Do Horse Calming Supplements Work?

Horse out to pasture

Horse calming supplements help horses who are stressed, nervous, and on-edge feel more at-ease, confident, and focused.

Just like humans and other animals, stress, anxiety, and nervousness can be part of your horse’s personality. Some horses don’t react well to change or simply have a genetic make-up that makes them more sensitive and anxious.

Horse calmers use specialized formulas that can include ingredients such as magnesium, theanine, thiamine, valerian, chamomile, and vervain. These ingredients help support your horse’s nervous system, contributing to a calmer and happier horse.

The good news is that there is a range horse calming supplements on the market for you to choose from. It’s important you pay close attention to the ingredients in the horse calmer – if you don’t recognize the ingredient – stay away from the supplement. As well, if you’re competing with your horse, make sure you’re using horse calming supplements that comply with the FEI Prohibited Substances List

Does My Horse Need Calming Supplements?

Your horse may need calming supplements if they are exhibiting anxious, nervous, spooked, or other stressful behavior. Unfortunately for horses, these types of behaviors can trickle over into other destructive and unpleasant behaviors that makes it hard for you to manage and support your horse.

The good news is there is lots that you can do to help your horse feel better. Before you decide to use horse calming supplements, it’s key that you rule out contributing factors including your horse’s diet, how you ride and behave around your horse, and underlying health problems.

Before starting horse calmers, ask yourself these four key questions:

  1. How does the tack fit?
    You feel your best when your clothes fit properly, and the same applies to your horse. Check the saddle for chafing, rubbing, and overall fit. Next, take a look at your horse’s bridle. Make sure the bridle fits your horse’s head properly and that the bit is comfortable.

    If the tack fits well, it could be how you’re riding your horse.  Make sure you’re relaxed and confident when riding, remember your horse is super intuitive and will react to your body language.
  2. What are you feeding your horse?
    You are what you eat and the same applies to your horse. This is why it’s so important that you pay close attention to the ingredients in your horse’s food. How much grain are you feeding your horse? Remember that grains can be high in sugar and starches, which can make your horse overly energetic and excited.

    To better understand how grains can impact your horse, watch my Fireside Chat Video 13 – To Grain or Not To Grain. You’ll learn how to read and understand the labels on feed bags, so you can understand what you are actually feeding your horse. 
  3. Is your horse getting enough exercise?
    Your horse needs to move, run, and jump. Generally, your horse should be moving around for up to 20 hours a day. If your horse is standing in a stable too much or getting limited turnout, this could be contributing to your horse’s behavior.  

    How much active time does your horse really have in their day? Remember, exercise is critical in helping your horse relieve stress, burn-off energy, and feel at-ease. 
  4. Does your horse have nutritional deficiencies?
    Talk to your veterinarian about what you’re feeding your horse and their behavior. Your horse might be dealing with nutritional deficiencies that are contributing to their nervous and anxious behavior.

    Signs of a magnesium deficiency include muscle tension and nervous behavior. Or if your horse is low in thiamine, they could also be easily spooked or jumpy. A moody horse might need some extra support to help normalize hormone levels and a calmer disposition. 

Ultimately, you want your horse to be relaxed, stress-free, and confident – this makes life so much more pleasant for both you and your horse.

What Are the Different Types of Horse Calming Supplements?

There are three different types of horse calming supplements: nutrient-based formulas, herbal formulas, and formulas specific to moody mares.

  • Nutrient-based Horse Calming Supplements
    If your horse has a nutritional deficiency or simply needs more nutrients in their diet, this type of horse calming supplement can help. As the category name suggest, nutrient-based horse calming supplements are centered around delivering nutrients that support a healthy nervous system.

    When researching nutrient-based horse calmers, look for key ingredients including magnesium, thiamine, and theanine. Some nutrient-based supplements also use inositol or tryptophan – talk to your veterinarian about these ingredients and how they can impact your horse.

    It can take up to six weeks for your horse to respond to these horse calmers. Note that if you compete in rated events, nutrient-based supplements are the only approved supplement option.   
  • Herbal Horse Calming Supplements
    The horse calmers in this category are herbal-based and can help contribute to a healthier nervous system. Key herbal ingredients in herbal horse calmers include valerian, chamomile, hops, vervain, and passion flower.

    On average, it can take up to six week for herbal horse calmers to take effect. Remember that herbal horse calmers are not approved for competition in rated events.
  • Moody Mare Calming Supplements
    The heat cycle impacts your horse’s hormone function which could be causing moodiness and behavioral changes. Your mare could be experiencing painful sensations in her digestive and reproductive tracts, making it hard for to remain calm, focused, and happy.

    Moody mare calming supplements are herbal based and typically include raspberry, vitex agnus castus, and cramp bark. It’s important you discuss your mare’s health with your veterinarian before using these calming supplements. Your veterinarian will have pain management recommendations that can help your mare during her heat cycle.

Supporting and Caring For Your Horse

Know that there are lots of people ready, willing, and able to help you find the right solution to ease your horse’s anxiety, stress, and nervousness.  Don’t assume that you simply have a nervous horse.

Talk to you trainer and veterinarian. Make sure you go through my four questions about your horse’s overall health. If you do decide to use a horse calming supplement, make sure you understand the ingredients (and why they’re in the supplement) and do not hesitate to ask questions about the supplement formula. 

Our goal at Grand Meadows is to make sure your horse is healthy, happy, and strong. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have about your horse or horse calming supplements. Like you, I want your horse to be confident, calm, focused, and happy.

by Nick Hartog

In 1994, Nick Hartog became an owner and President of Grand Meadows Equine Supplements bringing his talents and extensive background in domestic and international equine sales and manufacturing. He has a reputation for plain speaking of the truth. In 1997, when the US horse supplement market was something akin to the Wild West with a complete lack of standards, Nick personally tested 32 different horse joint supplements to see if they matched the label. Unsurprisingly, to him at least, only 2 products matched the label claim. Read more...