Horse Care: Restrain and Medicate Your Horse

For horse owners who are ready to try looking after some of the health needs of their animals themselves, veterinarian Randy Kidd offers several tips on home horse care.

| January/February 1979

Horses can be more frustrating (and dangerous) to restrain and medicate than any of our other domestic critters. These large animals have exceptionally good peripheral vision, and even the gentlest horse — if not properly restrained or trained — may suddenly use this advantage to unleash an arsenal of flailing hooves and crunching teeth upon the unsuspecting handler.

Of course, horses aren't always that ornery. If you employ the basic equine handling techniques that I'll describe in this article — along with a little caution and a lot of plain old "horse sense" — you should be able to restrain and treat your equine friends without causing excessive discomfort to either the animals or yourself.

Hold Your Horse(s)

First of all, if you plan to work with horses you should smell like a horse. A good horseman or -woman maintains constant physical contact with any animal that he or she treats. To do this, keep your shoulder firmly pressed against the beast's shoulder or flank, depending, of course, upon which end of the critter's body is being treated. This contact will reassure a nervous horse and won't allow it to get enough leverage to kick at you.  

Remember, too, that "as goes the horse's head, so goes the horse," and this "head restraint" can't be accomplished without a sturdy halter and lead rope. The flat, woven rope halters seem to be the best choices, especially since the leather and single-strand rope varieties will often break at the least opportune moments (when you have a double handful of angry animal, for instance).

Most horses are accustomed to being led from the left hand side, so hook your lead rope to the left halter ring and grip the rope near the halter with your right hand while holding further down on the lead with your left.

And never, NEVER, let a loop of any rope that's attached to a horse get wrapped around any part of your body. My wife Sue once straddled a fence to hook a lead rope to a horse's halter, with the other end of the lead wrapped around her wrist. The horse suddenly headed for the nearest pasture, taking Sue along with it. That "ride" resulted in some "interesting" sutures (interesting, that is, to the hospital interns) on the portion of my wife's anatomy that cleared the fence last.

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