Stress is both an angel and a demon: On the one hand, it pushes us forward to adapt, achieve and strengthen muscles, and on the other hand it can kill us prematurely. How does stress shape the body and how can we manage it for optimal health? If your horse is acting up and easily spooked, if their body is bracing or they are experiencing pain or hoof sensitivity, chances are they are magnesium deficient and would benefit greatly from a great natural horse calmer – magnesium chloride salt flakes. Food grade natural magnesium chloride salt flakes can easily be incorporated into their feeds every day to help prevent magnesium deficiency.
Horses evolved from small mammals whose survival depended on their ability to flee from predators. Their first instinct when frightened is to escape. If running is not possible, the horse resorts to biting, kicking, striking or rearing to protect itself. Many of the horse’s natural behaviour patterns, such as herd-formation and social facilitation of activities, are directly related to their being a prey species. This means they are easily spooked and subject to stress – especially if they don’t get enough attention and feel lonely. They are intensely social creatures, relying on relationships to give them confidence and the ability to relax and rest.
Other sources of horse stress to be aware of are inclement weather, travelling, performance, bullying by horses or humans, not being able to graze, chemicals and nutrient deficient food, and isolation (no equine companionship). Unrelenting stress can cause colic, irritability and even deteriorate into diseases of diabetes and laminitis (hoof disease). Horses have a sensitive digestive system which is easily disrupted by stress.
Take care to ensure they are not exposed to pesticides on their grazing pastures and in their drinking water from dams and waterways. Grains can also cause acidosis because they share the same acidic by-product as sugar in metabolism – especially in the absence of sufficient magnesium and acid-buffering antioxidants.
A vital key to making sure that stresses are beneficial and not detrimental is to maintain an appropriate balance between tension and relaxation. If you keep pushing and stressing muscles, ligaments and joints without appropriate recovery time they can get injured and inflamed. It can lead to Repetitive Stress Injury, acidification and tissue breakdown, as detoxification pathways start to fail. Dietary magnesium supplementation is a great way to enhance recovery after stress by stimulating detoxification enzymes and protein synthesis to re-build tissue cells.
When animals are tensed and in the ‘fight or flight’ mode it is called the ‘sympathetic mode’. This is when the blood rushes to extremities ready for quick-twitch muscle firing to escape danger or to fight the predator. During this phase the digestive system stops, as does the cellular detox and cell-building systems. When the danger is gone, relaxation follows as the ‘parasympathetic mode’ (sometimes called grazing or ‘rest and digest’ mode) – where digestion and the other systems return to normal.
If a horse is constantly in a stressed sympathetic mode the body cannot adequately digest foods and extract nutrients. Stress itself causes a more rapid excretion of magnesium. If soils are magnesium-depleted it is a double-whammy to accelerate magnesium deficiency.
Muscles Need a Lot of Magnesium
For muscles to have a good tone with strength and flexibility they need to be ‘trained’ with exercise, but also provided with sufficient recovery nutrients like magnesium. Magnesium is essential for protein synthesis, including enzymes, collagen and elastin. These help keep muscles flexible and stretchy.
Magnesium chloride attracts water which helps hold it inside the cell in the structure of the cytoplasm. Magnesium and water keeps us younger, more flexible and ‘juicier’ longer! It is also essential for cell membrane integrity and electrolyte charge. If magnesium drops too low the cell wall depolarises (drops in charge) and therefore becomes looser, allowing escape of valuable hydration and potassium ions.
The loss of magnesium and hydration is what leads to the crumpling and squeezing effect of the cramp, as calcium then moves in to contract the muscle fibres. Yes, we do need the calcium to contract, but magnesium performs the relaxation via its control of the calcium channels. With chronic magnesium deficiency over time, muscles, ligaments and joints get stiffer and more calcified – or older, harder and crunchier faster!
Take care to make sure the diet is correctly balanced without overload of calcium and including sufficient magnesium. As magnesium gets too low, calcium becomes a tough bully and suppresses the work of magnesium. Both horses and humans alike are much more likely to be magnesium-deficient than calcium-deficient these days. Pasture grasses after a lot of rain tend to be very lush, but with the magnesium washed away from surface soils, the ratio of sugars in the grasses can get too high. A high calcium, high sugar and low magnesium diet leads to diabetes.
Lack of Exercise
Playful exercise helps move and circulate the lymphatic system to eliminate wastes. This is particularly important for horses. Lack of exercise can also cause severe stress because the body can’t get enough oxygenation for cell respiration. Metabolism can then switch from aerobic to anaerobic which results in high acidic waste products, not to mention less efficiency of energy output.
Horses love to run or walk long distances. For thousands of years they have served humans well as modes of transport. Today they are more prone to stress from confinement and lack of exercise. This leads to build-up of toxic waste products. The hoof wall acts like a pressure container for filling and emptying of lymphatic initial vessels via the ground contact and suspension of the moving foot.
If movement is restricted it can cause problems for the lymphatic system such as ‘filled legs’/’stocking up’, which may eventually lead to lymphangitis. When excessive fluids build up the body is usually in a state of drought and is trying to hold back more water to dilute the toxic accumulation in tissue cells. Lack of movement, too much restriction, low magnesium and dehydration all combine to exacerbate this problem.
Stable and exercise bandages, steel horse shoes and lack of regular or correct trimming of hooves (maximum 4 weeks) have been shown to adversely affect the blood and lymphatic circulations of the leg, leading to less oxygen and nutrient delivery to extremities. See Dr Professor Bowkers research at www.thehorseshoof.com/Art_Bowker.html and www.gravelproofhoof.org
Sugar Metabolism, pH and Acidosis
The evolution of the horse was from alpine regions with an abundance of magnesium chloride and trace minerals from glacial waters. The plant food they ate was high in minerals and low in sugars. These plant foods also carried an abundance of beneficial bacteria to assist digestion and produce essential fatty acids. Their natural diet was very nutrient-dense.
As magnesium gets lower, sugar sensitivity, acidity and inflammation increases. As magnesium levels are increased in cells the sugar sensitivity and acidification settles down again. It’s like a see-saw effect. Magnesium calms the temperament as well as relaxes muscles. It helps cells detox and is vital in energy metabolism because it is used by the mitochondria to co-factor with ATP (adenosine triphosphate) – the energy currency of the cell.
This bio-electrical system drives enzyme reactions in the body which are catalysts for all cell functions. Electrical energy is the life force, with magnesium at the crux of the energy process in all organisms. Magnesium is at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule and essential for photosynthesis in plants (conversion of light energy to stored starches). It is essential to help the haemoglobin carry oxygen in animal blood, so that low magnesium can also present as symptoms of anaemia and chronic fatigue.
It takes 28 magnesium molecules to metabolise one sucrose molecule into energy, and 56 magnesium molecules to metabolise one fructose molecule. Consumption of sugars gobbles up a lot of magnesium in metabolism and can quickly lead to magnesium deficiency and dehydration.
As you consume more sugar, which depletes magnesium, the electrical system starts to splutter and falter like an ill-tuned car engine. It also causes involuntary muscle spasms or hypertension as the smooth walls of the vascular system contract and increase pressure.
The body starts to panic because of dehydration and extra adrenaline is released for action. Screaming for water and minerals as a result of the sugar assault and consequent acidification, the body desperately looks to re-establish pH balance. This state causes hyperactivity and over-excitation.
The Best Magnesium Supplement
The best way to help make a horse calmer and to return to equilibrium and relaxed ‘grazing mode’ is to supply adequate hydration and the right nutrition. As magnesium is low in soils it is recommended to add to food and water the most bio-available form of magnesium, which is the salt form called magnesium chloride hexahydrate (magnesium flakes).
Make sure to use ‘food grade’ for oral use, as most magnesium chlorides are industrial grade with contaminants from agricultural or mining runoff, ocean pollutants or population waste sources. The food grade Mg salt flakes are usually from remote alpine regions, naturally dehydrated with the sodium skimmed off, and retaining about two percent other trace minerals. Food grade magnesium flakes should have an independent laboratory’s mineral analysis showing no mercury and no lead detected down to 10ppb. Ask the supplier if not sure.
Magnesium as a Horse Calmer and Muscle Recovery Nutrient Offers Better Performance
Not only is it more common for performance horses to suffer from stress and therefore lose excessive amounts of magnesium due to training and travelling, but the difference in improvement to performance with magnesium chloride supplementation is quite remarkable. Even race horses have demonstrated rapid improvement in muscle recovery during agistment between races. Magnesium helps collagen and elastin production. It helps to repair tissue and promotes flexibility and muscle strength. Dressage riders have also noted calmer and more controllable and focused horses when their magnesium needs are fully met.
If the horse has acidosis and/or stomach ulcers these issues will need to be met via dietary changes with possibly some toxin binders and bicarbonate of soda treatment before oral magnesium chloride supplementation. While waiting for the gut to heal you can use magnesium chloride soaked in a bandage or towel and applied over the rump and muscle area to absorb and induce muscle relaxation. Horses can also absorb magnesium ions via skin like humans, which greatly soothes muscle tension. Horse Calmer
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By Sandy Sanderson ©2016-2018 horse calmers