in a syringe full of water, and insert the syringe into his/her mouth, much as you might do with other medicines etc. However, this method should only be used with horses that don't object to oral medicines/remedies given via syringes as otherwise they could toss their head, rear etc and possibly injure you. It's also not suggested you use a glass stem dropper to place essences inside a horses mouth in case he/she clamps down on it and shatters the glass, which could injure both him/herself and yourself.
One can also rub – if safe to do so, as some horses may get startled- the essence on some unbroken and healthy bare skin, preferably not on face or ears. Given most essences contain alcohol, do make sure it's not placed on broken or irritated skin as the remedy could then sting and cause horse to jump etc. So, for example, one could part some fur on a healthy whither, place some drops there then rub gently - be aware though, that in administering the essence in this fashion, you too will receiving the essence therapy as the remedy will be absorbed into your skin too!
Basically, you would probably want to use fewer drops with smaller horses than large ones (- directions are usually to be found on bottles). However, as with people, the frequency of using the essences has a greater bearing on the outcome than the no. of drops taken.
It's a very good idea to monitor your horse's response to the essences. How well and how quickly a horse responds to essences is unique to that individual. Many horses respond quickly and only require the essences for a short period. Other horses may require a longer period to see significant changes in behavior etc. (Some horses also achieve better results if essences are used with other therapies/medicines)
Unlike many pharmaceutical drugs, flower essences, do not have side effects due to their constituents (unless one is allergic to alcohol). For many horses, flower essence therapy, as well as being a helpful experience, is one that does not “interrupt” their daily life as the effects are subtle. However, with some horses, when they take essences, emotions can “come to the surface” i.e. the horse may experience the emotions the essences are “working on”. Or, he/she may experience the emotions more strongly. When quite obvious or intense, this is often called a “healing crisis”- i.e. symptoms get worse before they get better- and it indicates the medicine is working. If a healing crisis should occur, cease the essences and talk to your essence supplier re. possibly adjusting the dose or maybe even trying a new, different remedy instead.
As a rule, it is generally a good idea to give essences to horses at night if possible, that is after they have been ridden, worked etc (- an exception to this would be, for example, calming essences, which can be given whenever one wants to help a horse calm down.) For essences that work on painful and / or strong and / or deep emotions, or issues of aggression, for safety reasons, it is especially wise NOT to give essences prior to riding or exercising/working a horse, just in case the horse is "working though" any emotions the essences may be addressing and is agitated etc as a result. If you are giving essences for a very deep, strong or painful issue e.g. abuse, deep fear, aggression, it is probably best not to ride one's horse at all during this time, to allow them the space to heal and also for safety reasons (again, in case they become agitated as emotional issues are addressed.) If in doubt as how to proceed, please consult with a flower essence therapist who has experience with using essences for animals. Together, you could discuss the situation, horses personality, environment, etc and in doing so, hopefully establish the best approach regarding the matter. e.g. for a subdued horse who was abused as a foal, it may be best his "essence therapy" be scheduled for a fothcoming break from the shop jumping season, so as to allow him time and space to properly assimilate the essences and their effects.
Practical approaches should often also not be abandoned or ignored just because a horse is using essences. e.g. if your horse is known to throw itself against the stall door when it sees his/her friend leaving, it’s wise to leave a blanket or some other protective covering on the door. Again, once the effects of the essences are determined, one can make any relevant changes to the situation if applicable. e.g. remove blanket
Horses are such intelligent, sensitive creatures and given a supportive and loving environment especially are able to leading rich and rewarding emotional lives. Horses are capable of deep attachments to creatures of different shapes and sizes, and are able to enjoy all the pleasures these bonds bring! Equally, they can experience the pain, worry and grief that accompanies loss and separation. As their caretakers we can play an important part in both lessening and healing the stressful emotions these noble creatures experience. Through our ongoing awareness of their feelings and their needs, with love, dedication, patience we can make a significant contribution to the emotional health and wellbeing. Through the application of appropriate medicines we can also do much to address a problematic situation- and flower essences, with all the benefits they offer, remain one such way to remedy the situation!
* nb. some plants species have a number of varieties e.g.. in the Chamomile family, one can find the botanical varieties Matricaria chamomilla, Matricaria recutita and anthemia nobilis .With regards to flower essences, it’s important to understand the qualities of the flowers belonging to the different varieties can have slightly different properties. Hence when ordering an essence based on its description, it's important to check the botanical name is the same as that which you are after.
** many flower essences have multi- healing qualities. For the purposes of this article, only the relevant qualities are stated, please understand
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Please note, further, and important, information about using flower essences, can be found here at Tranqil Path's FAQ page.
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