The use of calmers

With such a huge range of calmers now available, British Eventing’s Young Rider team vet, Mark Lucey MRCVS, shares his thoughts when using them.

  • Buy only from a very reputable, preferably UK-based, manufacturer 
  • Check stated ingredients very carefully against the FEI controlled or banned medication list 
  • Do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended dose 
  • Calmers are no shortcut to good basic training of your horse 
  • It may be dangerous to jump horses after calmer administration – if the intent of a calmer is to take the edge off your horse’s reactions, this could have negative as well as positive consequences 
  • Some calmers and sedatives have a legitimate use in horses for clipping, shoeing, etc, but take very careful note of detection times and work on safe and very conservative withdrawal periods before competition 
  • Remember, as the rider, you are the primary person who will be called to account if your horse returns a positive dope test result. It can be difficult and very expensive to prove accidental feed or supplement contamination 
  • General words of warning: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
  • There are no miracle cures to enable a good dressage test – no bridle, no bit, no saddle, no girth and no supplement is going to suddenly conjure up a 75 per cent test, just a thorough understanding of how to train and ride a horse and the ability to recognise the correct way of going for a horse progressing through the levels. Then loads of patience and hard graft!
For more information about feeding and the use of supplements in competition, check the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Rules (Chapter 10 of the BE Members’ Handbook).