Like humans, horses can experience anxiety and stress that interferes with their ability to feel focused, comfortable, and relaxed. Some horses are naturally more anxious, while others may be reacting to changes in their environment.
Calming supplements are targeted to help support a healthy nervous system and a balanced temperament. If you often describe your rides as stressful or tense, a calming supplement may help your horse feel and act more confident, relaxed, and focused. Less stress on the horse means less stress for the rider, which can lead to an overall better ride.
Before trying a calming supplement, it is important to rule out all other factors that may be contributing to your horse’s behavior. Your horse’s diet can play a role in their behavior. If your horse is receiving excess calories or large concentrated grain meals, consider revising their diet. It is also a good idea to look at feed labels and check the non-structural carbohydrate levels, some horses are more sensitive to NSC than others.
It is equally important to consider any stress factors such as ill-fitting tack, underlying soreness, frequent traveling, or an ongoing soundness issue. The stress of traveling and competition can put your horse on edge and fractious. It is important to do what you can to minimize stress factors that may be impacting your horse’s routine. Look over your tack, if your horse is being pinched or is uncomfortable, it can cause undesireable behavior. Your horse may be dealing with underlying soreness or a possible soundness issue that you may be unaware of. The anxious behavior could be your horse trying to tell you that something is wrong. Listen to them and work with your vet to rule any concerns out.
Lastly, rule out any gastric issues. Nerves can be stemmed from gastric upset or the increased gastric acid produced during periods of stress. A calming supplement will not take care of the problem if the underlying issue is gastric upset. There are many similar factors that can impact your horse’s gut health including stress, diet, and unprescribed use of NSAIDs. Once again, it is a good idea to work closely with your vet if you feel your horse may be experiencing gastric upset.
After you’ve ruled out other possibilities that may be the root of the problem, it is important to become familiar with the ingredients commonly found in calming products:
Magnesium is a macro mineral that is frequently recommended for a wide range of equine health conditions. It works to support a natural inflammatory response and healthy muscle contraction. It is frequently added to horse calming products as nervousness can be a manifestation of magnesium deficiency and may help combat spasms and other problems related to magnesium deficiency.
Thiamine also supports the health of the nervous system by aiding in the transmission of impulses along the nerve.
An essential amino acid, tryptophan helps to regulate serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps horses remain calm and content.
Valerian root is an herb the supports central nervous system function when feelings of anxious behavior are present. Check competition rulings regarding the usage of Valerian Root.
Broad Spectrum Hemp with naturally occurring CBD helps stimulate the brain’s endocannabinoid system which effects a multitude of physiological functions to help maintain homeostasis, promoting balanced behavior, mental alertness, and relaxation (without drowsiness). Check competition rulings regarding the usage of Hemp/CBD.
Calming supplements are not a cure-all, but can lend support to healthy nervous system function after other concerns have been ruled out. Calming supplements can take some time to reach their full benefit, a general rule of thumb is approx. 30 days. Look for signs that your horse is able to focus at tasks better or keeps his cool at things that previously caused him stress. By working with a trusted vet and trainer, you may be able to best pinpoint the root of the problem and develop the best plan of action for your horse, which may include a calming supplement.