Even though we are currently in a deep freeze and January hasn’t even reached its mid-mark, spring isn’t that far off and it will be time to have the veterinary out for the annual spring shots and coggins test. It’s not too early to start working with your horse to have him ready for the vet’s visit, making the vet’s job easier and having less stress on your horse – and you!
I visited with my vet, Greg Harms, and asked him what would be a few things that could be done to make his visit go smoothly. The very first thing he mentioned was respect and discipline. The horse must respect his handler and be disciplined in order to have him stand still while being examined. It is so dangerous to have a horse jumping around while a vet is trying to give a shot or do any kind of an exam. It’s also very hard for him to even listen to the heartbeat or respirations if the horse is constantly in motion.
Previously I had talked about training your horse to accept the Strangles vaccine and Dr. Harms said that was a good point. Along that line he also said to teach your horse to have his muzzle and mouth handled, which is handy even just for yourself while administering worming paste.
Another pertinent bit of training is handling your horse's tail, having him let you move it over and lift it up. Dr. Harms said that if you don’t have a thermometer to get your horse used to having one inserted, use your finger. A word of warning about using a thermometer – always have a piece of string tied to the end with a clip to attach it to the tail hairs before inserting it! Dr. Harms said that he has had instances where the thermometer has gotten sucked up into the rectum and then he’s been called to try and retrieve it!
Horses learn very quickly that even the sound of the cap being taken off of the needle just before a shot means something will happen that they might not like. It isn’t hard to teach your horse to accept that needle...along with everything else, it just takes some time. Pinch up a little fold of skin along the neck and hold it for a couple of seconds and then let it go; pretty soon the horse accepts this as no big deal and then shots aren’t that big of a deal anymore either.
Having a horse used to getting his feet picked up and handled not only helps out your veterinarian, it also helps your farrier and both benefit from this bit of training.
And last, but by no means least, Dr. Harms said that being able to trailer your horse easily is very important. There may be instances where your horse would have to be treated at a veterinary clinic or hospital and you must be able to get your horse into a trailer to get him there. When your horse is too sick to be treated at home, or needs surgery, is not the time to try to teach him to get in a trailer.
So, not only does a well-disciplined horse help out your vet, it also makes the experience easier on you and your horse.