Supplements for Calming Your Horse
What You Need to Know
Anyone who’s spent time around horses knows they’re more like humans than a lot of us give them credit for. Each horse is, for lack of a better phrase, their own person. And with individual personalities comes unique temperaments. Like us, some horses get anxious and stressed out easier than seems necessary. The causes could be anything from genetic predisposition to simple crankiness. Or it could be something upsetting that entered unbidden into their environment. Then again, they could just be feeling anxious.
No matter the cause, if you have a disgruntled, ill-tempered, or irate horse, it’s dangerous. Someone could be kicked, reared into the air, or even bit with a pair of big ol’ chompers. It’s a disadvantageous situation for everyone, including the horse.
One of the cures for this unwanted behaviour is supplements. There are now many health supplements you can feed to your horse to calm their minds and keep them tranquil, calm, and happy. This will allow your horse to adapt quicker to whatever change in its environment distressed it so much, or to shrug off the agitators that were causing it duress. Supplements are a fast track to a more docile and pleasant horse. This can be critical if there are children or young adults in frequent contact with the horse. You do not want an unpredictable horse around children.
Here are some of the most common ingredients found in horse calming supplements. Let’s take a what you can expect.
Many supplements claim that magnesium is going to produce a calming effect that mimics antidepressants, reducing anxiety. And while some horse owners agree that it works, others don’t. The truth is that nowhere is there scientific proof that magnesium is going to calm down your horse. Plus, horses are very rarely deficient in magnesium. This ingredient is up for debate, but nonetheless popular in many supplements.
Calcium is similar to magnesium in the way that there is no proven evidence of its calming effects. Even if your horse is deficient in calcium, that doesn’t mean extra calcium is going to make them less ornery or less anxious. That being said, high stress levels have been known to cause a loss of calcium (and magnesium) in horses. The general consensus is that calcium, if it does improve the horse’s mood, does so negligibly. The only upside is that calcium is not dangerous, so you can’t go wrong with a little extra. At least your horse will maintain their healthy bones.
Another common ingredient in horse calming supplements is tryptophan, which is an amino acid and precursor for the release of serotonin. And while we recognise serotonin as the happy chemical in the brain, some studies have shown that when serotonin is released inside the horse’s brain it actually causes excitement rather than calming, and high amounts can even reduce endurance and encourage anaemia. This is another case of nobody knows. Some say yes, some say no. There simply is not enough proof that this works.
B vitamins are advertised in loads of calming supplements. However, these vitamins go the way of the other ingredients. Nobody really knows. Even humans are not reliable, as scientific studies have deduced that B vitamins are possibly effective for reducing stress and anxiety, but it is not proven.
The Raw Deal
The truth is that we just don’t know if these supplements work, given that there is no substantial evidence. The best thing you can do is to pick up some supplements, do a one-month trial with your horse, see if they improve, and adjust your strategy from there. Just try to resist the placebo effect, where you trick yourself into thinking the supplements worked even if they did nothing at all. Remember it is the horse who is most important.
What is a Natural Calming Supplement?
Natural calming supplements are popular ingredients in many different brands of supplements. There are two big ones: valerian root and chamomile. Both are reported, similarly to calcium and magnesium, to reduce stress and anxiety in horses. People even claim they will help your horse sleep. And as people are more prone to trusting the natural supplements, these two ingredients have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. Whether they work or not is debatable. Sometimes it depends who you talk to.
Valerian Root For Horses
Valerian Root: This is probably the most reliable calming agent for horses that you’ll find. Enough people agree on it, and there is enough science to suggest the acid extract from valerian plants will make your horse calmer. It is important to note that most equine associations have banned valerian root. It’s also on the prohibited substances list of the FEI.
Valerian root is known to relax tense muscles by affecting the nervous system. Valerian root can also help relieve restlessness and nervousness and not affect performance.
Chamomile For Horses
Chamomile: We have been drinking chamomile tea for years as a soothing beverage. We all know someone who unwinds with a cup of chamomile. And while there are is some barebones evidence that suggests chronic use of chamomile will help ease severe anxiety in humans, we know nothing definitive about horses. That being said, some people do swear by it. Considering that chamomile is great for the horse’s digestive tract, you won’t be doing any harm if you try it for reducing their stress.
What Can You Give a Horse for Anxiety?
At the end of the day, you have an anxious horse and you want to help. You can buy the expensive supplements and give them to your horse, wait and see if they help. You can try the natural calming supplements, wait, see if they work. Alternatively, you can try love, affection, and discipline. One of the best things to help an anxious horse is a daily routine. Exercise, a job, a focus. It’s the same in humans. We calm significantly and de-stress when our days are set into a routine. If you do the same for your horse, you may see a larger difference than you would with any kind of supplement.
That’s not to say supplements do or do not work. By all means, give your horse calming supplements. If you are indeed worried about your horse’s anxiety, try everything you can.