By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.
Travel and competition season is upon us, and “show nerves” are common, even in horses. Agitated, nervous horses that 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.
- Additional caution to you competitors out there: Always check any supplements for ingredients prohibited by competition rules. Valerian is such an example.
Permission to reprint this article is granted, provided attribution is given to Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. No editorial changes may be made without her permission. Dr. Getty appreciates being notified of any publication.
Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide American and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices.
Dr. Getty’s comprehensive resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com–buy it there and have it inscribed by the author. Or get it at Amazon (www.Amazon.com) or other online retail bookstores. The seven separate volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered Spotlight on Equine Nutrition series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts.
Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars. Reach Dr. Getty directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is available for private consultations and speaking engagements.
This spring! On May 2, 2015, hear Dr. Getty address issues in horse nutrition at the Kirkland House Foundation in Delta, British Columbia, sponsored by “Hay…Girl!” For more information on this event, contact Pam Janssen at email@example.com or call 604-961-7265