Does your horse have competition stress?
Nutrition can help
At home your horse runs great, but when you go to a competition they’re suddenly nervous. To your enormous frustration, you can’t show what you have to offer. They get up to strange antics and are easily distracted and tense. Nutrition can play a role in solving this.
What is stress? When your horse is stressed, it experiences psychological tension. This can arise from a situation that is unpredictable or uncontrollable. With horses, as with humans, we have acute and chronic stress. When we talk about 'competition stress', we are talking about acute stress. It is short-lived. The body is reacting to a 'dangerous' situation. Chronic stress is prolonged and even damaging to the body in the long term. As we are talking about stress in competitions, we will now focus on acute stress.
"If your horse is easily stressed, it is advisable to first have a good look at its feed. There is often room for improvement.”
Nutritionist and veterinary surgeon Veerle Vandendriessche
You probably already recognise it, but we'll list the signals that a horse with acute stress shows:
- Fleeing behaviour: A horse is a flight animal. Fleeing behaviour is the most important symptom of acute stress, such as jumping away or suddenly running away.
- Increased heart rate and breathing, sweating and trembling.
- Frequent defecation and urination: The influence of acute stress on the digestion and kidneys causes frequent defecation (sometimes even diarrhoea) and urination.
‘Magnesium deficiency makes a horse more sensitive to stress'
Nutrition and stress
Check whether your horse's feed contains sufficient magnesium. Magnesium is important for all sorts of processes in the horse's body. It ensures relaxation in nerves, muscles and blood vessels, assists in building up the skeleton, increases resistance to tension and stress and plays a role in the transmission of nerve impulses. The body cannot produce magnesium itself and must obtain it from food. When the body is exposed to stress, it uses extra magnesium. A magnesium deficiency makes the body more sensitive to stress. This can make the magnesium deficiency even greater. This results in the body ending up in a vicious circle. So always ensure, certainly with stressed horses, that there is sufficient magnesium in the ration.
With nervous horses, it can also be important to add Pavo NervControl to the ration. This is a feed supplement which was specially developed to reduce stress in horses and contains important nutrients which are of benefit to stressed horses. In nervous horses, it provides more inner calm and helps to reduce the tension in the body more quickly and it also ensures greater control of the horse in stressful situations.
Other tips for competition stress
- Make sure that you are also relaxed. When the people around the horse are stressed, this will have an adverse effect on the state of mind of the horse.
- Take charge and be clear. Horses are herd animals and need a clear leader they can follow.
- Ensure that the horse has access to sufficient roughage and water during the show.
- Ensure a certain routine. Horses are creatures of habit and have a need for regularity. So make sure that you train regularly somewhere else, or enter shows on a regular basis