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Products to calm nervous or high-strung horses?

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  • Products to calm nervous or high-strung horses?

    I have an 8 year old Icelandic with a rather nervous temperament. He is much better in the 3 months I've had him, from not being able to approach him at all, to having him greet me at the gate most days and let me snap a lead on and walk him. This was done with just consistent calm handling and gaining his trust, using his grain and supplements as a bribe, apples, peppermint treats (his favorite) etc. I'm still the only person who can walk up to him when he's loose in the field. Other folks can handle him in his stall, and take him out to his paddock, but once out there he won't let anyone but me catch him.

    However, he is still inclined to be rather nervy at sudden movements, and while not in the least aggressive there is the potential for harm to people or himself if he panics, in his desperation to get away from what he perceives as danger. For example, a slightly slipping saddle panicked him last week, he spun sideways out from under me, and bolted across the road and back (no harm done except to my backside, thankfully). And he seems really on edge if someone, even me, touches him suddenly, even when he knows you are there, or if you touch him with something like a cloth. He is really nervous about things like saddle pads for example, especially if they touch his sides and move around. (I am doing some desensitization work with him, but it's going very slowly.)

    I know a little about his background, but not a lot about how he was trained early on, except that the folks that broke him to ride were not knowledgeable about Icelandics and expected him to be like their TWHs. So I'm not sure how much of his reactions to various things are gaps or deficiencies in his early training, and how much is his basic personality, possibly exacerbated by some imbalance in his diet.

    I'm just wondering if anyone has used and had any success with "calming" supplements that imply they can take the edge off high-strung horses. There's one from Tractor Supply that I found on a quick search (http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/stor...vita-calm-2-lb) and it has only a couple reviews, but they are both good. You could read the product as being a "supportive" for horses under stress, particularly as it contains thiamine, which is easily depleted in stressed animals. But from the reviews it appears that it might actually have a calming effect - maybe it's the tryptophan - like eating a Thanksgiving turkey every day!

    I'm NOT looking to 'drug' him or anything like that. I would just like him to be the best he can be, and being wound up isn't conducive to that. I'm just wondering if stuff like this is basically snake oil/wishful thinking, or if enough people have found it to work that it might be worth trying (this or any similar product).


  • #2
    Raspberry leaf, the main ingredient in Mare Magic to "stabilize" moody mares is purported to have the same effects with geldings. Google it. I think I got it for $8 a big bag from a tea company. The product you are showing has tryptophan which makes me sleepy so I wouldn't want to give it to my horse.
    "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope


    • Original Poster

      And you've used it with your horses? What amount of the tea version do you use per horse per day?


      • Original Poster

        OK, I've googled it, and it looks like it's really worth a try. There are scads of reviews from people on different sites praising the stuff to the high heavens, including for quite a few geldings.

        We actually have a large raspberry patch I could pick from, but I'll start with the commercial stuff just to see if it works, and go from there.



        • #5
          I started my husband's MFT w/ mare magic and it calmed him some. But Smart Calm Ultra is working LOTS better for him!

          ETA: I had a pony that was overly body sensitive like that...calming sups helped him some, but he never really got over it. He had been abused tho...

          Hopefully you get better results.


          • #6
            A trainer I'm working with said this appeared to work.
            Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


            • #7
              I use vita calm (the one you linked to) for my young, hot TBx mare. It really does help keep her settled. I notice when a few days are skipped. It is fairly cheap, and includes good stuff for their gut. I like it.
              APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman


              • #8
                Have you tried Magnesium? I have no experience with it but have read that it can help.
                To ride a horse is to borrow freedom.


                • #9
                  I would second the poster who said to try magnesium. I have had good luck with it..


                  • #10
                    My twh was like this when he came to us 7 years ago. Being beat, and big lick lines, terrified of an arena and if you ask him to park out he was a basket case. I believe there was some really bad training going on there to make him a big lick horse that just didn't work out. It took a year before you could walk in the pasture with a lead rope to catch him. Months to get I'm with a halter. He was always in alert and worried. It just took constant love, attention and kindness to him. Finally after a year he started to settle a bit but nobody could walk up to him except me or my husband in the pasture or he would run. Another year our friends could catch him that he saw often. Now after 7 years just about anybody can catch him and he is so much calmer. He is trusting in us yet can still be a little jumpy at times, but the worse of it is he jumps in place. Lol. Doesn't run, spin etc anymore unless it's the vet lol. I never used anything on him. O could have his b1 and mag checked to see if he is low since that can make them more nervous and jumpy. My guys was fine so I didn't supplement.
                    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                    • #11
                      The poster that said vita calm. I agree with that one. Very cheap and good vitamins in it, I used it on my one horse when we were trying to bring him back to work after 3 years of retirement and he was a nervous type with riding. It did well for him.
                      Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                      • #12
                        The things you describe could indicate magnesium deficiency, so it wouldn't hurt to try, and it's pretty inexpensive. My horse became higher energy and was more able to buck hard once on magnesium so it certainly didn't calm him, but physical issues he had (abnormal amounts of muscle soreness and tension) were relieved.

                        I find often with jumpy horses they need more solid touch. No light touches, even think of walking more solidly around them, though of course not rough.
                        Originally posted by Silverbridge
                        If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                        • #13
                          Poor boy, it sounds like someone really fried his brain. Thank you for working with him to give him a better life.

                          Almost all of the calming supplements on the market are some combination of B1, Magnesium, Tryptophan, and Traurine (sp?). I have the stuff from Tractor Supply that you linked to and I've found it no better or worse than things like Smart Calm, Quietex, etc.

                          Also, for a horse this nervous, its very possible that he has ulcers which will contribute to making him uber sensitive. Try some U-Guard for a few days, and if he seems more comfortable, I'd order some generic Omeprazole and treat him for 30 days.

                          Another thing to consider is soy sensitivity. One of our OTTB's is the hot sensitive type, with a serious case of ADHD, but we've found he's a lot less body sore and sensitive since switching him to an oats based feed from the old TC that was high in soy protein.

                          And of course, often it just takes them a while to get their brains back if they've been badly mishandled. So you're on the right track with patient, kind, consistent handling.
                          Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                          Witherun Farm


                          • #14
                            Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                            • Original Poster

                              Wow, lots of good info and things to consider! Magnesium I noticed is in these calming supplements, and in some further reading last night, it appears raspberry leaves are considered to be "high" (whatever that might be) in Mg as well, so maybe that's part of the reason they work.

                              Hadn't considered ulcers, so I'll think about that one. The problem with trying too many things at once is if there is a change, you're not sure what actually helped!

                              I ordered the raspberry leaves but they aren't arriving for another week. So I'm going to grab the Vita-Calm at TSC tomorrow and start him on that.

                              Love the hive mind!


                              • #16
                                I have a hot snort-and-blow Arabian gelding. FWIW, I've learned the hard way to keep him far away from Alfalfa hay. He's a whole different horse off the Alfalfa.
                                PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

                                Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique


                                • #17
                                  The TSC out here carried the raspberry leaves, but it's labeled as "Mare Magic."
                                  PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

                                  Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by woolenegg View Post
                                    Wow, lots of good info and things to consider! Magnesium I noticed is in these calming supplements, and in some further reading last night, it appears raspberry leaves are considered to be "high" (whatever that might be) in Mg as well, so maybe that's part of the reason they work.

                                    Hadn't considered ulcers, so I'll think about that one. The problem with trying too many things at once is if there is a change, you're not sure what actually helped!

                                    I ordered the raspberry leaves but they aren't arriving for another week. So I'm going to grab the Vita-Calm at TSC tomorrow and start him on that.

                                    Love the hive mind!
                                    Hi, the raspberry leaves are purported to work on mares because they contain or have a compound analogous to oxytocin, a female hormone that induces uterine contractions. It's purported to "stabilize" mare hormonal fluctuations and anecdotal evidence suggest it "stabilizes" geldings as well (lessens the male-ish behavior). Some supplements contain Magnesium and raspberry leaves, but the leaves themselves aren't very high in Mg. The mechanism of action of Mg isn't to clear, but it is believed to "stabilize" neural activity to muscles. The mechanism of action isn't well studied, but then no one has really studied it. Anectodal evidence suggests it may work for Mg-deficient horses. It is believed that 60% of horses have ulcers, and the best approach to this is to have the condition confirmed by nasogastric endoscopy and treatment with Omeprazole, with follow-up treatment and antibiotics if the ulcers don't respond to Omeprazole. I can say my horse has been scoped and treated with Omeprazole, which helped a lot, but he's still highly reactive. I'm trying Magnesium (currently human stuff scaled up to horse level and ground into his beet pulp)...and then raspberry leaves that I purchased at my local coop for $2.50 for a huge amount. I've spoken to this horse's breeder (they're a big warmblood breeding farm) and am also trying Tums 30 min prior to riding. This horse's diet is really good but he's a very reactive fellow. I'm willing to check out alternative paths to his success. Good luck!
                                    Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by californianinkansas View Post
                                      I have a hot snort-and-blow Arabian gelding. FWIW, I've learned the hard way to keep him far away from Alfalfa hay. He's a whole different horse off the Alfalfa.
                                      This is really interesting to me. My high strung horse does well on Alfalfa because the calories keep his weight up and the high Calcium and Magnesium content act as natural stomach buffers for his high strung self. My vet, who scoped him for ulcers, recommended I keep him on alfalfa because of the buffering capacity of this hay. That said, this horse gets one flake per day because he's on pasture the rest of the time.
                                      Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                                      • Original Poster

                                        I thought I'd update this thread, now that it's a year later. I got a private message from someone asking what worked, so here goes...

                                        I don't think the supplements made much, if any, difference. What DID work, and continues to work, is consistent handling, keeping my energy levels low around him, giving him the time he needed to get to know me, and treats. Lots of peppermint treats. I'm not usually big on using treats for training, but for Dreki it works because him having respect for me is not an issue. Is he still a sensitive horse? Yes, and he always will be. But he is so totally different from the horse that got off the transport trailer 15 months ago, it's hard to believe. I expect that he will get even better with more time and maturity.