Are You Afraid of the Vet?

Is your horse afraid of the vet, especially of shots? Horsmanship trainer Jenny Wild gives advice:

When horses turn to flight mode in difficult situations, it can become quite dangerous for those involved. That is why we need to give the horse a different solution rather than flight. And that solution is mainly: relax and use the head. The aim is to make your horse trust what it is afraid of and to show him or her that there’s no need to be afraid of it.

Let him/her sniff                                       

Grab an injection without the needle. Show your horse the shot and let him/her sniff it. The nose is an important sense for your horse and plays a great role when he/she has to face new things.

When your horse dares to sniff on the shot, he/she already went through a big step towards the right direction. Now try to stroke your horse with the injection.

Touch him/her with the injection

If your horse shows signs of insecurity, like for example backing off, let him/her be. Just follow your horse and keep the injection at the point where your horse reacted. Soon your horse will notice that you and the injection won’t go away when he/she flees. Your horse will stand still instead. Right at that moment you pull the injection away and reward your horse that it stood still.

Repeat the principle of approach and withdrawal until you are able to stroke your horse’s whole body with the injection. While doing this, pay attention to your own body. You should not face your horse directly. Your horse is already under pressure and you might frighten him/her even more. Your energy should have a certain influence on your horse’s behavior. Stay cool/relaxed, but don’t move carefully; move naturally. This will give your horse security and you and your horse will feel better.

Simulate the injection process

Take a little fold of skin between your fingers from your horse’s chest to play out the situation of the injection process. Alternatively you can knock rhythmically with your fist on the chest, twist your hand and use the injection to knock. Here you just switch between fist and injection, that you are holding in your hand.

Cooperate with your vet regarding the fear of injections

When the vet arrives, you should ask him/her to take her/his time so that your horse does not feel ambushed. After a friendly greeting, the vet should do exactly what you have practiced with your horse before. Let the horse sniff on the injection and then stroke him/her with it. Try to hold your horse loosely on the rope so it can back off when he/she is afraid. Panic attacks usually happen when the horse’s rope is tight and he/she feels trapped.