The array of calmers for horses and ponies on the market today is astounding. Almost every feed supplement company markets at least one calmer in a powder, liquid or paste. Making an informed decision as to which calmer to choose for your horse or pony is a daunting task and one that is often dictated by advice from a friend or marketing material from a supplement brand. Often the exact products in the supplement are a closely guarded secret to enable the brand to maintain its edge over the competition, however from a customer’s point of view this is really unhelpful. Equine calmers, really can only be divided into 2 categories; ones with magnesium and those without.
Magnesium in a digestible form is a very important mineral for all horses and ponies as it has a number of important roles within the body, ranging from energy production through to actions within the nervous system and even as an aid for weight loss. Horses or ponies with a magnesium imbalance show a variety of symptoms including nervousness, flightiness, muscle tremors, skin twitching through to un-coordination and unsteadiness. Most horses are able to get sufficient magnesium from their usual diets, however a proportion of animals graze magnesium deficient ground, eat magnesium deficient forage or will have a higher requirement than others and these horses and ponies will benefit from a magnesium supplement. Magnesium based calmers include Equine America Magnitude, GlobalHerbs Magcalm, Horse First Relax Me and MaxaVita Maxacalm
The other ingredients in calmers include L-Tryptophan, herbs, brewers yeast and amino acids. L-Tryptophan is the amino acid precursor to Serotonin, which is a chemical within the brain that has a sedative type effect. However, research into the use of Tryptophan in horses is lacking and some studies suggest that it can increase reactivity. TRM Good as Gold is a tryptophan based calmer, which reportedly increases attentiveness and relaxation in Thoroughbred racehorses.
The recent inclusion of brewers yeast into horse calmers signifies that the behaviour of some horses is influenced by the state of their digestive system. It is indicated by the success of supplements, like Horse First Relax Me that discomfort in the large intestine can be a precursor for unwanted behaviours.
The problem with determining which calmers ‘work’ is literally down to the individual animal and the difficulty that he is experiencing, a good proportion of which will be dietary and some will be hormonal.