What is a Calmer?
Calmers are the most popular supplement sold for horses. Owners will generally seek out a calmer for their horse because of the behaviour they are expressing. There are a huge variety of reasons that horses may need a calmer, but there are also many instances where a calmer is inappropriately sought.
Calmers are formulated to reduce, regulate and/or manage the stress response. They are for settling anxiety and stress related behaviours. They will not break habitual behaviours and they will not eliminate excitability from excess energy.
Our Guide to Calmers
We have developed a helpful guide to determine if your horse needs a calmer:
- Firstly, establish the source of your horse’s behaviour. This may be anxiety or stress related, but many other factors can be responsible.
- Ensure your horse isn’t in pain, particularly if the behaviour started suddenly for seemingly no reason. Check your horse’s teeth and back aren’t causing them pain or discomfort, that their feet are in good nick and rule out the possibility of gastric ulcers.
- With a mare, it’s important to consider that her season may be the source of behavioural issues. A hormone supplement (such as Moody Madam) would be more suitable in these cases.
Still not the problem?
- If the above issues aren’t the source of the problem, then review what they are fed. High levels of sugar and soy (or soy byproducts) can be a source of excitability and silly behaviour.
- If your horse is hyper-reactive, feed is often a source. Most horse owners are conscious of the importance of keeping sugar and non-resistant starch levels low. However, few realise that many horses have sensitivities to soya and that it is present in the vast majority of feeds made by major companies.
- This can cause excitability, behavioural disruptions and hyper-reactivity. If you’re feeding a diet high in sugar/starch and soya, feeding a calmer will most likely not work as stress is not the source of the problem.
- It’s important to ensure that your horse is being fed the correct amount based on its weight and the amount of work it does. If your horse doesn’t have the opportunity to burn off excess energy this will cause significant behavioural issues under saddle.
Don’t feed multiple calmers!
- Feeding multiple calmers together might seem like a good idea for have maximum impact, but it’s important that you only feed one at a time. This will help you to know what is helping and what isn’t.
- Ensure you are not feeding a magnesium-based calmer. Magnesium helps to settle behavioural reactivity and excitability in cases where a magnesium deficiency is present. These deficiencies are extremely rare in horses in the UK. It is reported that excess magnesium causes the opposite effect!
- No calmer will have the desired effect if it isn’t fed as instructed. Feed the correct amount for your horse based on their presenting behaviour and weight. Feeding half the required feeding rate per day and expecting results won’t work.
- Some horses genuinely experience stress and anxiety and for those animals a calmer such as No More Nerves is ideal and will be highly effective. However, if your horse’s behaviour is not a product of their stress response, but something else underlying, no calmer will have the desired effect.
It can seem like a simple solution when things start to go awry to throw a calmer at the problem, but we encourage a bit of investigative work to understand the root cause. This way you can address the problem quickly and effectively (for your horse’s benefit) and also save money by not buying unsuitable products that won’t have the desired effect (for your benefit).
If you have any questions about calmers and whether it is necessary for your horse, please email us and a member of our team will be happy to advise.
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