Utilizing Flower Essences for the Well-Being of Horses


A report from Dr. Diana Cunningham
based on an edited interview by Jann Garitty


Devising formulas for horses for behavioral and other issues

Horses express their emotions through body language

Flower essences instead of pharmaceuticals

Snapdragon Flower Essence for Biting Habits in a Horse

About Diana Cunningham

Some time ago, when I lived in Grass Valley, CA, and after my daughter was born, I became interested in animals. We started a little farm with a miniature cow, about 30 rare breed chickens, a couple of cows, ducks and other animals.

My daughter at the age of 4, started wanting to be around horses. That began our immersion into animal life and also into animal communication and trying to work with Penelope Smith’s way of developing our intuition in regard to animals. It worked so well used in conjunction with flower essences.

Later, we got four small Haflinger draft horses. That’s really where I, with my daughter’s help, started to be aware of and learn about the feelings of horses. We were trying to understand what they were trying to tell us. In particular, there was one horse, Angel, who we acquired when she was pregnant. I felt that she seemed very depressed. It was her 6th or 7th baby, and she was actually very old to have babies. She never should have gotten pregnant. She started speaking to me and I made this promise to her that I would try to help her get over her depression. I did that with Bleeding Heart. I began using some other flower essences with her because she was so responsive to it.

I determined she needed Bleeding Heart from my knowledge of the Flower Essence Repertory and knowing what that particular flower essence’s attributes were, working with grief and all. She clearly was having a “pre-partum” depression. She was very exhausted and by that time, she was in her 20s. It was like an old lady having a baby.

Bleeding Heart was used for Angel's depression and grief

I also made a promise to her that I would try never to let her baby be sold, because it also became clear that she had grief about her previous babies being taken away from her. I began to ponder this phenomenon, not just in the horse world, but generally in the animal world, where animals are bred to have babies and then lose them. As a young mother with some wisdom, I began to think about how traumatizing this was for so many animals. I realized how important the flower essences could be in helping them to go through grief, loss, trauma and all types of experiences and emotions.

When she had her baby, Angel became very emaciated. She was nursing and was very attached to the baby. But she also had this understanding with me, and she allowed us to get close to the baby, which we named Nimbus. He was full of airiness, fire, and he was a very strong willed little guy. We allowed her to nurse him, even though it got to a point where we had to stop just for her sake, because he would have nursed on her forever. Again, I used Bleeding Heart and several other flower essences to help her let go of that nursing process. It was through my own processes as a parent and then empathizing with her, that I was able to understand who she was, and I could work with her constitutionally and emotionally.

We used Mariposa Lily with her baby trying to help him separate in the weaning process. He would wake me up at 5:00 every morning, telling me how he did not like being away from his mother. We finally had to move him and his cousin about a mile down the road just so that he could have a clear separation, because his mother was very exhausted from nursing. She was ready to move on, but she still wanted him to be around her. They’re still together, all four of them, but now at a home in Montana. The two boys, and her foal, who is now 8 years old, took dressage training for working with children. I think the flower essences really helped them move along. My daughter and I also used the flower essences to help us better understand the situation.

Mariposa Lily was used for the baby to help him in the weaning process

Devising formulas for horses for behavioral and other issues

Over time and with more experience with the essences, I began devising a series of formulas for horses (and also for dogs and cats). I have 50 formulas now on which I’ve been working.

Previously, I had begun formulating in general through studying the Flower Essence Repertory while I was in naturopathic school in Seattle. I spent 5 years in naturopathic medical school mainly learning homeopathy, grooming myself in classical homeopathy, and then I went to Europe for further training. I spent years as a homeopath in the late 90s in Edinburgh.

During my trainings, I learned how to formulate herbal combinations and also put together low dose homeopathic combinations, which I’m also doing with the products for horses. I found that many homeopaths who are classically trained don’t like working with the flower essences. But when you get to know them very well, you can distinguish what might be working or influencing your patient. The concern is that with homeopathy, you don’t want to heal an emotional part when it’s part of a whole constitutional picture. It makes it harder to assess the person and the remedy.

Horses express their emotions through body language

I’m not a horse person, in the sense that I’m not like my daughter, who now at age 12 is horse-crazy. Therefore, my daughter worked with me on trying to come up with a dozen of the most common problems that she deals with. At 12, she’s fairly knowledgeable, and also I confirmed these identified problems with her trainer and other people in the horse world who’d been involved with it for a long time. I began to see there was a great need there. Other people have devised formulas for general pet care or issues like loneliness, trauma or various other situations. However, horses in my experience are very responsive emotionally. Additionally, they are so very physically in their bodies; their bodies are big, and they give you a physical response to what you’re doing. It became clear to me that even if you weren’t very good at communicating with animals or you hadn’t done natural horsemanship training or anything like that, but you were just being around them, you had a pretty good feel for what their body language was telling you about how they are feeling.

For example, observing a horse cribbing, biting, being bored or angry: when they put their ears back and stomp their feet, they’re showing you with their body language that they’re angry or whatever, and then you can start from there. Realizing this, I looked at the Flower Essence Repertory in a different way than I normally would with humans, where I’m looking more emotionally, spiritually and soulfully. For horses, what I’m looking at is more the physical and emotional components.

Flower essences instead of pharmaceuticals

What I’ve noticed myself in being a practitioner and homeopath is that people are very medicalized; they have a diagnosis or want to get a diagnosis. They approach things very medically, which is not always the best answer. That’s why I wanted to devise these formulas for horses. Some of the remedies are very general, such as for loneliness, anxiety, and boredom. I began to realize that what I had started with were just eight basic formulas, and that those are very specific for the average horse owner. They are related to communication, about dealing with abuse or accidents, biting, how the herd can be in harmony, retraining and trailering—all very specific issues. My focus is to try and make them for—to use the language that veterinarians use—very specific diagnoses. Veterinarians themselves oftentimes are in a quandary because they don’t really know what to do about issues such as cribbing or boredom, for example. They might prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications, but then many people don’t necessarily want to drug their horses in that way. I see that flower essences fulfill a wonderful niche for the health and well-being of horses.

Snapdragon flower essence for biting habits

Delphino, (a Greek word for dolphin), is our 15 year old registered Kentucky Mountain horse (at right), who adopted our hearts when we bought him two years ago for our daughter as a trail riding horse. At 13, Gwyneth is a horse-crazy, strong-willed girl who lost her first love, “Sir William,” a Swedish Warmblood/Thoroughbred mix in a tragic accident. Around that same time, she met Delphino with whom she quickly fell in love, or perhaps they fell in love with each other through a shared understanding of grief and loss. In Delphino's, or “Delly's,” case, he has had 5 previous owners, at least one of whom used a whip frequently in training him.

When we met Delphino, he was somewhat shy but quickly affectionate and loving toward humans. But shortly after a transfer to a higher-end stable, he was mistreated and whipped in the head by an Olympic-driven trainer. We quickly moved him again to a new stable where he could recover his trust in humans and be re-trained by Gwyneth under the guidance of natural horsemanship trainer, Kristin Praly, at Covered Bridges Equestrian Center. Housed there are over 80 horses, some of whom have been rescued from abuse, neglect, or poor training. It took a number of months, but Gwyn finally was able to re-gain his trust.

The one behavior that continued to be challenging was Delly's biting. Horses naturally use their mouths and biting as a means of instinctual communication, so it seemed impossible to “take the bite out of a horse.” But Delly's biting had become a habit in his effort to avoid having Gwyn ride on his back. So, for a summer project we used the Equine Essences blend of proprietary essences, “Biting Formula” I had developed, which includes the Snapdragon flower essence, and was used over a 6 week period with positive results.

Snapdragon was a key essence in helping to end Delly's biting behavior

After 1 week of administering daily sprays either orally or in the water trough, Delly continued to reach out as if to bite Gwyn when she would step up on the mounting block to ride him. In fact, the biting seemed to worsen. Sometimes this response is a kind of “healing reaction” or aggravation that can happen within a week of taking a homeopathic or flower essence remedies. But we persisted, and each time he tried to bite, we would spray him on his teeth. This would temporarily distract him.

After 3-1/2 weeks of daily use, Delly began to stop the habit of biting. Instead, he would lay back flat his ears, a more socially acceptable sign that a horse dislikes something in their environment. This sign also alerted Gwyn to learn to “hold her boundary” with him, and over 3 more weeks she felt more confident within herself to help him relax while riding him. Within 6 weeks, Delly had “softened” and was willing to have her ride him, even in a large arena that formerly caused him to be terrified.

Delly and Gwyn

Now, Delly rarely shows his teeth or bites. Both he and Gwyn are happy to be riding together again, after what seemed like an impossible situation. So often in the horse world, this biting behavior can lead to abusive situations for horses, or even cause them to be labeled as "dangerous" and be "put down" or sent to the meat market. Instead, the trainer and several riding friends noticed Delly's change and she has continued to train him with ease on the forest trail which formerly made him feel scared and claustrophobic. He can easily ride in the forest now without spooking and is now truly a delight to be with.

About Diana Cunningham, NMD, Bonny Doon, California

"Dr Diana"—at right with Delly—is a classical homeopath who works mainly with humans, mostly women and children since 1996. She trained in Seattle and the UK in homeopathy, and has been using flower essence therapy since 1987. Currently she has a homeopathy practice, and also co-leads workshops on how to help your animal companions with homeopathic first aid medicines and flower essences. Her line of Equine Essences can be found on Amazon.com.


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