Dr Courtney Miller, BS, BVetMed, MRCVS Veterinary and Dodson & Horrell Technical Nutrition Manager gives her answer…
Horses suffer from stress, anxiety or excitement for a number of reasons, and sometimes it can seem like a minefield trying to find the right supplement or calmer to help and support your equine companion.
Before researching supplements, it is wise to assess the total diet first, to ensure that your horse is getting the right balance of energy and the right nutrients before searching for a calming supplement. It is important to ensure your horse is receiving enough energy, and the right type of energy to suit their workload and body condition. Excess energy through the diet can be a cause of excitability or could exacerbate any anxious or stressful behaviour, along with possibly causing additional unwanted weight gain. It is also crucial to ensure your horse receives a minimum of 2% of their bodyweight a day in forage to prevent stereotypical behaviours and to maintain normal digestive function. Ensuring your horse has a fully balanced diet can also help, by feeding a good quality feed balancer you will be providing your horse with their mineral and vitamin requirements to support overall health.
Horses are individuals
Once the overall diet and management regime have been assessed, the most important thing to remember when trying to find a calmer suitable for your horse is that every horse is individual, and what may work for one, might not work for another. It is also important that once you have done research and found a suitable calmer that you want to try, is that you give it time to work. Just like with any changes in feeding, it is important to give at least a couple of weeks to allow the horse to adjust to its inclusion in their diet and then reassess after another couple of weeks.
When choosing a calmer it is also important to note the ingredients, as some may be competition legal, whereas some may require a withdrawal period. If your horse is most stressed when away at competitions then it would be best to consider one that doesn’t require a withdrawal period so that your horse can benefit when they need it most.
Calmers should not be considered as a ‘problem solver’ but instead are more suitable for helping to support your horse alongside management and training to help with any stress/anxiety related issues they may have. It is also worth checking with your veterinarian to confirm there are no underlying clinical issues before trying a calming supplement.
Consider the diet as a whole
Typical ingredients in calmer supplements may include herbs such as chamomile and vervain, or possibly micro/macro nutrients such as magnesium, or amino acids such as tryptophan.
Feeding of minerals such as magnesium should be considered if there is a known deficiency or imbalance, excess feeding of one mineral in comparison with others can cause imbalance, so again it is always best to assess the overall diet when considering mineral supplementation.
Ingredients such as chamomile and vervain are reputed for their calming properties, and are a great way of encouraging an even temperament without dulling responses or having a ‘sedative’ effect.
Supplements can be a positive asset to your horse’s feeding regime, but it is important to understand what and why you are feeding, and if help is required when choosing a product, then consult a nutritionist who will be able to assess your whole feeding regime.
For more information about any of Dodson & Horrell’s palatable feeds, or if you would like a palatability sample, please call 0845 345 2627 or use the Live Chat option to talk live to a nutritionist at www.dodsonandhorrell.com