Let’s Discuss: Chemical Help

Musings from this morning…

I’m pretty sure the bane of most first world countries has to be using a fork to spear crispy bacon. Am I out of alfalfa at the barn? “Give love, get love.” (Thanks Yogi tea bag)

But mostly, I’m wondering…

What kind of chemical help can I give Jack so that he doesn’t turn into a distracted spazoid in the dressage ring?

That is basically to say that we went to the show on Saturday, where I just did my dressage test and scratched all the jumping. I thought I was getting closer to unlocking what Jack needs in the warmup, before entering the actual dressage court and blowing all the good work out of the water.

Admittedly a 34.8 isn’t the absolute worst score, but to me those 6’s are frustrating to see on a scoresheet. There were lots of comments about him being resistant, which mostly came down to his getting tense or distracted by things that I feel he really truly isn’t scared of (such as people walking the course in the distance). The overbending comes down to my attempts to get him soft through the underneck, and I would definitely prefer to have him straighter and more under- the whole test felt mostly forced with a few decent movements. Highlights including the fact that I almost got a 7.5 on my rider score, and Jack giving me a solid left lead canter depart for a 7. And I mean, the beautiful horse comment- because who doesn’t like hearing that?

At least he’s pretty?

In making a game plan for our next outing (namely the big Recognized show in 3 weeks where I would like to actually be competitive in the dressage), I would like to help Jack a little bit mentally. I’m mostly not a fan of lunging a horse down because I feel that is counter productive in many cases when XC and SJ are to follow (not to mention putting unnecessary torque on fragile legs), and I of course want to stay within the legal allowances for any chemical aid.

So I’m looking at a few of the calming pastes on the market that might help. Perfect Prep products are one I have heard are well used in the H/J rings, but I know less about eventers who use them. B highly recommends Nupafeed Magnesium  for its effectiveness on her similarly-minded Chimi. I’m willing to give anything a shot, so long as it’s legal and has no real side effects that could make things worse for one palomino worry-wort.

What do you guys think? Have you ever used the above products? Anything that isn’t listed that you suggest? What are your previous experiences with calming agents at shows?

39 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Chemical Help

  1. We sometimes are allowed to use Quiessence on some of the lesson horses when it’s cold and they might come out super fresh. I had never heard of it before riding here, but it does seem to take them down a peg without affecting performance.

    I used to use Quietex or Stressdex paste on Promise for shows. Sometimes it made a difference, sometimes not. But we did hunters and eq, so I think having other horses in the ring with you also makes a big difference, compared to dressage. Does he have a buddy that could hang out outside the ring and maybe make him feel more comfortable and less alone without totally distracting his brain cells?

    • Jack has a history of becoming a stage 5 clinger at horse shows, sadly, which really seemed to elevate his stress levels when said buddy left. So I’ve been avoiding allowing him to make pals at shows. At the last show, we went on a walk with the horse he shared a wall with (no other previous connection) and he outright lost it when they went back to the stall. I know this will get better with time, but definitely want to try to make for more positive experiences if I can!

  2. I don’t love the plan of chemical assistance. Honestly, 6.5 is pretty darn good? I’ve scored a LOT of dressage tests, both eventing and straight dressage, and you got some good scores there. Distraction and overcoming it through constant, consistent exposure is part of the game and the hard part for most fit event horses who enter a dressage ring.

    • That said, I realize I just went straight to lecture without addressing your question, and I apologize. I don’t have experience with those particular products. When I’ve needed calm-down juice it’s been primarily in a veterinary context, so big guns that would not work in competition or under saddle. A number of people at my barn rehabbing have used ace to keep their horses safe and sane during legging up, but that would obviously not be competition legal.

      • I appreciate your feedback- I agree that this will get better with experience, but if I can help take the edge off to make those experiences feel a bit more positive for the time being, then I think it is something worth exploring.

        Full disclosure: This being written by a human whose life was exponentially improved by a little chemical help.

  3. Quiessence is great, I personally use Daily Gold (everyday in Scout’s feed)… it’s directed for myriad of things, but can be used for tense horses, it’s just minerals so legal. I use it for his belly:)

  4. I honestly wouldn’t sell yourself so short! Yes he was distracted, but those were still good scores! Amber did the same thing on our few dressage tests. She just looked at things that wouldn’t normally phase her, but I think it’s all part of the show experience.
    When I worked at a training barn we used Ulcerguard before shows for a while, and I really like it. The paste tube works just about as well as pellets, but I personally like the tube paste better more because I only use it for shows and I think the paste works faster. RW has it the cheapest, but I’ve noticed that even though Amber generally isn’t a nervous or excitable horse, it seems to help her on show days. I’ll grab a tube and give her a 1/4 on Friday, show day Saturday and show day Sunday (and maybe Monday if she had a stressful weekend). I feel that while she doesn’t have ulcers, it just coats her stomach if she’s a little stressed and isn’t eating as well as usual. The other horses at the training barn that were on it (one was a super quirky Whiz mare and some other horses that had a tendency towards tension and nerves) did very well, and I noticed a remarkable difference in their behavior when they were on Ulcerguard. Now, this was doing the “loading dose” of 1 tube daily for a month (OW your wallet says) and then going down to a 1/4 daily dose, but you didn’t honestly need the loading dose. The horses who only went on 1/4 a tube a day did just as well. But I think in some respect while the horses got turnout about 1x a week and none of them had ulcers, it just helped with perhaps the light stress of them being stalled and that they were in heavy training for futurities and derbies. These were also 3yr old horses (reining QHs) with a few 4 & 5yr olds dabbed into the mix. I haven’t used the Nupafeed Magnesium, but I have used a straight magnesium supplement from Smartpak. I’ve really liked that as well and it helped our horses for a time, but I think we may have used it too much, and it actually started to have adverse affects on my mom’s mare. And I’ve seen Perfect Prep products, but haven’t ever used them. So I have no experience to offer on that front, but hopefully I was able to help you a bit!

    • I completely agree with your Ulcergard recommendations- I’ve started giving the preventative dose of 1/4 tube before/during shows, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this case for sure. Having treated ulcers now on 2 horses in the last 3 years, I’ll do my best to avoid them a third time!

  5. I know people have lots of OPINIONS on this, but without getting into a debate, when I showed QH we used Perfect Prep at big shows (Congress, Worlds) just to help with all the distractions and things happening around. I don’t know how much was placebo effect, but it did seem to work well.

    • Forgot to add, we used both Extreme (day of) and Gold (night before) and they seemed to work equally as well. I think if the entire show environment is what causes the tension, Gold is a little better vs if it’s just the actual going in the ring (what it was for some of ours), Extreme worked well.

      • Haha, maybe I should have changed the title to “JUDGE ME AND TELL ME WHAT I SHOULD DO” but I am mostly curious about people’s responses. The Gold/Extreme combo was actually was I was looking into most based on his stress patterns. Good to know it seems to have helped others!

  6. First: I love Yogi Tea and the little messages on the tags brighten my day when I get my afternoon cup of tea.
    Second: Have you checked out Omega Alpha Equine products? They’re all natural, scientifically formulated and specifically created to be allowable in competition. It sounds like either Chill (which is a liquid) or Chill Ultra (which is a paste) might be a great option for you. They’re made to help to calm, relax and focus horses, but without dulling them.

  7. I haven’t used any calming supplements, but I do lunge at shows. I think there’s a difference between a lunge to get focused (ie 10-30 minutes of transition work and asking my horse to listen to, and focus on, me) versus lunging down (45+ minutes of cantering and galloping). But that’s just my amateur opinion 🙂

  8. I know a chunk of people that use perfect prep. I think he is just getting used to the environment though. At his old job, going somewhere and getting tacked up with a bunch of horses meant it was GALLOP AND JUMP! time, not fancy prance around an arena. A show or two with PP might help him get the idea, or he might get it just from exposure.

  9. I used magnesium with Bobby with a lot of success for general calmness in every day rides. I never dosed him with anything extra for shows as I figured if he was going to flail out of the ring, he was going to flail out of the ring. 😉 For hunter paces though, when he would get very wound up if any horses passed him or were jumping without him, SmartCalm paste seemed to work really well when dosed a couple hours before we headed out. I’ll probably try it with Opie as well if he gets as wound up as I’m expecting him to be his first few outings.

    • Magnesium (in the form of Quiessence at least) did nothing for Jack over the 3 months we used it.. But I think in this more high-stress environment a little somethin’-somethin’ wouldn’t hurt to try. I’m sure it couldn’t hurt with a certain baby OTTB either… though I’m sure he’ll be an ANGEL 0:)

      • is he distracted by noise? I have a friend who hauled her tbred to shows with ear plugs (I know not legal) but her point was to get him thru the day without being insane. And now she can leave them out.

        I just am curious what gets him going. Also was the weather crappy on Saturday?? is that why you didnt jump (I know you were upset with the dressage but JUMPING!!) HA HA LOL.

        I had a HOT Morgan mare years ago in the 90’s I used Quietex and tried them all. it helped a bit. She wasnt scared of anything just got wired with the show atmosphere and almost pulled my shoulders off. UGH. She ended up being sold as a broodmare. It wasnt her bloodlines it was the training she had as a baby. They just pushed her so much her go to moment was to TROT and TROT FASTER. My shoulders hurt thinking about her.

        I hope you figure it out. ONE thought can you haul the snot out of him everywhere??? LIKE take him to events even if u dont ride so he gets bored going? Does he get jazzed whenever you take him offsite (I.e or is it the ring at dressage). He is a gorgeous guy and I know you will figure it out.

        PS I would have killed for that score #barisnotthathighforus LOLLOL 🙂 HA

      • A certain baby horse has been on Magnesium for the past month trying to get him to calm down outside and there has been zero difference (as in, *someone* tore the fence down the other day…) so he’ll be going off that. It’s funny how something will work so well for one and not for another!

  10. For what it is worth, I think that trying to find a legal calming additive has far too much stigma.

    Yes, in part it is training, but if you can help them ease into the process and reduce stress legally whilst providing solid training and reinforcement of expectations through handling then why not do it?

    People forget too often that we are all just trying to do what we think is best by our horses.

  11. With Simon pants, I always lunge at shows. Not like a lunge to death I want you to run until you fall over lunge, but a “would you like to spook? would you like to buck? where is your opportunity.” I let him tell me when he is done. Results may vary, because I’ll admit he’s pretty damn level headed.

    As for actual products, 100% Perfect Prep. Swear by it.

  12. As you said above, what we often see is Perfect Prep at our H/J shows. I think that in the right situations it can be really helpful. I have always had pretty quiet ones, but my friends gelding can get very wrapped up in the environment and a 1/2 dose/tube gives him the chance to take a deep breath before he goes. Something to consider 🙂

  13. When I had Django I used MagRestore and they also have a product Focus: https://performanceequinenutrition.com/focus-faqs/

    Meanwhile, Isaach needs the equivalent of horsie Red Bull. lol In fact, I just ordered smart energy from smartpak in the hopes of some more pep. Our judge’s comments from Saturday can be summarized in three words: Poll Too Low!!! It’s soooo hard to keep that giant dinosaur head up with gravity and all and he’s just soooo tired …..

  14. Pingback: Show Recap: Pinehurst Schooling Dressage | A House on a Hill

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