As all showies know, getting their horses into the ring just right every time, is not easy.  One of the conundrums is getting the balance right between body condition and energy levels.

Most judges want to see horses and ponies in big condition, but at the same time able to show off their paces with energy yet calmness!

As a result many show horses are over fed and supplemented to get them fat and shiny but they aren’t fit and they have too much energy for the job. Basically a lot of them are off their faces and of course are going to react fearfully to the atmosphere especially at big shows.

The common practice of lunging horses literally for hours on end “to work them down enough to get them in the ring” and/or giving them “something” to keep them calm are just not viable options.

Endless lunging is just plain cruel and ought to be banned. It creates excessive wear and tear on joints and early physical and/or emotional break down.

Giving them “something” to keep them calm needs in depth analysis.  Is it going to work?  Will it swab? Is it safe for the health of the horse?  Is it safe for the health of the rider?

The fact is that horses are all individuals and will react differently to the same calming preparation.  Some won’t react at all, some will have a negative reaction and some will react as required.  Swabbing is a deterrent for many competitors and there are others who are always searching for the magic elixir, which actually doesn’t exist.  Safety for the health of the horse is not always a priority, but it certainly should be.  Finally safety for the health of the rider.  You really don’t want to be on board a horse who is spaced out and doesn’t know where it is putting its feet.

Natural feeding, herbs and flower essences provide a really workable solution for many horses and ponies.  But if you are considering going down this track, don’t just think of using a herbal “something” on the day, or you will be disappointed. However Flower Essence remedies can be a help on the day as part of the program outlined below.

And they are guaranteed not to swab as they are not metabolic in their action.


A lot of showies are put off using herbs because of all the false information that has been pushed about herbs and swabbing by the powers that be in recent years.  Despite this, Valerian a commonly used herb to “calm” show horses contains Valerianic acid which is a Controlled Medication as a tranquiliser according to the FEI Cleansport Database.

Contrary to popular opinion Chamomile contains no active substances which are listed on this database and will therefore not return a positive swab.  In fact there are only a handful of herbal compounds listed compared with over 5,000 drugs.


Sorry no magic elixir. Instead you need to prepare each horse holistically as an individual and give yourself plenty of lead time.

The starting point is the VF natural diet which is designed to provide all the essential nutrients through raw feeds and herbs.  Feeding is not just about calories, it is about making sure that the body in question has all the nutrients it needs for growth, maintenance, repair and health of all body systems. Obviously this includes the nervous system so it makes sense to keep it in as perfect working order as possible for the horse to perform at its optimum.

It is quite remarkable how many horses with nervous behaviour improve out of sight just by changing from a processed diet to a customised VF natural diet. Horses are genetically designed to eat raw food, not pellets, premixed feeds and synthetic minerals and vitamins.

My clients are always telling me how people are always complimenting them on their horses…. how shiny and muscled up, and how quiet and calm they are.

Understanding each horse’s individual nervous system is the next step.

This is where I can help, through my consultation service, I have been prescribing and dispensing customised herbal remedies and flower essences, to horses all over Australia for 25 years.

The program is to reform your horses’ nervous behaviour so that slowly, but surely the reactions to certain stimuli become less and less.  Being a horse they will never forget completely but a combination of sensible training, good management, VF natural diet and herbal treatments will give great results.

Nothing will work if you rush your training especially with Thoroughbreds making the transformation from track to hack. The ex-racehorse usually has special rehabilitation needs, such as a liver and steroid detoxification program, over a few months, before any showing starts. This way you will get healthy condition and muscle tone which will continue to improve over time.

The end result is you end up with a sound and sane horse to compete on – no worries! And the bonus is you save money on feed and vet bills.

© Victoria Ferguson 10 August 2019