Your horse schools perfectly at home but turns anxious and spooky at the showgrounds. Or maybe you’re that horse and rider on the trail—jigging, bolting, and spinning while everyone else is enjoying a leisurely ride. As prey animals, horses are hardwired to react first and think later, but sometimes, that evolutionary mechanism can get in the way of your safety and enjoyment.
Though veterinarian-prescribed sedatives can be necessary when a horse’s anxiety becomes dangerous, it’s usually not necessary to resort to drugs. If medical, training, and management issues have been ruled out as the source of your horse’s anxiety, calming supplements could make a noticeable difference in his or her attitude and focus.
Could my horse benefit from calming supplements?
There are multiple circumstances in which calming supplements could be appropriate for your horse. Horses have different personalities, and even with ideal management and training, some horses are simply more inclined to be excitable and nervous. Other horses are only situationally reactive, becoming overly excited during a vet or farrier visit, in a new environment, or while traveling.
Calming supplements could be helpful in “taking the edge off” if your horse tends to get stressed during:
- Trail riding
- Being exposed to new environments/objects
- Stall rest
- Hand-walking after stall confinement
- Health care procedures
- Farrier visits
How do calming supplements work?
Calming supplements use specialized formulas of nutrients and/or herbs that help encourage focus and relaxation in your horse.
Nutrient-based supplements, like Total Calm & Focus Paste and Perfect Prep EQ Training Day, deliver amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that support healthy nervous system function and cortisol levels. Ingredients to look for in nutrient-based supplements include magnesium; vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin); inositol; tryptophan; and folic acid.
Deficiency in these core nutrients can manifest as nervousness and excess anxiety, so a calming supplement that brings your horse’s nutrient levels back to an ideal range can help balance their moods.
Herbal supplements utilize botanicals that are known for their calming properties. Ingredients to look for in herbal calming supplements include valerian, chamomile, vervain, passionflower, hops, and St. Johns Wort. Some herbal supplements are formulated specifically for mares. The herbs in these supplements support hormone balance. Ingredients to look for include raspberry, cramp bark, and vitex agnus castus (chaste berry).
Are calming supplements legal?
If you compete in rated shows, you’ll want to use nutrient-based supplements instead of herbal supplements because many herbs are banned by competitive organizations. Nutrient-based supplements, however, do not generally contain prohibited substances. If you have any questions about the legality of the ingredients in a calming supplement, reach out to the association you are showing with.
If you are actively managing behavioral issues with your horse, we encourage you to work with a veterinarian and trusted trainer. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat health problems; it is purely informational.