Horse supplements are all over the web. Some companies use really persuasive graphics, videos, and wording in their effort to gain sales. As an online retailer of horse, and pet supplements, we'd like to help our consumers understand the basic ingredients used in horse supplements so that a more informed decision can be made. Before buying any horse calming supplement, take some time to understand the basic ingredients and how they may affect your horse, because we all know horses are each unique individuals.
Calming supplements contain nutritional and herbal ingredients aimed to “settle” anxious horses by affecting the nervous system. Horses, are all unique individuals just like people, and some horses in some situations become stressed and anxious. Once horses become anxious, they may develop behaviors such as rearing, shying, biting, pulling, barging, etc. Horses that have erratic, or difficult behavior are more likely to injure themselves or the people working with them. Such behavior can also make them hard to manage, and everything becomes a challenge from riding, shoeing, clipping, travelling, and training.
If you have a horse that has become difficult to manage and is showing signs of anxiousness and/or stress it is important to recognize that each horse is unique, and not all horses will react the same to calmers. A calming supplement that may work well on your neighbor’s horse, may not work at all on your horse, and vice versa. Speak with your veterinarian if you think your horse may benefit for a calming supplement.
It is important to understand the different ingredients found in various calming supplements. Knowing the which ingredients do what will help you understand how they may work with your unique horse.
We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly used ingredients in equine calming supplements.
Magnesium - Probably the most common calmer ingredient. Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in hundreds of biochemical reactions within the body, including muscle and nerve function. Studies in mice suggested that supplementing with magnesium could have an antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like (anxiety reducing) effect. However, the amount of magnesium given was very high and was given directly into the body cavity by injection and not fed to the mice. A different study in mice showed that feeding a deficient magnesium diet produced an increase in anxiety. However, magnesium deficiency in horses is rare and most diets contain adequate magnesium.
L-Tryptophan - Tryptophan is an amino acid and is another common active ingredient in equine calmers. Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter which induces calming and melatonin, which encourages sleep. There appear to be many factors that determine the response to tryptophan and few studies have been carried out in horses. Those that have suggested higher doses reduce endurance and can cause haemolytic anaemia (lowering of red blood cell count). An Australian study into the behavioral effects of tryptophan on horses published in 2008 concluded that “Plasma tryptophan increases when tryptophan is administered at a dose used in some commercial products, but this is not reflected by marked behavioral changes in the horse”.
Valerian (Valerenic acid) - an extract from the dried root of the flowering plant Valeriana officinalis, which contains compounds believed to interact with certain neurotransmitters; used since the times of the ancient Greeks to relieve restlessness, anxiety and insomnia. There is a reasonable amount of scientific evidence to suggest an anxiolytic effect of Valerian (Valerenic Acid) an extract from Valerian plants. Because valerenic acid is on the FEI prohibited substances list you'll want to double to make sure this ingredient is not in the supplement you feed your horse if you plan on competing.
Chamomile - an extract derived from the flowers of the perennial herbs Matricaria recutita or Chamaemelum nobile; used for thousands of years to treat insomnia and anxiety. Both RelaxBlend and RelaxHer Blend contain chamomile in their formulas.
Thiamine - (vitamin B1) a compound found in fresh forages that helps the body convert carbohydrates and fat into energy and is critical to proper function of the nervous system.
Total Calm and Focus contains thiamine, and magnesium without any added fillers.
Taurine - this organic acid is abundant in animal tissue and plays a significant role in many neurologic functions.
Inositol - (vitamin B8), an organic compound integral to the health of cell membranes; research suggests that inositol supplementation can aid in treatment of panic disorders, bipolar depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder in people. Insoitol can be found in Quietex II in both the paste and pellet form.
Raspberry leaves - the dried foliage of the raspberry bush, are high in vitamin C, tannins and other nutrients; long thought to affect muscle tone • alpha-casozepine, a protein derived from milk that is believed to have a natural calming effect on nursing youngsters. Mare Magic and Happ-E-Mare both add rasperry leaves to their formulas.
Special considerations: Many sport and show associations restrict the use of some calming agents prior to competition. Check with your association before administering any supplement to your horse before any competition.
To check the FEI prohibited substance list, click here.