Anxious and unpredictable behaviour can be challenging for a rider and horse. Could feeding a calmer be the answer to a more relaxed, focused mount?

Cast your eye over the supplement shelves in any feed merchants and you will see a vast array of products that proffer to calm, de-stress and manage your horse’s anxiety. Calmers are specially formulated and contain ingredients that may help to reduce and regulate your horse’s response to stress and the related behaviours. Many owners swear by them, and they certainly have their place, but it is important to consider a number of factors before deciding whether feeding one is the right move for your horse. It is also worth remembering that a calmer will not help with excitability due to excess energy.

Check the basics

Before you contemplate feeding a calmer it is important to check that any change in your horse’s behaviour isn’t due to pain and discomfort. Have their teeth, back and saddle checked by a suitable, qualified professional to rule out these causes.

It is also worth chatting to your trainer and vet to discuss any problems you are having and to rule out other potential health issues, such as ulcers.

Also, if you own a mare it may be her season that is triggering a change in behaviour — hormones can significantly affect some mares. Again, it is worth consulting with your vet as it is possible that feeding a hormone supplement rather than a calmer may be the answer.

Feed and work

Taking stock of what — and how much — you are feeding your horse may highlight why there is a change in their behaviour. A high fibre diet that is low in starch and sugar is ideal, while feeding too much of the wrong feed can lead to excess energy and excitable behaviour. It is also important to ensure that your horse is being fed the correct amount based on their weight and how much work they are doing.

Selecting a calmer

If, after all these checks, you still feel that your horse may benefit from a calmer, it is time to decide which type will suit his needs. There are two main types available…

1. Instant calmers

Usually in paste form, these are administered via a syringe into your horse’s mouth. This type of calmer can be useful if your horse becomes anxious in certain situations, such as travelling. You only need to give the calmer before a stressful event.

2. Daily calmers

These usually come in a powder or liquid form and are added to your horse’s feed on a daily basis. They take time to build up in their system and usually you will need to feed a higher loading dose before dropping down to a maintenance dose.

Top tip! If you compete your horse, it is important to check that the calmer doesn’t contain any prohibited substances.

Shop for calmers

Supreme Products DeFuse

RRP £9.45 for 80ml (syringe), £27.30 for 500ml (liquid)

DeFuse is a vitamin, magnesium and amino acid-based supplement that helps to calm nervous animals. It is designed as an on-the-day calmer, so no build up is usually needed, and it can be given as and when you feel you need to relax your anxious or excitable horse.

NAF Five Star Magic

RRP £27.99 for 750g (powder), £36.99 for 1l (liquid)

Magic contains a combination of herbs and magnesium that are known to help calm horses and support their concentration and learning. Magnesium is an essential nutrient for wellbeing, and among its many roles is the regulation of nervous tension and relaxed muscles. Magic’s unique blend of herbs can also help reactive horses.

Hi Form Equine Herbanerve

RRP £105 for 500g

Herbanerve can be fed daily or for short periods. It contains a range of vitamins and amino acids formulated to work with the nervous system. The inclusion of the amino acid L-Tryptophan has been shown in studies to have a hypnotic effect, while other natural ingredients, such as passionflower and chamomile, can help to relieve anxiety.

Science Supplements ProKalm

RRP £49.99 for 1.1kg

ProKalm can be given on a one-off basis prior to a stressful situation or added to the daily feed. It is fast acting, which means that you may see results in just 30 minutes. ProKalm contains a combination of herb extracts and amino acids. It doesn’t sedate, or affect gait or performance.

Mastacare Equestrian Natural Herbal Horse Calmer

RRP £32.89 for 1.6kg

A safe, herbal, complementary feed supplement designed to calm excitable and nervous horses without compromising performance. It contains natural valerian root, hops and yeast which can calm the central nervous system.

Lincoln Herbs Valerian Cordial

RRP £8.99 for 250ml

A natural, non-sedating calmer made from the root of the valerian herb. It maintains calmness in anxious and excitable horses and it supports those coping with one-off stressful situations, such as travelling or fireworks. Also beneficial for freshly clipped horses when ridden and to calm on box rest.

Cavalor Take It Easy

RRP £19.83 for a 60g tube

Cavalor Take It Easy is an easy-to-administer calmer especially designed to give an immediate calming effect just before a stressful situation, such as a competition or travelling.

Coligone Calm Down Paste

RRP £9.99 for a 50g syringe

Fast-acting Coligone Calm Down Paste can soothe the horse’s digestive tract while guarding against gastric irritation. It gets to work within 20-30 minutes of feeding and can be topped up if needed.

Dodson & Horrell Placid

RRP £32.60 for a 2.5kg tub

Ideal for equines prone to excitability or stress, Placid contains chamomile, lemon balm and vervain, plus magnesium.

All prices are correct at the time of publishing. 

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