Calming Supplements for Mares (from AAEP Ask the Vet)

I own a 22 year old Appendix mare. She has always become very irritable during her first heat cycles in spring. We’ve had a “marble” implanted in her a few years ago which helped a lot then, but now I’m looking for something less invasive. I am wondering about starting her one of the “Moody Mare” type calming supplements. Do you feel they are effective? Any ingredients I should look for? Any thoughts on Valerian vs Valerian free- (we don’t show)? Thanks so much! RS

Dear RS,

Have you tried using prescription Regumate during the transitional period of spring? This synthetic progesterone is specifically labeled for managing the irregular cycles and behavior of mares as increased daylight causes them to enter the normal breeding season.

If you prefer to use a non-prescription supplement, look for products that contain Vitex agnus castus and/or Raspberry leaf. Also known as Chasteberry or Monk’s Berry, Vitex agnus castus is a plant native to the Mediterranean region that has been used for centuries to help maintain a balanced hormonal system in both females and males. Horse owners use it for both irritable mares and aggressive geldings. Raspberry leaf is an herb primarily used for its benefits to females. Believed to temper the effect of hormonal variations, the active ingredients in the plant appear to normalize smooth muscle tone in both the reproductive and GI tracts, relaxing muscle that is in spasm and strengthening muscle that is weak.

You specifically asked for my thoughts on Valerian. In my opinion, Valerian is more of a general calming herb. In fact, it is what’s called a “nervine,” or, an herb that directly affects the nervous system. Valerian rebalances a nervous system struggling with restlessness, anxiety and, in humans, even insomnia. The reason it may be included in many supplements for moody mares is that it also relieves muscle cramps and spasm associated with tension.

You won’t know what works for your individual mare until you try, so choose one product this spring and keep a journal of her behavior so you know what (and what not) to use next spring.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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3 comments on “Calming Supplements for Mares (from AAEP Ask the Vet)
  1. Danette says:

    We have a 9 year old Dunn Mare we live in Ohio she came last Aug from California my daughter shows her for 4-H she has had two babies did well through the winter.

    Had ber first cycle and it was pretty bad kicking baring down peeing neighing etc heard of Regumate but was wondering if there is anything close to Regumate that is a little less expensive but works as good and what can be long term effects to horse. Know humans can’t touch it .

    If the horse is on for show season can they be taken off or once on do they need to stay on forever thank you

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Danette, thank you for your question. It sounds like your mare’s cycle was pretty challenging, so considering prescription medication may be a legitimate option to help support her. At this point, I would recommend you contact your veterinarian and have a conversation about your mare’s history. Your veterinarian will be the best person to help you determine an appropriate plan for your mare which may involve prescription medication, and or supplements to help keep her comfortable during her cycles. – Dr. Lydia Gray

  2. Shaunna says:

    I have a mare that stresses easily and tends to get over anxious and weave when this happens I was wondering what would be best to try her on to calm her down but also wouldn’t be harmful to a fetus as I plan on breeding her next spring.

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