Natural horsemanship training for nervous horses can involve the use of calming herbs. Nervousness and exciteability in horses can be most problematic causing injury to both horse and rider if not treated carefully. You can, in fact, use drugs in the form of sedatives, but you can also easily work from a natural horsemanship point of view and use herbs such as valerian and vervain to treat this issue and bring about a more permanent change in behavior. Herbs act gently over some time and mainly without side effects if you apply the correct dosage.
Too much of a good thing with herbs may cause problems to your horse rather than work better and faster so sticking to the dosage is recommended. Horses are more sensitive to herbs than humans even though horses are hundreds of kilos heavier. Herbs are best used in combination with other herbs rather than as single herbs, and herbal formulas affect more than one part of the horse’s body to bring about a healthy solution.
A horse may develop high anxiety for a number of reasons. A racehorse or show horse is especially nervous because of the demands placed on it to perform well. There are two different types of nervous conditions in a horse that require either valerian or vervain.
The horse treated with valerian shows its anxiety through taut muscles. When he is frightened he literally tenses up with fear, and his muscles become rock hard. Even when he is well trained to perform despite his anxiety, he is grinding his teeth on the bit and moving stiffly because of his tight muscles.
The horse with this type of nervous condition doesn’t usually bolt, but if he becomes highly nervous, he could buck, rear or bolt. Valerian works to bring the horse’s nervous system back into balance to relieve muscle tension, though muscle tension never really disappears.
The other type of anxiety shown is a horse that is nervous when his skin is touched. This horse is sensitive to the touch even without being afraid, angry or upset. This horse is always agitated and is never still. He can be compared to a person who constantly taps a foot or twirls her hair around her fingers.
When this horse has given the herb vervain, it works to heal his inner nervous system that is too sensitive and overly reactive to touch. He becomes less fidgety although he will always remain sensitive. The herb will help him to slow down and be able to concentrate on becoming more trainable and reliable.
Other Herbs Used to Treat Anxiety and Enhance Natural Horsemanship Training Skills
Just as a nervous person may develop other physiological problems, nervous horses may develop digestive problems or present a “scatterbrain” condition. That’s why the herb chamomile may be added to valerian or vervain to ease complications of the digestive system and enhance the effects of both herbs on the nervous system.
Lemon balm is another useful herb that soothes the nervous system, improves the cognitive function and eases the digestive system especially gas and bloating. It helps a horse to become calmer and more mentally alert. It is added in combination with valerian and chamomile and vervain and chamomile for well-rounded herbal treatment.
Remember to follow the correct dosage for any herbal supplements you give your horse. Giving them too much of a good thing is not the way to go. Too much chamomile, for example, may have the opposite effect of calming and create a sore stomach if overfed.
Calming herbs used in conjunction with natural horsemanship skills & proper training can work beautifully to ease your horse's tension and are definitely worth trying if you have an over-anxious or excitable horse.