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Anxious Horse / Calming Supps

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  • Anxious Horse / Calming Supps

    Hi everyone,

    I have a 17 yr old QH who's just returned to work after 10 years as a broodmare. She's very anxious whenever she gets tacked/led to the arena and asked to work/hack out. Since her anxiety is clearly based on anything to do with the idea of working, I've been starting slow and trying to make her sessions enjoyable rather than ask too much but she's the type of horse who believes as soon as the saddle is on she has to go go go no matter what (takes at least 10 minutes of insisting on a walk to get her to settle down rather than jogging off). When ridden without a saddle/bridle is still anxious. It's going to take a lot of relaxing grooms/rides to reprogram this so while we work on this I was thinking of trying a calming supplement to help ease the process.

    What do you guys think of calming supplements and which ones have you found to be beneficial? Also, if anyone has any fun games or ideas to help get her to relax while working any advice is appreciated!


    P.s. There's nothing physically wrong, no pain, no ulcers, has had chiro etc done and her tack fits. Just seems to be mental stress.

  • #2
    I would be thinking on ideas to help her "get over it" instead of medicating. Meds give a false sense of easing her along or improvements. I would saddle, bridle, put a halter over the bridle, tie her up for some time. Let her wear tack, be tied where she can watch thing going on around her, get used to them. Then after an hour or two, tied, get on and ride. I would do lots of walking, forward moving like a trail ride. Do at least 20 minutes and go in both directions. Then maybe some easy walking circles, leg yeilds, put her up. Practice fast walk then slow walk on loose rein. You may have to remind her often to slow, so make that a short part of the session.

    I would do this for a week or two, letting her learn saddling up is not always going to work right now! You will see plenty of horses tied, standing, watching other horses work, at most western arenas. Tacking up is no reason for worrying. Then evaluate her. Is she relaxing while tied? Is she motivated to "walk on" during the ride? Is she responding to reins and legs better during her walks? If all yes, I might start adding 10 minutes of trot, both directions, review the rein and leg cues while trotting. Does she stay relaxed? Can you slow and fast trot with relaxed reins?

    You don't say your goal with her, so I kind of went with "general tuning" on an unused older horse. Every horse should have a good walk, listen to the reins and legs at so speeds. This will take time to restablish, so using a watch in sues you ACTUALLY do that 20 minutes TOTAL time of walk, not more or less. She is not fit, no conditioning so there can be soreness you don't see. Build her fitness slowly, don't overdo too fast. Hence the timed sessions. Going slow, getting her used to her new life should turn her into an enjoyable using girl. Love my mares!


    • #3
      I have used magnesium supplements for my boy. He's very reactive to anything he perceives as out of the ordinary. The supplement has helped him settle down and not be quite so reactive to new stimuli. I have used the product At Ease mixed with sweet feed and apples because it's a powdered form of supplement. A small bucket of it was around 10 bucks. Doesn't hurt to try it, but in my case it might be breed specific, since I got the information from someone else on COTH who used magnesium supplement for a Percheron mare with good results. My horse is half Percheron.

      Incidentally, it worked almost immediately on my guy. If it works or doesn't work for you, you'll know right away.


      • #4
        Magnesium helped mine as well. The thing about magnesium is that it only works if your horse isn't getting enough magnesium out of their diet.

        I accidentally started mine on a quarter of the amount I should have given him. Despite that I noticed improvements in a week. I wish I had tried it years ago. I could have saved my horse so much anxiety.


        • #5
          I was thinking of medications, rather than a mineral supplement, for the calming agent when I posted. I would certainly be open to supplementing magnesium to see if it helped the horse relax, along with a change in how she is worked as stated above.

          I don't think any horse should enter the arena and start trotting right off, without a proper warmup of at least 20 minutes. Same as any athlete, you will hurt them by going right into work without a good body warmup. I am not seeing much emphasis by trainers to their students, on benefits of a planned warmup before a lesson or work session with the horse anymore. Especially with an older horse of 17yrs, OP needs to warm her up completely, before asking horse to exert muscles and other body parts.


          • #6
            I use Seroquine on my reactive OTTB. It has Magnesium,Taurine, and most importantly Inositol (B8). It just takes off the nervous edge. Seroquine is not an instant solution, it takes about 10 days for a noticeable difference. It costs about $28.00 for a one - two month supply.
            Last edited by dbtoo; Nov. 26, 2018, 11:30 PM.


            • #7
              It's not necessarily a calming supplement, but I have been VERY happy with SmartPak's Leg Up Mare supplement. I've got a mare that's just grumpy. Grumpy in work and grumpy now that she's pretty much retired. Just not a people horse. I used to feed raspberry leaves and have tried magnesium as well. On a whim I tried the SP supplement and she's been much more pleasant ever since. The only difference in ingredients that I can see is the chamomile as I'm pretty sure I had even tried the chasteberry before. I have no idea why it seems to be working, but the grumpy mare even calls to me now and nickers when she sees me.


              • #8
                Medication as a "bridge" to get a horse over a difficult challenge is perfectly OK. If the horse is just constantly on edge how can they possibly learn? So taking off the "edge" might be a Good Thing. But if it's a bridge it's a temporary one, not a permanent structure.

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo


                • #9
                  I've had very good luck with ViaCalm (one scoop daily in the AM). It is mixed with her joint supplement and put into AM feed. She's a reactive 11yo mare and this has helped us greatly during training. She's more focused, happy to work, not looking around and calling as much. It's reasonably priced too. Check Amazon. Good luck!


                  • #10
                    I used magnesium citrate on two very reactive horses and saw an almost immediate difference. Magnesium is often deficient in the soil. Do not use magnesium oxide as it is a stool softener that is pretty worthless. Use a chelated form. I used to get the mg. citrate from herbal by the pound and I worked up to one tablespoon a day. It is also good to prevent laminitis. It is water soluble so you can't overdose. It is beneficial and not a crutch.

                    There are calming herbs you can throw in as well such as jiaogulan or valerian. Quietex was a good standby that has both valerian and magnesium. Valerian is a sedative. Jiaogulan is an adaptogen that helps quiet when upset and gives energy when needed. It is used to treat laminitis because it boosts circulation and regulates sugar (in which case you mix it with something like apple juice and syringe it on an empty stomach). You would work up to about one teaspoon.

                    In the worst case scenario, when the horse is just nuts, you can ask the vet to give a long acting tranquilizer. I forgot the name of the drug our vet suggested but it is used on people with schizophrenia so it is pretty powerful. It is the drug of last resort for a horse facing permanent retirement or euthanasia because you are afraid it will seriously hurt someone.


                    • #11
                      I've used Smart Calm Ultra and it's helped, along with a consistent routine. I think magnesium is a great supplement that helps with several areas. I take it for headaches and it's been a great help. It's great too for my older horse for metabolic issues. Inexpensive, often helpful and definitely worth a try IMO.


                      • #12
                        I have had the most success with CBD. I use pellets, which he eats happily, but I think it is most available as an oil sublingually. It is legal in all 50 states since it is non-THC. My local tack store carries it now. I had tried a lot of the other afore-mentioned products without much change, including Chinese herbs.
                        Life is not a dress rehearsal.


                        • #13
                          Years ago (like 15 years back) our pony had to be separated from his brothers and put in a dry lot to recover from foundering and he had severe separation anxiety as a result. We used Calm and Cool pellets - which if I remember correctly, is herbal with vitamins/minerals. It worked great for the pony and he ate the pellets just fine on his handful of feed. There was a noticeable difference within 24 hours.
                          ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by nefferdun View Post
                            I used magnesium citrate on two very reactive horses and saw an almost immediate difference. Magnesium is often deficient in the soil. Do not use magnesium oxide as it is a stool softener that is pretty worthless. Use a chelated form. I used to get the mg. citrate from herbal by the pound and I worked up to one tablespoon a day. It is also good to prevent laminitis. It is water soluble so you can't overdose. It is beneficial and not a crutch.

                            There are calming herbs you can throw in as well such as jiaogulan or valerian. Quietex was a good standby that has both valerian and magnesium. Valerian is a sedative. Jiaogulan is an adaptogen that helps quiet when upset and gives energy when needed. It is used to treat laminitis because it boosts circulation and regulates sugar (in which case you mix it with something like apple juice and syringe it on an empty stomach). You would work up to about one teaspoon.

                            In the worst case scenario, when the horse is just nuts, you can ask the vet to give a long acting tranquilizer. I forgot the name of the drug our vet suggested but it is used on people with schizophrenia so it is pretty powerful. It is the drug of last resort for a horse facing permanent retirement or euthanasia because you are afraid it will seriously hurt someone.
                            That's odd about the Magnesium Oxide. I began feeding it to my horse about 6 months ago. He's an easy keeper and prone to fat pockets. He gets appropriate diet and exercise, but I figured I would add this as well to see how it goes. Many people use Magnesium Oxide for their Cobs that are also easy keepers. He seemed to maintain less fatty pockets, even on some grass. He's also a sensitive and reactive horse by nature, and the Magnesium Oxide seems to have taken the edge off just enough. It was never a problem, but I did notice this slight change in his demeanor. I never experienced any laxative effect with him. I know that Magnesium sulfate can definitely act as a laxative. However, Magensium Oxide was attractive due to the high concentration of Magnesium without having to feed much.

                            Interesting about the jiaogulan. I've never heard of it.

                            Here is a decent quick summary/comparison on Magensium if anyone is interested:



                            • #15
                              My sister's husband has a ranch and one of their horses was having serious anxiety problems. They tried a bunch of different things but eventually had success with CBD pellets as well. I recommend checking them out.

                              Here is a great resource for reading more.



                              • #16
                                I am typically pretty skeptical of any supplements. I just feel like it's usually marketing and not truly effective. That said, I finally got my older TB on SmartCalm Ultra a little over a month ago. He is a big guy and just on the basic 1 scoop per day. I was prepared to not notice anything, but I actually saw a big difference. He was quicker to mellow into our rides and wasn't as strong. He is usually an absolute freight train. I doubled dose him a couple times to see if it made more of a difference, and it was nice but not enough for me to pay for a double dose in his smartpaks. So, because I did that, he ran out about a week before the new smartpaks shipped. That was the true test -- we had a couple fair rides and then, the other day, one where he just wanted to canter everywhere, spook at shadows, and drag me around.

                                So, that supplement DEFINITELY works for him. And I know people say Mg won't work unless they're deficient, but I just don't believe that 100%. I am not Mg deficient and I take it for sleep, migraines, and muscle soreness. I notice it immediately if I skip a day or two. It (and CBD) has made the difference between constant, months-long migraines and manageable ones.

                                If there is an economical CBD supplement for horses that actually works, I would definitely want to try that. I figured it'd be too expensive to feed a horse considering how expensive it is for myself.


                                • #17
                                  I have not had success with many "calming" supplements, but I have found that good quality magnesium supplementation for one of my horses helps a ton. He must naturally get deficient as he is very reactive and I have not noticed as much difference on some of our other horses. Performance Equine Nutrition is my brand of choice for that.

                                  I also discovered Zylkene last year from a vet friend. It contains alpha-casozepine, which is a protein found in cow milk. While it isn't something I would recommend long-term, it was great for me to use for a baby horse on his first few trips as a non-compete and to clinics. Sort of just helped comfort him and take the edge off, but without dulling any of his reactions like a calming supplement can. I would not feed this every day or routinely over a longer span of time, just a few days for training purposes maybe or if/when you decide to take the mare off property for the first time in a while.
                                  I have Higher Standards... do you?

                                  "For the love of my horse, I know who I am."


                                  • #18
                                    The fact that this horse had been a broodmare means there could be other factors than if you were dealing with a gelding or a mare who had a short time off to have a foal or two. With that being said, here is what I went through with trying to put a broodmare back into training after having 10 years off and 8 foals. I will give you the short version:

                                    This mare had the sweetest temperment, put gorgeous, sensible babies on the ground and was an excellent mother. Her background prior to being bred - she had low level dressage training. As soon as I started regularly tacking her up and began to lightly lunge her, she became bonkers. She would rip around the round pen like a lunatic, despite all efforts to quiet, calm her. She got a little quieter so began sitting on her and just asking her to walk and stretch...sometimes she was okay but mostly, she was tense.Then, I began to notice she was all over the place in her back end. It occurred to me that something was not right. Had vet go over her completely, including full x-rays, etc. When he asked about her history and found out she had 8 foals, with no work in between, he told me that after that many babies, the ligaments in the back end get really loose from delivering foals and watching her on a lunge line said she was nervous because she had very little control of her rear, possibly due to stretched ligaments. Her anxiety seemed to be due her rear feeling out of control. It was easy to see, she had no control of where her back legs were. I determined she was not safe to ride. She has returned to being a broodmare. She will have 1 or 2 more babies then be retired.

                                    So, you may need to give this some consideration. If you do not want to take my word for it, discuss it with a repro vet.


                                    • #19
                                      I don't have time to read all the comments, but has she already had the '5 panel' test to look for or rule out myopathies? If not, her 'anxiety' could be muscle pain, or anticipation of muscle pain.
                                      RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.