Nutritional Answers for Calming and Focusing Your Horse

The responsibility of owning a horse includes equal parts of fun and hard work, but what happens if you properly feed, train and exercise your horse and he is still hard to handle in some situations, or stresses out when it counts? Jessica, a serious Dressage student, had this problem, “My horse, Papillon, spent over a year unable to concentrate, pawing in his stall, head shaking, rearing, spooking, bucking, and had gotten to the point I was too scared to canter or even ride him. I had tried a lot of "calming" supplements and Vet recommended treatments, but nothing even began to help him.”  There are nutritional answers for these issues that provide support for brain and nervous system function to bring a better balance and improve stress response and recovery.

Jack Grogan, Certified Nutritionist and Chief Science Officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition, has developed formulas for behavioral issues that contain combinations of herbs, vitamins, minerals and amino acids that help soothe, relax, strengthen focus and provide restorative benefits to nervous system function.  Grogan explains, “Whether you have a pleasure horse or you’re preparing your horse for a show, there are a wide spectrum of complete, balanced formulas designed to address specific stressful situations, long-term balance, or pre and post-event.”

Grogan continues, “Horses that have a tendency to overreact to stressful events have metabolisms that are over-energized and utilize more energy than is required for the magnitude of the stressful event that they are experiencing. These horses are difficult to calm, have a tendency to be hyper-excitable and lose focus because of the excess energy usage.” Grogan lists a number of nutrients and plant extracts that can exert a relaxing, stabilizing effect on the brain and nervous system:

  • Taurine is an amino acid that supports brain, liver and heart health. A potent antioxidant, it has detoxifying effects in the liver and other tissues, supports a healthy stress response and protects the brain and nervous system from the negative effects of stress.
  • L-Tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid that supports the production of the neurotransmitter Serotonin, which supports a calm and balanced response to stress.
  • GABA is a calming, relaxing brain support nutrient that works well with L-Tryptophan to strengthen the brain and nervous system from the damaging effects of distress.
  • Thiamine (B1) supports energy production, formation of red blood cells, good appetite and growth, and balances chemical reactions in the brain and nervous system.
  • Glycerosphosphocholine (GPC) is a water soluble phospholipid metabolite that can enter into the brain to support healthy brain function. GPC also aids in stabilizing cell membranes and supports liver function.
  • Valerian Root Extract is a powerful herbal extract that supports a calming effect on the brain and nervous system.

On the other hand, Grogan points out that there are also horses that have a decreased level of alertness because they recover from or respond to stressful events too slowly, “They basically lack the metabolic energy and support to effectively manage stress. This causes a net energy decrease in the brain, nervous system and muscles that is caused by under-energy or a slow metabolism. These are the slow-reactors who are consistently energy-deficient.” Nutrients that can help stabilize the brain and nervous system:

  • NN DImethylglycine (DMG) supports muscle metabolism, energy production, liver detoxification and efficient cellular oxidation.
  • L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that supports the production of norepinephrine and dopamine, which aids in alertness and focus.
  • DL-Phenylalanine is a 50/50 blend of two amino acids D-Phenylalanine and L-Phenylalanine which also supports the production of norepinephrine and dopamine, which aids in alertness and focus.
  • Glycine Proprionyl L-Carnitine is a specialized form of L-Carnitine, which supports energy metabolism, cellular distribution of nutrients and brain function.

Grogan notes that the plant extract turmeric has special value for both the fast and the slow stress-reactors, “Both of these metabolisms can generate excessive oxidation by-products that can stress the brain and nervous system, interfering with normal brain cell communication. Turmeric has particularly favorable properties that allow these toxic oxidation by-products to be reduced, and therefore can be utilized nicely in formulas for either the fast or the slow-reactors.”

Jessica reports a happy ending for both her and her horse, Papillon, “Three days after starting Focus Calm he was a new horse in the barn, and within a week I was cantering and able to take him on hacks again! Since Papillon started the Focus Calm he is literally focused and calm, and overall a complete joy to ride and work with now!”

* Please note that some show organizations ban the use of certain herbal ingredients. However, every organization is different, so it’s important to check your rule book.

Jack Grogan has worked extensively in the fields of biology, biochemistry and nutrition, is an expert in tissue mineral balancing, and has demonstrated considerable success in balancing equine mineral chemistry to strengthen the basic metabolism and improve efficiency in horses. He is a consultant to numerous veterinarians, chiropractors, trainers, naturopaths and nutritionists.

Uckele Health & Nutrition has built a reputation over 50 years in the formulation, development and manufacture of quality nutritional supplements for fifty years. With leading edge experience in nutritional research and science, the Uckele team provides private label and custom manufacturing from concept to shelf, formulating a vast array of high potency, balanced nutritional supplements to support optimal health and performance at the highest level.

Photos by Shirley McQuillan