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You and Your Horse – A Sensory Relationship – Smell

By Carole Herder

If someone is not a horse person, smell may be the first thing they notice when they enter the barn. They may not find it pleasant. Can you imagine? I think horses have a sweet, sweet smell; not every horse of course, but most. I am used to going out to see my horses and giving them a big hug around the neck. I just drink in their warmth and smell. I love that smell. You either do or don’t, and horse people do. I have this one horse that came from a stressful showing background. She was a high performing horse under a lot of stress. She didn’t smell as sweet as my other horses. I think it was part of her stressful nature. She was high strung and loved to run. Her energetic nature coupled with a lifestyle that kept her more cooped up, unnatural for her, along with high stress trainers who were more concerned with winning than wellbeing, just hadn’t worked too well for her. I believe it changed her chemistry and her smell. It took a couple of years living and working with me, before her scent changed. She now has that beautiful aroma that only intrinsic health and comfort allows. I have one horse who smells incredibly sweet. I wish I could bottle it and sell it – a warm musky mossy, cinnamon sweet smell. I love to just nuzzle in and soak it up.

This concept goes both ways of course. If your life is sweet, balanced and happy, your horse, with his enhanced olfactory capabilities will welcome your scent. And of course, you know the reverse scenario. So it pays to keep yourself happy. If not for a better night’s rest, a clean bright eye and feeling fantastic, it even results in a better relationship with your horse.

As with the other senses, you need to know what the normal smells are for your horse. Nasty, spoiled smells could be coming from an abscess in his mouth or an infection in his ears. Depending on the situation you may be able to address it yourself, or you may need to call a vet. Pay special attention to his feet. Thrush is a common, tenacious and smelly infection with a very foul odor. Thrush involves the frog and the central lateral sulci.

If your horse is suffering from this the area should be cleaned out with an antiseptic and then protected from dirt and moisture, with extra effort made to keep the hoof dry. Depending on how bad the infestation is you may have to dive deep into sensitive tissue to really clean it out. It can be painful for your horse. Once it’s clean, it should be treated with antibacterial product. Be diligent about treating it daily as thrush is very persistent.

Rule of thumb – anything that smells bad, probably is.

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