Some people will be running up to this Halloween in the midst of organising their Halloween costume for a party they are going to, or perhaps googling fancy pumpkin carving designs and making sure they have enough tasty treats in the cupboard for trick or treaters.
But for some of us horse owners perhaps we are dreading the coming of Halloween as it signifies the clocks going back representing the start of winter, mucking out, wet rugs and a spooky horse or pony that tries to convince you that there are ghosts in every hedge and zombies behind every corner!
If you have a bit of a ‘scaredy cat’ take action now to keep the ‘spooks’ at bay. Often horses and ponies that spook or shy lack confidence in themselves and their rider so the first thing to do is discuss ways to build confidence in yourself and in your horse with your instructor. Building up a strong partnership is the key for a horse that lacks confidence to trust his/her rider. Riding out with another more confident ‘school master’ may help taking it in turns to lead the way and perhaps going off on your own for a bit and re-joining each other further along the ride to build confidence in bite sized chunks.
Whilst there is plenty you can do from a ridden perspective it plays to make sure you are not adding to the problem by feeding a diet that may contribute to nervous or excitable behaviour. We know from years of experience and from research studies that certain diets can affect a horse’s behaviour. The exact reasons for this are still not fully understood but the culprit can be a diet high in cereal starch.
Starch is known as an ‘instant energy source’ and can in some horses make them more reactive or excitable. If your horse or pony falls into this category opt for feeds based on ‘slow release’ energy sources such as oil and fibre whilst minimising the energy coming from starch. The best options are balancers for those that maintain condition on a forage only diet, low energy fibre based cubes for those that need more calories or for poor doers or those needing condition opt for high calorie, oil and fibre based feeds.
Once you have addressed training and the base diet you may want to consider a calming supplement; look for a reputable supplier and for those of you competing under rules ensure whatever you choose is BETA NOPS approved. There is little scientific evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of calming supplements however, that’s not to say they won’t work in your horse the best strategy is to try a supplement without changing anything else in your horse’s routine and evaluate for yourself whether you think it is effective.
So whatever you are doing this Halloween we wish you a fun, calm and ‘spook’ free time with your horses.