With almost 35 years under her belt competing A-circuit hunters, Sarah Berkowitz knows exactly what it takes to bring a horse along. In fact, her situation is extra difficult because she intentionally seeks out young horses (who are always a challenge anyway) and especially difficult or quirky horses. She likes to train these horses to become straightforward and easy enough for an amateur to handle.
This is where Equilibrium has come into play.
When asked how she’s finding Equilibrium, Sarah says, “I love it — it’s great.”
Sarah has been using Equilibrium as an alternative to traditional sedatives like ACE (acepromazine), Dormosedan, or Sedivet. She points out that the major difference between Equilibrium and a true sedative is that it provides horses with a sense of relaxation — in both their bodies and their minds — instead of having a dulling effect. “Personally,” she says, “I don’t like riding and jumping something dull.”
Of course, we can never fully know what’s going on inside a horse’s mind, but we can certainly make an educated guess based on our own experiences. Sarah likens the effect of giving a horse a sedative to the sensation a human has when being sedated before surgery: the person becomes less sharp and a bit dazed. If a horse feels like this, you can imagine it would be hard for him to focus on his training and he would certainly lack the energy to perform his best.
In contrast, when Sarah gives her horses Equilibrium, she finds that they stay just as sharp as they normally are. The difference is they also become more relaxed. Since they’re not sedated, they remain responsive and coordinated during their training. It’s a happy medium between overly energetic and listless.
Equilibrium has particularly helped Sarah with the young horses she has been importing from Europe to compete and show as hunters. When these horses are more relaxed, they accept the training and their new environment more readily. Plus, they retain the information they receive during their training — something they wouldn’t do if they were sedated.
The only limitation Sarah mentions is the fact she can’t show a horse who is taking Equilibrium due to USEF regulations. (The same goes for sedatives.) However, this hasn’t posed any problems for Sarah: she simply takes her horses off Equilibrium for the 14 days leading up to the show. Sarah says she still sees plenty of benefits using Equilibrium this way, “The real progress is made in training, not at the show” and the training her horses receive while they are taking Equilibrium helps them compete with confidence.