It’s easy to quantify a horse’s performance preparedness. Just look at the number of hours spent training, heart rate variability during conditioning, the amount of calories consumed, or electrolytes balanced. What we forget, or don’t give credence to, is the horse’s qualitative attributes during peak performance activities. For example, a horse that demonstrates a strong stable psychological presence will respond significantly better to conditioning, nutrient consumption, and electrolyte balancing than one that’s psychologically stressed and unbalanced. This critical component of peak performance is essential to optimizing results, minimizing potential strain and injury, and increasing longevity.
Your training routine at home may be sufficient to physically and emotionally balance your horse, but what happens when you head to a show? This is when your horse’s psychological soundness becomes paramount.
The Three Doshas Of Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, there are three doshas, or categories if you will. Each represents a different mental and physical characteristic. For instance, the Vata horse externalizes his anxiety – he outwardly expresses his behaviors. It is fairly easy to identify an unstable Vata. The Pitta dosha is your competitive, athletic type. He can physically carry you for miles. It can be very difficult to ascertain the mental soundness of these stoic athletes. Lastly, Kapha horses are the big beautiful athletes who would jump through hoops on three legs if it meant pleasing you. However, their inability to express negative emotions leaves them internalizing fear and anxiety.
There are several very effective ways to balance the equine psyche so the quantity of your efforts is not diminished by the quality of an intangible environment.
• Ashwagandha root is an excellent addition to your horse’s menu! It’s an adaptogenic herb, meaning that if you are catatonic it awakens you, or if you are overly anxious it calms you, essentially providing balance. Ashwagandha’s function is to provide protection to the nervous system. Its vital role as an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety herb has garnered accolades in the medical field. Studies have proven this power herb provides the same effects as prescription anti-depressants such as Ativan.
• Shankhpushpi is another one of my favorite Ayurvedic herbs. It’s a great adjunct to Ashwagandha root; herbs should always be combined with others that work synergistically. This Indian herb is excellent for treating panic attacks, sleep disorders, and varying degrees of nervousness. It is a fantastic calming herb for the traveling horse. Shankhpushpi is given to children to improve their cognitive abilities and concentration; the protein synthesis creates or invokes heightened memory and learning function.
As in any sustainable business you need a competitive edge, and the performance horse’s career is no different. A conditioned, healthy, mentally focused equine partner is a safer, more viable option for competition – one that will bear the fruits of your labor and commitment and prove to be a sound and sustainable athlete.
Theresa Gilligan has been involved in riding and training horses for 25 years, including racing and breeding Thoroughbreds. She also has over 14 years in the financial industry and a bachelor and graduate degree in International Business. She has dedicated the last five years to research in alternative medicinal practices, with a specific focus on Ayurveda. Neachai (Neachai.ca) is the first Equine Ayurvedic-specific alternative practice in North America.