The Magic Formula for Calming
More than Magnesium
Kate Hore RNutr(Animal)
If you think your horse could benefit from a calmer you've probably read lots of conflicting advice on what the best approach should be; and nowhere is there more conflict than on the subject of magnesium. Does it calm horses, should you use it, does it actually sedate?
So should you consider magnesium? Well, yes and no. Like everything in nature, nothing is that simple. Certainly magnesium has a role to play, but to consider it as the whole approach – whether you are for or against - is overly simplistic. Magnesium is an important nutrient, playing a role in many areas within the system, particularly the brain and skeletal muscles. The element's role in equine muscle tension is recognised in scientific literature as far back as the 1930s, while studies cross-species have shown low magnesium is associated with hypertension, depression and anxiety. So can we apply that knowledge to horses? Given that Spring grass is low in magnesium, and it will also be lost through equine sweat, does that explain the 'Spring madness' many horse owners are familiar with? Certainly anecdotal results suggest there is a strong correlation.
In recent years studies in horses have shown conflicting results for pure magnesium and calming. It seems it works for some and not others, suggesting if we supplement with magnesium alone we're missing vital pieces of the jigsaw for some of our horses. No one ingredient works for all, so how do we will in those gaps? As ever, Mother Nature has the answer.
By utilising the unique phytochemicals present in nature we can positively influence a calm outlook, and the role of herbs in behaviour and calming is well established both in science and traditional herbal medicine. The difficult bit is getting the right blend. Nature is complex, with every plant providing a vast array of chemical components, and it takes decades of experience to know how to combine those elements effectively to elicit the required response. Just as with magnesium, no one herb will work for all horses. However by combining the right combination of key herbal elements, with a top-up to your horse's daily magnesium requirement, we can produce reliable, repeatable results in equine calmness and cognitive health. Cognitive health is important, as by supporting your horse's learning ability we help them to understand what is being asked of them, and if they understand that then they can do it.
This theory, of combining both key herbal elements with dietary magnesium, for anxious horses was recently put to the test when we commissioned the Royal Agricultural University to trial prospective new formulae for NAF Five Star Magic. The two year project was headed up by Dr Andrew Hemmings, one of the UK's leading experts on equine cognition and behaviour. This independent, placebo controlled, cross over trial, looked at the effectiveness for both anxiety and learning in a group of horses chosen for their reactive behaviour. The results showed that two of the trialled formulae, with different key herbal elements, resulted in statistical significance and a strong trend for improvements in these areas. What was particularly pleasing, was that the trial also quantitatively looked for signs of sedation and found none. Therefore although it is sometimes questioned whether dietary magnesium may have a sedative effect, with no evidence of that; this trial was able to show conclusively that the unique formulae trialled had no detrimental effect at all.
We are so thrilled for the team at RAU, as both the strength of the protocol and the robustness of the results, means the trial has now been published in a peer-reviewed paper. These proven results have now gone forward to form the new and improved NAF Magic Calmer range, winner of the BETA International 2019 Innovation Award.
So if you're looking for a calmer for your horse, and you're trying to see through all the conflicting advice, we suggest you don't prioritise individual ingredients too much, be they magnesium, herbs, gut support or others. Rather believe in the synergistic strength of a natural blend, but also rely on proven scientific results. Turn to a company you trust, who can deliver, through their 35 years of research and development, a Magic formulation.
We think Dr Andy Hemmings sums it up perfectly, 'There's a real use for a calmer that actually works, improves the cognitive profile of the horse, but crucially does not come with any sedation……that will still be your horse, but more trainable.'
H. Roberts, A. Stevenson and A. Hemmings (2018)
Effect of three magnesium based feed supplements on inferred measures of dopamine activity and cognition: a pilot study.
Proceedings of the 14th International Conference, Rome, Italy