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

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    Tools of the horse care trade: (top to bottom) a balling gun, a horse pill or bolus, another balling gun, and a dose syringe.
    PHOTO: RANDY KIDD
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    Don't stand "back" from a horse and excite it by jerking on its lead rope.
    RANDY KIDD
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    Get in close to the animal and reassure it with a confident voice and firm hand.
    RANDY KIDD
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    Train your horse to raise a foot when you press on that leg's tendon.
    RANDY KIDD
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    You can hold a horse's front foot in your hand.
    RANDY KIDD
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    A jerk on the rope will get the critter's attention.
    RANDY KIDD
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    A twitch's loop is slipped over a handful of upper lip.
    RANDY KIDD
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    It's easier to cradle a rear foot between your knees.
    RANDY KIDD
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    If you need more control, thread a lead rope through the ring on the left side of a horse's halter and pass the loop in the line under the animal's upper lip.
    RANDY KIDD
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    The "skin curl."
    RANDY KIDD
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    Stand to one side and hold the twitch firmly. If necessary, two people can grasp the horse's ears, hold its head down, and cross their legs in front of it to keep it from striking forward.
    RANDY KIDD
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    The "same-side leg lift."
    RANDY KIDD
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    Mouth restraint: hold the head down with one hand and insert the thumb of the same hand into the gap between the horse's teeth.
    RANDY KIDD
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    A balling gun or dose syringe can be used while you mouth-restrain a horse.
    RANDY KIDD
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    Hold the tongue outside the mouth.
    RANDY KIDD
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    Gently pull the tongue out through the gap
    RANDY KIDD
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    The applicator needs to go this far back into the animal's mouth.
    RANDY KIDD
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    Outline of the area into which neck I.M. injections are given. 
    RANDY KIDD
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    Sub-Q injection site.
    RANDY KIDD
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    Hold the tongue out and insert the applicator into the toothless gap, then push the instrument over the tongue.
    RANDY KIDD
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    The thigh injection.
    RANDY KIDD
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    A neck I.M. injection.
    RANDY KIDD

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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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