Grand Meadows Cares Series: How To Keep Your Horse Calm and Carry On
by Nikki Alvin-Smith
The training of horses often includes enigmatic issues that professional equestrians learn to overcomhe through trial and error throughout their equestrian career. But the obstacles that are faced are sometimes more challenging than even a team of highly talented and educated horse folks can resolve. One of the hardest issues to handle is the horse that lacks focus. An equine that does not appear to possess a calm enough demeanor to be able to learn and develop its skill set for the discipline at hand can cause much anxiety in the trainer, especially when the horse’s behavior becomes dangerous to manage.
The decision to stick with training a particularly so called, ‘difficult’ horse, is not an easy one to make when time and effort is at a premium for the busy horse trainer. As a horse breeder for more than 25 years, an amateur then professional competitor, and now a trainer/clinician/coach, the life lessons I’ve learned often include putting aside your own ego and realizing you are not the best trainer for every horse. I’ve also learned, that the so called ‘difficult’ horses often turn out to be the most stellar of performers in advanced equestrian sport. So, quitting on a horse training wise is something you learn not to do lightly.
That being said, when a horse’s behavior becomes dangerous, figuring out how to approach the issue and stay calm and carry on is an obstacle to training progress that requires careful consideration. Obviously horses cannot speak but we are all aware they do their level best to communicate to us their needs, wants and physical or mental limitations and hopefully we listen to what they are trying so desperately to communicate.
Such limitations of focus and willingness to participate in the training on the part of the horse may be due to the usual bevy of considerations. Fitness and/or conformation, tack fit, poor training, illness, lameness, or lifestyle are just a few factors to review. Most of these limitations also apply to us as the trainer of the beast. It’s always smart to take a hard look at yourself and your own educational focus and talents before you blame the horse.
Whatever the obstacle you are facing with the training of a particular horse, there are ways to jump over it, or go around it before you choose to throw down the reins.
In today’s busy world where quick fixes are the normal solution, the treatment of a horse’s symptoms rather than the cause is just that, a quick fix that will not resolve the issue at hand on a permanent basis. That being said simple solutions are often the best ones. Understanding the realm of horse calming supplements and the role they can play to positively affect the horse’s behavior including what’s legal in the competition arena is an essential tool in the trainer’s tack box. But it is a temporary solution.
The bevy of considerations we must consider in order to resolve a horse that lacks focus or becomes ‘undone’ with the slightest provocation is a long list. A horse that displays unwanted or unwarranted behavior is likely suffering in some physical manner or has suffered some undiagnosed trauma in the past either mental or physical that showcases itself in a mental breakdown.
Common methods to assuage an issue are often not based in a true understanding of what is going on in the horse. For example, we may surmise that laziness in the horse is being caused by a lack of energy so the solution we determine (logically enough) is to start feeding the horse a higher protein diet. Now the horse is behaving like a helium balloon on a string in a keen wind. But in reality the issue could be that the horse is simply not able to access and digest the constituents that are provided in the ration. Nutrition is a tricky business. Or perhaps we take advantage of science a different way and expense in the diagnostic capabilities of thermal imaging that reveals areas of inflammation or damage in the horse that require medical intervention with joint injections Or perhaps a topical application of a nanoscience based agent may be a simpler answer. The options are seemingly endless.
The ability of the horse to respond to our requests often hinges on our ability to solve a combination of riddles rather than just one.
Over supplementation of the horse is not the recipe for a successful outcome when trying to resolve a sincere issue the animal is experiencing and demonstrating. Keeping abreast of what products to use for what, and how they can marry together or are possibly contraindicated (given that is even known), requires careful research.
The formulation and exact specification and accuracy of the amount of ingredients proffered in any feed supplement is an important aspect to analyze and to understand. The most expensive products are often not the best. The stark reality is that every horse as an individual may respond differently to any other horse in regard to any nutritional support. The time needed to monitor the benefits of any newly added product to the horse’s feed bucket, and the time different supplements may take to exact a desired result, means the busy horse trainer will soon learn that changing just one thing at a time in the horse’s program is the only way to keep track of what’s working and what’s not.
It's great that as horse trainers and competitors in the world of equestrian sport, we have access to such a cornucopia of nutritional support and the hardcore research to continue our understanding of what makes our horses’ tick. But it is also wise to take a step back and self-evaluate what we are doing as the horse’s caregiver and partner in life.
To quote American author and leadership authority Meg Wheatley,
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”
About Grand Meadows: Founded in 1989 by visionary Angela Slater, Grand Meadows is a leading horse health product and equine supplement manufacturer driven by the guiding principle of providing affordable, extremely high-quality science-backed horse products to help ensure horses look and feel their best.
For the past 35 years the company’s mission has been honored and developed further, by President Nick Hartog, who among other accomplishments is one of the founding members and current board member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), an organization that has a profound impact on the safety, transparency, and legitimacy of the animal supplement industry.
Grand Meadow products are widely used and trusted across the entire horse community from Olympic medal winning competitors and successful horse racing trainers to backyard horse owners. Their equine supplements are highly regarded for their excellent quality resourced ingredients and completely accurate labelling and effective formulations. Learn more at https://www.grandmeadows.com/