Championship season is here, and “show nerves” are common, even in horses. Agitated, nervous horses who are normally well behaved may benefit from a calming supplement. These products can contain vitamins, or minerals, or herbs, or amino acids. So, which to choose and how best to use them? Before making a decision, consider these important points:
- An empty stomach is the main cause for behavioral issues. Forage (hay and/or pasture) should be available at all times.
- Magnesium deficiency may be the issue, since most horses don’t get enough of this mineral. If this is true for your horse, supplementing 5,000 mg of magnesium per 500 lbs of body weight will make a positive change in demeanor.
- A borderline B vitamin deficiency will affect behavior and can result when the hindgut microbial population is compromised by stress, high starch diets, illness, or antibiotics. Thiamin (vitamin B1) has been shown to be especially effective at high doses (1 mg per pound of body weight). Prebiotics that feed existing microbes also result in more B vitamin production.
- Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, leads to serotonin synthesis in the brain and can be useful in soothing a nervous horse. For this effect to occur, it is best to offer tryptophan as a paste between meals. When added to a meal, tryptophan will not be used for serotonin production and the calming effect will be significantly diminished.
- Caution! Herbs such as chamomile, valerian, black cohosh, ginger root, and passion flower may have an over-tranquilizing effect, interact with other medications, and have side effects. Consult with your veterinarian before using.
This tip comes from Dr. Juliet Getty, a consultant and speaker on all aspects of equine nutrition. She has been published internationally and is the author of Feed Your Horse Like A Horse, a comprehensive equine nutrition resource. Her website, www.gettyequinenutrition.com, offers a library of useful articles, a retail store, and an opt-in link to her free monthly e-newsletter, “Forage for Thought.” She is also available for individual and group consultations and appears as a guest speaker on select webinars—her schedule is posted on the website. Contact Dr. Getty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 884-7187.