Natural Horse Care Recipes


I'm happy to share with you several products I have developed and used over the past 20+ years in an attempt to remove some of the chemical toxicity from my environment. They're all easy and relatively inexpensive to make and I have found them to be at least as effective as the products they replaced in my barn. Note: links are provided to sources of some of the ingredients.
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Natural Fly Repellent Spray - THE CLASSIC VERSION
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Yield: 1 gallon


1 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)
1/2 cup Dawn dish soap
Peppermint Essential Oil
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Tea Tree (Melaleuca) Essential Oil


Fill a gallon container about 3/4 full of water. Add 1 cup vinegar (apple cider or white), 1/2 cup Dawn dish soap and 20 drops of the four essential oils. Top off with water as needed to fill the container. Shake well. Store airtight and out of direct sunlight.

Be sure you're using 100 percent pure essential oils, not synthetic "fragrance" oils. (Here's an aromatherapy primer to help you understand the difference.)

I know some folks are concerned about using citronella after hearing it attracts bees, but I haven't had any problem with that either in Arizona or Colorado, both places where you can find Africanized bees. Turns out there's even research from the University of Arizona backing that up. And that it's actually lemongrass essential oil you might need to be careful with because it mimics bee pheremones.

This is a variation on a recipe developed by the manager of one of the elite Kentucky thoroughbred breeding facilities for use on broodmares and foals. In my experience, it has safely been used on horses of all ages, humans of all ages (even those with chemical sensitivities), dogs, raptors at a wildlife rehab center and a herd of organically raised yaks! Still, use caution the first time you use it and apply to a small area at first to gauge sensitivity.


  • If you're having big problems with flies, power up the spray by doubling the amount of peppermint.
  • If your horse is more bothered by mosquitoes and/or gnats, double the citronella.
  • You don't have to use Dawn soap as the emulsifier; that's just what the original recipe called for. I've successfully used other mild soaps - Ivory dish soap or castille soap - and a client created a version of the recipe that used Simple Green. Just be sure test any variant for sensitivity.

During the humid part of our desert summer, the flies get very clingy and there are a lot of them. One of the few commercial "natural" sprays I like seemed to work better during that season for one of my horses. Trying to mimic the scent of that spray, I used apple cider vinegar instead of my customary white and added 15-20 drops of Clove Bud essential oil to the original recipe. You might try that if you live in an area where the flies are extra bad.

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Soothing herbal Eyewash for Horses, Dogs, Humans
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Yield: 1/2 cup

Heat 1/2 cup of distilled water or saline solution in a clean glass or stainless steel container, then pour over 1 teaspoon Eyebright herb (Euphrasia officionalis) and let steep until it returns to room temperature. If you used distilled water, add 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Strain two to three times using a fine tea strainer into a clean, airtight container. Administer a few drops from a dropper or small syringe as needed into weeping, irritated eyes to sooth redness and painful conjunctive tissue. Keeps refrigerated for several weeks, though if you notice the color deepening from light brown to dark brown or there is particulate in the liquid, throw it out and make a new batch.

This is a great relief for eyes irritated by windblown dust and hay bits, flies and other barn-related irritants. I have used this safely on horses, dogs, cats and myself. If the irritation persists, be sure to consult the appropriate healing authority.

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Insect Repellent Healing Ointment
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Yield: 4 ounces

In a double-boiler or a small pan set into a second pan of boiling water, combine 1/2 cup sweet almond oil and 1 ounce beeswax. After the wax has melted, add 20 drops of citronella essential oil and 10 drops of the following essential oils: peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree. Mix well and pour into a 4 ounce glass or heavy plastic container and allow to cool before capping. For better healing properties, infuse the oil with calendula herb (marigold) before you make your ointment.

I created this ointment to take the place of the chemical fly repellent ointments made to use in ears and on minor wounds. I find it lasts longer - I used to have to apply SWAT daily inside Ichobod's ears when the mosquitoes and gnats were eating them raw, but only need to use my ointment every third day or so. A little bit goes a long way!

Note: You can find small plastic containers that work well in the "travel size" section of discount stores. They are made for carrying small amounts of liquid or creme products while you travel and are inexpensive.

Again, I have used this product safely for years on a variety of horses and the occasional human, but do be sure to test on a small area in case your horse has a sensitivity to one of the oils.

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Horse Hoof Thrush Remedy
and General-purpose Antifungal, Antibacterial Liquid

Yield: 4 ounces

Fill a 4-ounce heavy plastic or glass container nearly full of distilled water, then add 20 drops of grapefruit seed extract, 30 drops of tea tree and eucalyptus essential oils and 60 drops of palmarosa essential oil. Top off with distilled water as needed.

This is a variation on a recipe suggested years ago in Horse Journal, which had studied the efficacy of grapefruit seed extract as a thrush treatment and found it outperformed the commercial treatments (and didn't turn your hands green!). Tea tree oil is said to have antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, while eucalyptus is said to be effective against anaerobic bacteria, so I include it especially for horses that may have some version of "white line" disease.

I have used this mixture for years and found it effective, though it can take 3-4 treatments to accomplish what I used to get done in one treatment of my former chemical product of choice, dilute bleach. One benefit of the natural treatment is it doesn't seem to dry out the entire hoof the way some products can. I have also used it on the leg crud horses sometimes get on their lower legs. Be sure to test on a small area, though, for potential sensitivity.

Hint: I find this very easy to apply with a squirt bottle with a narrow spout, like the old-fashioned diner ketchup and mustard bottles. Find all kinds of containers online.

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Wound Flush Solution

Yield: 4 ounces (enough to fill a 60cc syringe twice)

In a clean glass or plastic container, add to 4-ounce of distilled water 6-8 drops of grapefruit seed extract and 24 drops of tea tree essential oil. Mix well and draw up as needed into a 60cc syringe with a long, wide tip you can put inside a puncture or open abcess wound to flush. (called a catheter or feeding syringe). Be careful to measure the tea tree oil. You're creating a 1% solution that should be an effective antiseptic without damaging the healing skin.



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