How they can help
Do you have a horse that is tense, on-edge or unfocused? Perhaps a calming supplement would be the right choice to bring out the best behavior in your horse without sacrificing performance. Typically, there are two types of horse calming supplements. The first is a top dressing for feed that will help with everyday handling, work and training – this usually comes in the form of a powder or pellets. Second are “day of” supplements given before an event - these most likely come in the form of a paste. Calming supplements can be given anywhere from 1 hour to 5 days before the event – each supplement has its own specific time frame.
While the types of calming supplements greatly vary, there are a few common ingredients that can be found in products on the market today:
- Vitamin B1/Thiamine: This is a water-soluble vitamin that is not stored in the horse’s body – as a result, it must be supplied by the horse’s diet. This vitamin is used in metabolizing carbohydrates and fat. Horses with a deficiency of this vitamin often appear stressed and nervous - the reason for its inclusion in a lot of calming supplements.
- Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency in a horse is characterized by nervousness, irritability, muscle tremors and incoordination. This mineral plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions – including cellular energy generation and genetic information decoding. It also works in part with calcium in nerve transmission and muscle contraction.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin aids in nervous system regulation, metabolism and red blood cell production. The recommended usage of this vitamin is for a horse in a stressful situation or to help increase appetite. A calming supplement with this ingredient would be ideal for situations such as long trailer rides or moving to a new location.
- Tryptophan: This is an essential amino acid from which the horse is unable to produce itself. This is used to increase levels of serotonin in the brain, which in turn creates a calming effect in horses. This includes increased sleepiness, reduced aggression and reduced fearfulness.
- Valerian Root: This natural herb is used to reduce anxiety and excitability without reducing the horse’s mental function. Valerian can also be used as an antispasmodic in cases of colic or muscle spasms. This calming supplement would be recommended in stress-inducing events as opposed to competitive events.
If competing, it’s important to make sure that your association or registry accepts the use of the calming supplements you are using. This can usually be done by taking a look at the rule book or calling the office of the association or registry. If the supplement is not approved, be sure to give it time to leave the horse’s system before competition.
Other considerations for an edgy horse would be the horse’s diet. If the horse is being fed a grain that is high in sugar – they will react the same way as a human who has had too much sugar (hyper & unfocused). Consider switching to a grain lower in sugar or consult with a nutritionist or veterinarian to find the best way to reduce sugar in the horse’s diet. Another thing that can affect the horse’s attitude would be an overabundance of calcium. Like we mentioned earlier, calcium and magnesium work together - too much calcium means too little magnesium. Rich grass and alfalfa hay are often the culprits when it comes to a surplus of calcium. More exercise and turn out time can also reduce the amount of excitability and anxiety within a horse.
There are several low sugar feeds to choose from that are specially formulated to keep your horse in balance including Tribute's Kalm 'N EZ or Kalm Ultra and Buckeye's Safe 'N Easy or Safe 'N Easy Performance.