Selenium, among the most intriguing of all nutrients, was well-known for its selenium toxicity in horses before becoming identified as an essential nutrient. It’s vital as an anticarcinogen and in immune response. The power of its antioxidant activity was widely acclaimed. As selenium horses isn’t a panacea, there’s proof that selenium may have tremendous health advantages for humans and animals and assist with selenium deficiency in horses.
The Basics: Antioxidants for Horses
Oxidation is a regular metabolic process which permits horses to transform the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates they consume in meals to energy. The development of free radicals, compounds which have the possibility of irreparably damaging cells, is one unavoidable and unfortunate spinoff.
If left neglected, the oxidation which happens at the cellular level in horses and additional mammals may cause muscular fatigue serious enough to compromise performance. As a horse is strenuously exercising, natural antioxidants stores have a hard time offering enough protection against the cascade of free radicals produced from aerobic metabolism, which makes it necessary to supplement antioxidants.
Vitamin E contributes more generously to a horse’s natural antioxidant defenses. Typically, cereal grains given to horses have different vitamin E concentrations. Horses might derive enough quantities of vitamin E from fresh hay or forage; but the vitamin content abates as the forage matures and is stored and harvested.
Because of the abnormality in vitamin E content of forages, as well as additional feedstuffs, the nutrient often gets added to fortified feeds. As synthetic forms of vitamin E have been the standard added vitamin E source in supplements and feeds, studies have shown that natural source vitamin E, depending upon the preparation, is 1.6 - 6 times as bioavailable as vitamin E of a synthetic nature.
Vitamin E often is linked with the micromineral that has potent antioxidant properties, selenium.
Vitamin C, oftentimes called ascorbic acid, additionally plays a pivotal part in neutralizing dangerous free radicals. Due to its water-soluble nature, vitamin C may work both outside and inside the cell to fight free radical damage. Also, Vitamin C assists in regenerating vitamin E. Horses don’t have a need for vitamin C because it usually may be formed inside the liver from glucose.
Signs of Selenium Deficiency in Horses
The mechanism of selenium poisoning in horses still isn’t clear yet the blocking of sulfur uptake, as well as use inside the cells is a likely prospect. Selenium in horses was initially identified as a toxin in 1930. Alkali disease of cattle and horses was proven to be caused by selenium. Indications in the horse involves hair loss from tail and mane, joint erosion, lameness, and sloughing of hooves. Blind staggers that are characterized by blindness, ataxia, respiratory failure, and head pressing also were considered to be caused by selenium.
Selenosis has been reported in horses that graze on soils well-known to be high in selenium. Selenosis also has been occasionally reported due to overzealous use of selenium supplements, as well as water that has a high content of selenium.
Signs Horse Lacking Selenium
In the past, tying-up in horses has been related to selenium deficiency horses; however, selenium doesn’t tend to be a key factor in instances of tying-up these days, likely because of the widespread usage of commercial feeds that contain selenium. Sudden death in horses and decreased reproductive performance also were attributed to symptoms of selenium deficiency in horses.
Selenium for horses is needed for acquired immune system development. But not all antibody classes are impacted to the same extent by selenium deficiency, as well as differences in age, animal species, sex, and antigens impact the level to which antibody generation responds to selenium supplementation. The selenium need for maximum immune response in the horse isn’t known. In other species, however, selenium supplementation at a supra-nutritional level might not be necessary to improve immune response. A 0.1 ppm selenium level may be enough to prevent white muscle disease, as well as sustain glutathione peroxidase levels within horses; however, multiple factors may influence selenium utilization.
When Should You Use Calming Supplements for Your Horse?
Horses are one-of-a-kind individuals which deal with situations differently. As one horse might be calm and show no care in the world, one other may have an extremely high “flight” response, as well as become nervous at the smallest thing. Even though some horses may be more “high-strung”, there are some things horse owners may do to assist in easing the situation and help their pet become more rideable.
Understanding the Horse
It is vital that you understand when your pet becomes nervous to address their behavior. Does the horse get excited only as he is left at an unfamiliar place or left along? Or does the horse spook on a consistent basis when you’re riding, even in familiar surroundings? If he is routinely an excitable and tense horse, it may just be his personality. Most folks oftentimes think of Thoroughbreds or Arabians for that kind of behavior, yet any horse breed might be super skittish, spooky, or alert. Gender and age also may affect the horse’s behavior; younger horses usually are more hyper than older horses. Most mares have hormonal swings in the spring which may make them challenging to ride.
Management of Feed
Diet directly can affect your horse’s state of mind and energy. Foods that have high starch and sugar levels, like concentrates, may rile even the calmest equines. Place the horse on a diet that has more fiber-enriched food sources, such as roughage, to aid him in mellowing him out.
Overfeeding a horse compared to his activity level also can create an energetic horse. If you give your horse a performance grain, yet he just gets ridden three times per week with minimal turnout, he might be getting too many calories with a lack of an adequate way to expel the energy.
Assess the horse’s living arrangements. If you have a high-energy, young equine who spends a lot of his time inside a box stall, that might not be conducive to his behavior. Younger horses must spend time outdoors where they’re able to burn off energy. Adding a steady stable friend also can assist in taking the edge off. Stable pals may be any calm animal; most racehorses travel with companions such as chickens, dogs, or goats.
Behavioral and medical issues may also contribute to the horse’s skittishness. A vision issues may make him hesitant about changing from a light space to a dark space and may cause him to jump as something flashy catches his eye. Horses that have back issues might get jumpy or tense while being ridden or tacked up. If your pet has had a poor experience inside a trailer or inside arena, those places might make him panic. Vet visits or farrier care also may be stress triggers. Being aware of where, when, and how the horse acts up will assist you in determining the core cause.
Depending upon the reason behind the horse’s spookiness, calming supplements might offer some relief and make the horse easier to manage. If there’s an upcoming stressful event for the horse, test a calming supplement before the day of that event. Various calming supplements may work well on some horses, yet not on other ones. If you’ll be participating in a competition or show, be certain to check the association regulations to see if there are any limitations against the ingredients utilized in the calming supplements. A few equine organizations ban substances which include popular ingredients discovered in calming supplements.
Calming Supplements: How Do They Work?
Serotonin is a “feel good” neurotransmitter and hormone found inside the central nervous system which creates feelings of contentment and relaxation. The body needs an essential amino acid referred to as L-tryptophan to form serotonin. L-tryptophan is discovered in pasture and grass, even though it might not be present in massive quantities.
Providing your horse a calming supplement such as Advanced Calming Paste for Horses, from Innovet Pet Products, won’t offer him with an instant serotonin boost; rather the effects likely will take place within 1.5 to 2 hours and last for around eight hours. As tryptophan is discovered inside the horse’s body, it may be used on a daily basis to aid your horse in easing his show nerves or overcoming a traumatic experience.
How Advanced Calming Paste Benefits A Horse:
- Might assist your horse in staying calm under stressful circumstances without having to affect their clarity
- Excellent for traveling, competitions, and load-in, training younger horses, nervousness away from or with other horses, moving the horse to a new yard, as well as general horse anxiety and stress
- Promotes general wellness and sustains healthy joints and hips
- Helps decrease painful and stiff joints caused by age, activity, or exercise
- Made to offer instant relief and for choosy eaters
- Is available with 500 milligram syringes of organic, full spectrum hemp extract.
Minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and vitamins like vitamin B1, also may be included in calming supplements, yet their effectiveness mainly has been shown anecdotally. It is essential to note that feeding excessive calcium and magnesium might have adverse effects upon the growth of younger horses; therefore, it always is better to consult your vet before you add these kinds of supplements to your younger horse’s diet. Additional ingredients which may be discovered in calming supplements involve taurine, inositol, valerian, and chamomile.
Assess your excitable horse so you can better understand where and when he becomes nervous. He might require a change in diet, a better exercise routine or more time outside to release some of that pent-up energy. If you believe a calming supplement might help the horse, a tryptophan-based supplement is an excellent place to begin.
How to Quickly Calm a Horse Down
If the animal becomes spooked and you need to calm her or him down quickly, follow this advice:
- Keep a relaxed body and mind. Strive to remain relaxed during and before the ride. It may be accomplished by breathing deeply and slowly to sustain a consistent heartbeat.
- Pet your horse while and before riding. Petting the horse before you ride as well as while riding will help keep both rider and horse calm. Petting while riding has the extra bonus of assisting in keeping a rider's hands steady, permitting for better control of the animal.
- Utilize a tempo app. One method of helping keep the rider calm and horse calm while riding—therefore minimizing spooking—includes using an application which sets the riding tempo. It acts similar to a metronome for a ride, and sets the tempo for every gait, which a rider may slow down or speed up. The rider merely activates the application on their mobile device or phone and puts it inside their pocket while riding with its volume loud enough for a horse to hear it. One other method of using the application includes having a friend run the adjustments with the app hooked into the arena's public address system. It’s an excellent method of ensuring that the horse is able to hear its beat.
- Don’t show stress or fear. You might become startled by the animal's behavior if he gets spooked, yet the horse only will suffer more stress if you exhibit stress yourself. That’s because your acting stressed is a sign to the horse that there’s a legitimate threat, though it’s his stress to which you might be reacting to. In this instance, the horse may be more challenging to calm; therefore, you really ought to stay calm if the horse becomes scared so as to minimize your horse's stress.
Controlling the Animal's Attention
- Get your animal's attention. Generally, horses only have the ability to focus upon one thing at a time, as well as the item on which they’ll likely concentrate while scared is whatever has them frightened. If you’re able to get the animal's attention away from this item, you’ll better have the ability to calm her or him quickly. You even may have to ride the animal in circles to get his attention off whatever has him spooked.
- Utilize lateral flexion. It’s a neutral stance where you softly pull on a single rein in order to turn the animal's head. The method helps your pet slow down before he stops, which, in turn, helps keep him from trotting when he becomes scared—in effect, lateral flexion assists in distracting the animal from his own frightened reaction to a stressor. Sometimes, it’s referred to a relaxation cue; therefore, its effectiveness in assisting to rapidly calm an animal. Lift on the reins to feel his mouth through him using one hand and move the additional hand down his rein. Reach ‘til your arm is straight, as well as touching your horse's mane. Put your opposite hand firmly on your horse's neck to keep yourself steady, as well as start closing your fingers gradually from the pointer to pinky and lock the pinky as you finish. The animal now should begin to bend to the rein’s pressure, during which point it’s possible to start moving your arm down to your thigh close to the knee. At this point, your horse ought to bend until there’s slack in the rein then stop. If your horse does not stop during this point, firmly push with the stabilizing hand then wait. As his feet stop, release pressure.
- Continue riding without any acknowledgement of the spooking. If the animal gets scared, it’s also possible to try merely continuing the ride as if the horse hadn’t been spooked, whatsoever. If you have activities in mind, attempt and get your horse to concentrate on these as a distraction. Tasks involve dressage tests, jumping course training, etc.
- Point your horse toward his stressor. If pointing his nose at whatever is frightening him, yet allow him to move backward or drift sideways, you’ll keep her or him from having the ability to trot away in a panic because it’d mean the animal would need to run toward his stressor. If your horse moves sideways or backward, you’ll direct his attention in such a way which keeps the rider safer. To keep from scaring the animal using this method, make certain not to push it toward its stressor.
- Get off of the animal. First and foremost, for your own safety, you might have to get off of the animal, and doing it will help place you in a greater stance to calm the horse. If you get off of the animal, one way to assist in calming him includes just acting like nothing occurred. It isn’t suggested to always get off of the animal when he’s scared because it may be harmful to abandon him. It also can train him that you’ll get off if he acts in a certain way, which isn’t what you want; therefore, just get off under this situation if absolutely necessary. You also might try and pet him on his withers to help him remain calm.
Dr. Sara Ochoa
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, St. Georges University
Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
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Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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