Calmers for spookiness when ridden

Ellevis

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Has anyone used a type of calmer for spookiness/tension when ridden? It's a tricky one because when he's in a familiar place he takes a lot of leg and is not sharp in any way shape or form, but if we go to a slightly spookier or different arena to do a dressage test, he immediately tenses up and it affects his marks. It's frustrating because he can warm up like a dream, and then go in to his test and he's so unfocused and ends up doing handbrake turns around the corners as he wont bend properly! I also find when this happens instead of becoming sharper, he loses all his impulsion and sinks behind the leg and I struggle to keep him moving forward without kicking every stride. Don't get me wrong, he's not like this all the time, there's just certain places we struggle with sometimes. Thanks!
 

sultana

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I wonder if maybe you are unconsciously tensing yourself which is transferring to him? anyway - try some rescue remedy both for you and him. Cheap one to start with, and you can share!
 

Merlod

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Don't wish to be rude, but are you sure you're not creating the tension - expecting him to be tense perhaps? Seems odd he would warmup fine and then go to pot in the test - horses don't know they're being judged? ;)

Otherwise I would recommend confidenceEQ I used it a few times on my nervous traveller, calms by pheremones without making them lethargic. May be a placebo but now he doesn't sweat up in the trailer and i've stopped using it!
 

Ellevis

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Thanks sultana, good idea will definitely try! I had considered that, and think it may partly be the case, but there are times when we've hired/ had lessons at certain places and he just wont settle and I've definitely not felt nervous
 

Ellevis

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Thanks merlod, it's fine I've definitely got to consider that it's me causing the problem!! I do find this dressage malarky a lot more stressful than jumping!
 

hypopit

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I don't think any calmers work, maybe they have a placebo on us!!! Getting him out to loads of different arenas should work if he is not naturally the spooky sort..loads of different arenas I suppose, so it is all common place. I had one like this in new arena situations, just keep at it and it will get better with time hopefully. I used to rent lots of local arenas to ride him in even on our own, box or hack him to them, that helped a lot. No stress from me and he got out and about loads, so he got a lot better.
 

be positive

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Has anyone used a type of calmer for spookiness/tension when ridden? It's a tricky one because when he's in a familiar place he takes a lot of leg and is not sharp in any way shape or form, but if we go to a slightly spookier or different arena to do a dressage test, he immediately tenses up and it affects his marks. It's frustrating because he can warm up like a dream, and then go in to his test and he's so unfocused and ends up doing handbrake turns around the corners as he wont bend properly! I also find when this happens instead of becoming sharper, he loses all his impulsion and sinks behind the leg and I struggle to keep him moving forward without kicking every stride. Don't get me wrong, he's not like this all the time, there's just certain places we struggle with sometimes. Thanks!

This sounds to be as much of a schooling issue as a spooking one, if he usually requires plenty of leg then when he becomes tense needs more and doesn't listen you should find the main way to get him out of being tense is to work on getting him much sharper to your aids in normal less stressy situations. By having him more off the leg and reacting to the aids he should then be more accepting and listening when he is somewhere new, it will be in part the way you react, either because you know it is a place he doesn't like or because you get somewhere new and he tenses up, you then probably take your leg off or put it on more, everyone reacts differently and will usually do one or the other, he then lacks the security of "normality" from you and it spirals quickly downhill.

I would go to one of his bad places and ride him as normally as you can, don't think about the test but make sure he warms up in front of the leg and go in and ride the horse in the arena not worrying about the marks just get on with making sure he stays listening, accept that it may mean wasting a few entries and make him work, go in for 2 tests so you should have a better second one but don't back off and allow him to take control, if he is not a nervy spooky type generally then it is likely he is taking advantage and needs to be reminded who is the boss!!
 

Ellevis

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Thanks for the replies hypopit and be positive! All good advice and will take on board!
Be positive that is our main issue when schooling, we've worked on it lots and its a lot better than it used to be but still have to remind myself not to nag with my leg, one ask should be enough! He is generally well behaved but also has a spooky side - keeps me on my toes!
I only ask about calmers as my instructor suggested I try one, I'm not convinced it'll work for him yet, am open to any other advice /suggestions!
 

oldie48

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I think this is such a good post and I totally understand what you are saying. Horses stop being spooky when they are focused on the rider and you can't get that if they are behind the leg and being behind the leg is an evasion.
This sounds to be as much of a schooling issue as a spooking one, if he usually requires plenty of leg then when he becomes tense needs more and doesn't listen you should find the main way to get him out of being tense is to work on getting him much sharper to your aids in normal less stressy situations. By having him more off the leg and reacting to the aids he should then be more accepting and listening when he is somewhere new, it will be in part the way you react, either because you know it is a place he doesn't like or because you get somewhere new and he tenses up, you then probably take your leg off or put it on more, everyone reacts differently and will usually do one or the other, he then lacks the security of "normality" from you and it spirals quickly downhill.

I would go to one of his bad places and ride him as normally as you can, don't think about the test but make sure he warms up in front of the leg and go in and ride the horse in the arena not worrying about the marks just get on with making sure he stays listening, accept that it may mean wasting a few entries and make him work, go in for 2 tests so you should have a better second one but don't back off and allow him to take control, if he is not a nervy spooky type generally then it is likely he is taking advantage and needs to be reminded who is the boss!!
 

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You're not allowed to use a calmer in competition. I'm not sure where Confidence EQ sits, but you aren't allowed to feed anything. There are two parts to the BD rules - everybody focuses on the banned substances list, which says that it's an offence for your horse to have them in its system, no matter what the intention was; and they miss the rule that says it's an offence to give anything to a horse with the intention of affecting its way of going. So you can't feed anything to calm it down or razz it up.
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AdorableAlice

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You're not allowed to use a calmer in competition. I'm not sure where Confidence EQ sits, but you aren't allowed to feed anything. There are two parts to the BD rules - everybody focuses on the banned substances list, which says that it's an offence for your horse to have them in its system, no matter what the intention was; and they miss the rule that says it's an offence to give anything to a horse with the intention of affecting its way of going. So you can't feed anything to calm it down or razz it up.
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I have had horses in competition for many many years, yet to see the dope truck at a dressage competition. I have been tested at County level shows

At present I am using Horse First Relax Me on a mare that has been on box rest for a month and is now hacking in walk but still confined other than the hacking hour. It has worked nicely at the recommended dose for her size.
 

Cowpony

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So that makes it OK? AA I normally love your posts and admire your experience and attitude, but I do object to competing against people who are cheating. My mare is horribly spooky and gets incredibly tense at competitions. I'd love to give her a calmer, but I don't because it's against the rules.
 

AdorableAlice

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So that makes it OK? AA I normally love your posts and admire your experience and attitude, but I do object to competing against people who are cheating. My mare is horribly spooky and gets incredibly tense at competitions. I'd love to give her a calmer, but I don't because it's against the rules.

The off the shelf mag based calmers help many horses and are endorsed by some big names. I totally agree with your thoughts on the banned substances, ie valerian, acp etc. The use of mineral based 'calmers' is acceptable in my view and often work because they balance the grazing and hay quality.

Your comments on the BD rules interest me, I will have a read.
 

ILuvCowparsely

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Has anyone used a type of calmer for spookiness/tension when ridden? It's a tricky one because when he's in a familiar place he takes a lot of leg and is not sharp in any way shape or form, but if we go to a slightly spookier or different arena to do a dressage test, he immediately tenses up and it affects his marks. It's frustrating because he can warm up like a dream, and then go in to his test and he's so unfocused and ends up doing handbrake turns around the corners as he wont bend properly! I also find when this happens instead of becoming sharper, he loses all his impulsion and sinks behind the leg and I struggle to keep him moving forward without kicking every stride. Don't get me wrong, he's not like this all the time, there's just certain places we struggle with sometimes. Thanks!
This is why my mare is on Magic, though now we are reducing the measures down
 

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My TB is on Magic - was on Relax Me originally but it was expensive - he has changed beyond all recognition, I always used to think magnesium calmers were a placebo but they make a huge difference to him. He doesn't compete for all those holier than thou types out there.....
 

Regandal

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That's very interesting Cowpony. My two are on mag ox as our grazing seems to be deficient (for their feet). It may have the side effect of calming them. I suppose it's the intention that matters.
 

Cowpony

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Yes I think that's the point Regandal. If you give it on a daily basis because your grazing is deficient it would appear to be OK, but if you give something just before a competition with the specific purpose of calming your horse then it isn't. I do think the rule is a bit bonkers because how do you prove intention? Nevertheless, the rule is there.
 

Cowpony

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Lévrier;13242438 said:
My TB is on Magic - was on Relax Me originally but it was expensive - he has changed beyond all recognition, I always used to think magnesium calmers were a placebo but they make a huge difference to him. He doesn't compete for all those holier than thou types out there.....

Is it holier than thou to want to compete on a level playing field? I assume you are not against doping in athletics or tennis then? Just because we are amateurs doesn't mean we can break the rules. Yes, there is far less at stake, but if I've worked for years to get to a level where I can compete, spent several hundred pounds and taken time off work to get my horse to a show, I'd like to think that I stand an equal chance of being able to get placed.
 
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saddlesore

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I think relax me is fantastic. It would be interesting if there were more clarity in that rule, as my understanding was that you couldn't use valerian or ACP type calmers only. I don't compete but still my understanding. However that aside relax me takes the edge off.
 

be positive

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I think relax me is fantastic. It would be interesting if there were more clarity in that rule, as my understanding was that you couldn't use valerian or ACP type calmers only. I don't compete but still my understanding. However that aside relax me takes the edge off.

ACP is not a calmer it is a sedative so definitely not allowed, valerian is similar in that it is more of a sedative than calmer, the issue with the so called calmers is not that they are used to correct an inbalance in the diet but that they are used with the INTENT of acting as a calmer, that is what is not allowed if you follow the full meaning of the rules, it is not going to be realistic to test for them so relies on people being honest and not trying to find ways around the use of them.

The use of calmers nowadays seems to be almost routine for many people, there may be some horses that require a little help, some that lack certain minerals in their diet but for many less food, more work and turnout would be the best way to get their horses to settle.
 

oldie48

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There's a list of prohibitive substances, most of the calmers on the market do not contain them and are legal for competition use. If you find oe that relaxes your horse I see no problem in using it. Riders change feeds, lunge before they get on, hack the horse round the block etc we do all sorts of things to improve our horses. To say it is unfair to use a calmer, is IMO absolute rubbish. Fact is, every horse has it's own natural advantages and disadvantages, we don't start with a level playing ground and as long as we compete within the current rules then I think that's fine. AND i speak as a rider who has an extremely tense horse but sadly I've not found anything that changes that. Think I might try "relax me"!
I think relax me is fantastic. It would be interesting if there were more clarity in that rule, as my understanding was that you couldn't use valerian or ACP type calmers only. I don't compete but still my understanding. However that aside relax me takes the edge off.
 

oldie48

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How strange then that the latest BD mag contains ads for calmers that state they are totally legal. eg page 12 Nupafeed MAH, back page Bluechip calming balancer. I've also come across an ad in an earlier edition for ProKalm which is described as perfect for taking the edge off. I've had a list 1 judge recommend a particular calmer for my horse. I think perhaps there's some confusion??
ACP is not a calmer it is a sedative so definitely not allowed, valerian is similar in that it is more of a sedative than calmer, the issue with the so called calmers is not that they are used to correct an inbalance in the diet but that they are used with the INTENT of acting as a calmer, that is what is not allowed if you follow the full meaning of the rules, it is not going to be realistic to test for them so relies on people being honest and not trying to find ways around the use of them.

The use of calmers nowadays seems to be almost routine for many people, there may be some horses that require a little help, some that lack certain minerals in their diet but for many less food, more work and turnout would be the best way to get their horses to settle.
 

AdorableAlice

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Is it holier than thou to want to compete on a level playing field? I assume you are not against doping in athletics or tennis then? Just because we are amateurs doesn't mean we can break the rules. Yes, there is far less at stake, but if I've worked for years to get to a level where I can compete, spent several hundred pounds and taken time off work to get my horse to a show, I'd like to think that I stand an equal chance of being able to get placed.

You will be competing on a level playing field unless there are horses in your class with banned substances in their systems. I think you may be taking the BD wording a little too literally. This is a very interesting thread and open to many interpretations of what is or is not legally or morally acceptable. I totally agree that you want equality, I have spent a small fortune getting a horse to top level competition as an amateur, it is certainly not easy.

There are masses of products that are FEI legal including some bagged feeds. I have a bag of chaff in the feed room now that has so called calming properties in it. Not purposefully bought for that reason but it was out of date and very cheap but perfectly safe to feed as a base feed for my furry cobs.

Tempralax can be used a few hours before competing and is popular in the showpony world and again legal. I think BD needs to look at the wording on the rules, what does 'any substance' actually mean ? It is proven that many horses show improved behaviour when fed additional salt in their diets for instance.

Certainly great care needs to be taken when competing under rules and your vets need to be aware of the competing schedule when treating your horse.
 
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