Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD) are big problems in people but what about horses? What causes these conditions and how can they be handled? Do horses need stimulant drugs to function normally like some people do? These are all questions that have probably run through your mind if you have a horse who just can’t seem to stay focused.
Dr. John Taylor has done extensive work with ADHD and ADD children and adults and his findings are interesting. He has found a huge connection between gut health and ADHD and ADD. He believes that probiotics such as acidophilus and bifidus are critical to help people with focusing disorders assimilate all the nutrients needed for proper brain function. The correct balance of vitamins, minerals and animo acids will allow the brain to function much more effectively.
That being said, the brains of people with clinical ADHD and ADD are not normal. The brains of affected people only function at 90% the level of normal individuals. Correctly chosen drugs can help the brains of these people function at a full 100% but there is a caveat. According to Dr. Taylor, if you force the affected brain into full functioning without providing the needed nutrition you will cause the death of brain cells and over time the drugs will no longer be affective.
In addition to probiotics, Dr. Taylor is very high on blue green algae as an ideal source of nutrition for the brain of healthy and attention disorder individuals. Let’s look at some sample diets to support the horse with an attention disorder from the Five Element perspective.
Fire Horse Temperament – the Fire horse is more likely to suffer the equivalent of ADHD. These horses are anxious and jumpy. They are constantly looking for a tiger to leap out from behind every bush. They don’t always go into a full shy but they are jerky to ride as every other step can be a mini shy as they react to sights, sounds or movement around them. The small intestine is the digestive organ that can be weakest in the Fire horse and I find they respond well to prebiotics such as Ration Plus, Probi or KLPP. The form of blue green algae that has the cell wall removed and tends to be less stimulating while still providing a wide range of nutrients to the brain. Many Fire horses also do well with chlorella algae.
Earth Horse Temperament- the Earth horse is more ADD without the hyperactivity. These horses can appear lethargic and uninterested in learning but when offered an activity they enjoy they can fully engage. Earth horses love to eat and socialize so they are happy to meander down the trail and enjoy the scenery but if ADD is a problem they will have trouble focusing to learn a pattern or particular task. The stomach is the digestive organ that can be weak in the Earth horse. Probiotics, such as acidophilus, can be helpful as well as digestive enzymes. The Alpha form of blue green algae may be needed in larger than normal amounts to stimulate the brain of the ADD Earth horse.
Metal Horse Temperament – The Metal horse tends to be more ADD with normal energy. This horse comes across as a slow learner but in reality is just a slow processor of information. He can learn when the information is presented in an organized way and broken down into small amounts of information at a time. Once the Metal horse has focused adequately to learn a simple task he can then add a new task and retain the previous lesson. The Metal horse may be slower to learn but his memory is the best of all the horse temperament types. The large intestine is the challenging digestive organ for the Metal horse. The probiotic, bifidus, is the best for him along with digestive enzymes plus pungent digestive aids such as ginger. The form of algae with the cell wall removed is the best choice for nutrients. Kelp is another good source of brain nutrition for the Metal horse.
Water Horse Temperament – the Water horse is definitely ADHD. While the Fire horse can be anxious the Water ADHD horse can be downright terrified of his environment. While the Fire horse looks for the tiger, the Water horse is pretty sure the tiger is already chasing him. This horse can be dangerous to ride as he can shy hard and bolt at any moment. Nutrient assimilation is less of a problem with the Water horse and focus should be on brain nutrition. Di magnesium malate and herbal products designed to help with relaxation can be very useful. Some herbal products will specifically address the fight or flight reflex and help balance it. The form of blue green algae with cell wall removed will help with focus. Chlorella and kelp can also be good. These horses can be difficult to keep weight on and the temptation is to feed more grain. Alfalfa hay or beet pulp are much better choices for adding weight without increasing the energy level of the horse.
Wood Horse Temperament – the Wood horse can be ADD or ADHD. The ADD Wood horse becomes bored easily and requires constant introduction of new activities to stay engaged. The ADHD Wood horse is the supreme overachiever. This horse anticipates your cues and gets frustrated that you don’t keep up with his agenda. He wants to jump higher or run faster with little concern about proper form or control. With the Wood horse the liver is often the organ of concern. While not exactly an organ of digestion the liver is important for energy metabolism and blood sugar balance. Milk thistle, dandelion and high chlorophyll foods such as blue green algae help the liver to function well. Probiotics also support good liver function. Avoiding toxins, such as fly sprays, chemical dewormers, vaccines, and drugs will keep the liver from becoming overly stressed. Regular exercise is also very important for the Wood horse. He needs lots of play time if you want him to be able to focus for training sessions.
So, I believe ADD and ADHD are problems for horses as well as people. Drugs may not be the answer for horses but digestive support and brain nutrition can go a long way to helping these horses function normally. Successful management of ADD and ADHD is not a one size fits all approach but an individualized program to fit each horse based on his temperament.
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