Calming Supplements for Horses - Research-Backed Ingredients

Does looking at the number of calming supplements make you want to spin and bolt? We’ll help you choose the ideal formula for your horse so you can both enjoy your rides.

Understanding Calming Supplements
Several types of ingredients can be found in calming supplements. Some supplements include nutrients, some include herbs, and others include adaptogenic botanicals. Some combine ingredient types for a multi-pronged approach to calming. Supplements to support “moody mares” may
have additional ingredients.

Choosing Calming Support
There are multiple approaches to calming supplements because there are multiple reasons a horse might not act like himself. Are there any physical, mental, or environmental reasons for your horse’s behavior to have changed? Does his tack fit well, is his dental care current, is he getting the right diet and turnout?

If all those factors are in order after consulting with equine professionals like your veterinarian and trainer, a nutrient-based calming supplement is a good place to start. This helps ensure your horse is not deficient in key vitamins or minerals, plus  provides higher levels of certain beneficial amino acids. After a couple of months, if you’re not seeing the results you’re looking for, try switching to or adding on an herbal-based supplement. For some horses, providing adaptogenic botanicals, specialty herbs that “rebalance” the horse’s nervous and other systems, could be just the ticket.

Ingredients to Look For

As the word “nutrients” suggests, calming supplements with these types of ingredients provide vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that should already be part of your horse’s normal diet. Horses that aren’t getting enough of the nutrients necessary for proper nervous system function may be anxious, overreactive, or unfocused. This category of ingredients can bring your horse’s dietary levels into the optimal range for a healthy, correctly functioning nervous system.

Magnesium: A macro mineral, is a key player in nervous system function. One of the clinical signs of magnesium deficiency is nervousness so many riders find that supplementing with magnesium helps their horses to stay relaxed.1

Thiamine: Also known as Vitamin B1, is important in the normal transmission of impulses along nerves. Supplementing with Thiamine helps ensure your horse is getting enough for his nervous system to function normally.

Tryptophan: An essential amino acid, which means it needs to be supplied in your horse’s diet. It’s converted by the body into serotonin, which may help increase feelings of well-being and contentment.

Taurine: An amino acid found in high concentrations in the electrically active tissues such as the brain and muscle. It stabilizes membranes and assists in the movement of electrolytes, which is critical for proper nervous system function and muscle health.

An herb is a plant typically with a culinary or therapeutic use to people. Some have been classified as “nervines,” which are herbs with specific actions on the nervous system. Others have been found to support the reproductive system. If you’ve tried nutrients and didn’t see the results you were looking for – or liked the results but think your horse could use additional support – adding a calming supplement with herbs (by itself or with nutrients) may be an appropriate next step.

Raspberry Leaf: Supports smooth muscle in the reproductive and digestive tracts, to help moody mares remain comfortable.

Chamomile: Another herb that supports nervous system function, is especially beneficial for horses who process their nervousness through their gastrointestinal system.

Valerian: A potent herb that may help balance the nervous system. Because it can also help address muscle cramps associated with tension, it’s helpful for horses that hold their anxiety in muscles

Adaptogenic Botanicals​
Adaptogenic botanicals are specialty herbs which may help the body “adapt to” or cope with physical, mental, and environmental stress. The active compounds are found in various parts of the different plants, such as the flowers, stems, leaves, fruit, or even roots, and are thought to normalize body functions and strengthen systems compromised by stress. The ability to restore homeostasis is a gentle approach to rebalancing the body’s internal processes.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): An adaptogen that is believed to settle the brain of anxious thoughts while supporting normal function and focus. This botanical has been widely recommended in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years.2

Golden Root (Rhodiola rosea): Has long been considered to have adaptogenic properties that promote optimal physical and mental performance. Over 140 active compounds have been identified in the root alone.3

Five-Flavor Fruit (Schisandra chinensis): Has adaptogenic properties used for centuries to support the body’s ability to respond to stress, promote normal energy levels and stamina, and fight off fatigue and lack of focus.4

Siberian Ginseng
(Eleutherococcus senticosus):

An adaptogenic botanical that has been used in China for thousands of years to support energy and stamina, as well as restore memory and concentration.5

This study was designed to determine the effects of KSM-66® Ashwagandha (found in SmartCalm Ultimate Pellets) on horses exposed to three common types of stress in the equine environment: exercise, noise, and separation.

Study Methods
In a 21-day study, four groups of six horses received different serving sizes of Ashwagandha root extract (0 grams, 2.5 g, 5 g, or 10 g). Blood samples were drawn on Day 0 and again after exposing all horses to stress from exercise, separation,
and noise.

Study Results
Statistically significant differences were seen in the levels of antioxidant markers, stress hormones, and indicators of inflammation between the treatment groups and the control.

Learn More At

Graph footnotes:
Adaptogenic and Immunomodulatory Activity of Ashwagandha Root Extract: An experimental study in an equine model
Frontiers in Vet. Science. 2020 Sep 29;7:541112.Priyanka G, Kumar BA, Lakshman M, Manvitha V, Kala Kumar B.

Find the Research

  1. Magnesium aspartate supplementation and reaction speed response in horses. Dodd JA, Doran G, Harris P, Noble GK. In Proceedings. 24th Symposium of the Equine Science Society.
    May, 2015.
  2. Adaptogenic and Immunomodulatory Activity of Ashwagandha Root Extract: An experimental study in an equine model. Frontiers in Vet. Science. 2020 Sep 29;7:541112.Priyanka G, Kumar BA, Lakshman M, Manvitha V, Kala Kumar B.
  3. Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review. Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract . 2018 Nov;22(4):242-252. Anghelescu I-G, Edwards D, Seifritz E, Kasper S.
  4. Schisandra chinensis and its phytotherapeutical applications. Ceska Slov Farm. Summer 2019;68(3):95-118. Rybnikář M, Šmejkal K, Žemlička M.
  5. Deconstructing an adaptogen: Eleutherococcus senticosus. Holist Nurs Pract . Jul-Aug 2008;22(4):220-4. Bleakney TL.