Nervous behavior in most horses is typically associated with nutritional imbalances, as well as environmental factors. More often than not, this excitable behavior can be remedied with proper diet and dietary supplements. With the right nutritional foods and supplements, you can improve your equine friend’s health, behavior, and performance.
It’s not uncommon for some horses to exhibit nervousness or over-excitability in certain situations, what with all the training demands for competition horses or the stress experienced by a lot of working horses. This anxious behavior can adversely affect the performance and handling of your otherwise gentle, long-faced friend.
There are several telltale signs that suggest your horse is experiencing overexcitability. Of course, some of these symptoms may be a manifestation of an entirely different health problem. But if you see one, two, or three of these symptoms manifest in your equine buddy, there’s a good chance he or she is experiencing elevated anxiety.
Common Symptoms for Overexcitable Behavior in Horses:
- Over reaction to various external stimuli
- Tendency to flinch or spook easily
- Refuses to cooperate or resists training
- Lacks focus in training or during competition
- Apprehensive and fearful
- Increasingly tougher to ride or manage
- Easily irritated
Many of these symptoms will manifest, or become apparent, when the horse is engaged in stressful activities or exposed to certain situations such as clipping, shoeing, or travelling.
Possible Causes of Anxiety and Overexcitability in Horses
There are a variety of factors that are believed to cause anxious behavior in horses, from dietary to environmental conditions. Here are a few of the more common reasons why some horses are sometimes irritable and overexcited.
- Their diet has too much carbohydrate and sugar content.
- They don’t get enough exercise.
- The demands associated with training and competition is too much.
- Exposure to unfamiliar or unnatural situations and environments.
- Temperament associated with breeding.
- Low pasture turnout.
- Magnesium deficiency.
Adjusting routines, making changes to their training, adding horse calming supplements to their diet, and paying closer attention to their needs can go a long way in reducing your horse’s anxiety levels and improving their performance, handling, and ultimately their well-being.
Horse Calming Supplements and Other Crucial Elements That May Help Improve Behavior
Overexcitability, anxiety, and irritability can all be remedied through various changes in your horse’s lifestyle. Here are some examples of how you can mitigate the anxiety levels of your overly anxious mare:
- Pay close attention to their diet. Proper diet is extremely important to horses, as too much or too little of their daily dietary requirements can have serious ramifications to their health and emotional stability.
If your horse is displaying over excitability, for example, it could be that it is taking in too many carbohydrates in its diet. Excess in carbohydrate intake means excess energy, and a horse must expend that extra energy one way or the other. In many cases, energy expenditure often comes in the form of irritability and nervous behavior. It’s like a human being drinking too much coffee.
Avoid giving your horse feeds that have high starch concentration three to four hours before its daily exercise routine. And make sure that the exercise level you give your equine friend matches its carbohydrate intake. They need to burn that excess energy so they don’t get anxious all the time.
- Make the appropriate adjustments to their daily exercise routine. Regular daily exercise isn’t enough. You should also make sure that the level of exercise your horse is getting, especially when it’s in training, is proportionate to their daily calorie intake.
Remember that horses are social animals, too. Increase their pasture turnout so that they can exercise more and interact with other horses. This will serve as an alternative outlet for excess energy for over-excitable horses.
- Allow your horse to get familiarized with its environment. Horses that are in a strange, new environment can get irritable and scared easily. The best way to handle their anxiety levels is to give them time to adjust and get familiar with their new surroundings. This will greatly help reduce your horse’s excitability.
- Consider prescribed medication or hormone therapy for fillies and mares. Fillies and mares often experience cyclical irritability and anxiety. It is thought that this is caused by the animals being in season. If this is the case, you should consider consulting your local veterinarian about possible medications or hormone therapy. The vet can prescribe progesterone treatment to keep your mare out of season. Progesterone treatment, however, is not advisable for competition horses.
- Find better nutritional supplements for your animal. Experts believe that magnesium deficiency is one of the causes of overexcitability in horses. If that were the case, you may want to consider magnesium supplementation to treat your horse’s anxious behavior. Magnesium supplements are one of the most widely recognized nutritional treatments used to calm excitable horses.
There are different types of magnesium supplements available for horses; magnesium glutamate, magnesium aspartate, dolomite (otherwise known as calcium magnesium or CalMag), and magnesium sulphate (more commonly referred to as Epsom salts). But the most easily absorbed form of magnesium supplement for horses is perhaps magnesium oxide. These supplements also come in many forms of delivery, from powders to pastes in syringes for quick and easy dosing.
L-tryptophan is another nutritional supplement you may want to consider for your horse. L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is responsible for generating the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is essential for normal brain function. It is also associated with lowering anxiety levels and reducing aggression in horses.
High anxiety levels in horses are also believed to be associated with a deficiency in B vitamins. So make sure that your animals are well-supplemented with vitamin B1, B6, and B12 to facilitate sugar metabolism and energy regulation.