Horses are natural ‘flight’ animals, if something concerns them they turn and run – ask questions later! Of course, much like ourselves, once upset they are far more likely to stay like that and a further stress reaction is easily triggered.
Far better to support the horse in maintaining a calm, focused approach from the start. The right management and training, and working with carefully chosen, targeted dietary support, may help to produce a horse that is calm and attentive at all times.
Natural choices include magnesium, which is often lacking in grazing and so supplementation is indicated for many cases. Research has particularly recognised a role for magnesium supplementation in horses that travel regularly or over long distances, so it is an important consideration for competing horses. Magnesium supports not only a relaxed mind, but also helps reduce tension in muscles.
Often owners of magnesium supplemented horses will report an improved outline and longer stride length as the muscles naturally relax and stretch. Care should be taken as to the source of magnesium though, as not all are safe or suitable for long term use. Beware Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate), as this is an effective laxative, and regular use will have an undesirable effect on the gut, and has been found to cause heart muscle damage in human athletes.
Thousands of years of herbal use can be relied upon to provide a traditional approach to a calm horse. However care is also advised here. Herbs with a sedative action, such as valerian, are considered doping and are banned under FEI rules; and besides you are not looking to sedate the horse but help him cope with what is required of him.
The right blend of herbs can support concentration and confidence, so resulting in a horse who is actually more forward going as he says to himself ‘Right, I can cope with this, let’s do it’. To ensure your horse’s supplement is suitable to compete on, look for the BETA UFAS NOPS logo on the label.True of many things in nature, a combination of methods is often the best approach.
Look for products that combine bio-available magnesium with herbal support, to ensure all the requirements of the naturally nervous have been met, such as those found in NAF Five Star Magic. NAF Five Star Magic, in either liquid or powdered form, can be fed to naturally anxious horses on a daily basis. Instant Magic, providing all the benefits of NAF Five Star Magic’s unique formulation in a rapidly assimilated form, can be used as a top-up to a daily NAF Five Star Magic regime, or on an ‘as and when needed’ basis for those horses whose challenges are only occasional.
As stress often goes straight to the gut, supporting with digestive supplements such as yeasts, pre and probiotics can also be useful for some horses – particularly those who tend to stress weight off themselves. NAF Five Star Magic Powder includes yeast, while NAF In the Pink Powder is the ideal balancer for those that need to maintain perfect condition, containing a broad spectrum of essential nutrients with gut support from prebiotics, probiotics and yeast.
The yeast will also provide natural B vitamins which work within the brain to regulate stress reactions. Care should be taken when using ‘pure’, synthetic B vitamins, as the levels are crucial to each individual and if not administered exactly will actually make the problem worse. This is also true of the amino acid tryptophan, where the result can be the exact opposite of the desired effect, if the right amount for that individual is not given!
In conclusion, we can see that supporting the naturally anxious individual with the right nutritional support, whether on a daily basis or when specificallyrequired, will help to maintain a calm outlook and ensure you are both ready for the challenges ahead.
Acknowledgement : Kate Hore BSc(Hons), nutritionist at Natural Animal Feeds. For further information call the NAF Freephone Advice Line on 0800 373106, or see the NAF web site at www.naf-uk.com
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