Needle shy? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 11 Old 01-26-2009, 12:35 AM Thread Starter
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Needle shy?

Is there such a thing? When we had our mare vaccinated last year the previous owner warned us that she doesn't do vets very well - what an understatement! She was actually alright when he first looked her over but when he left the stall and came back with needles she went absolutely ballistic! She was in a sheer panic and ready to fight for her life. It was crazy - even the vet said he had never seen anything like it (we were told that Lily had a good repor w/him but he didn't remember her). He also made it clear that he'd rather not come back! We had the vet come that they recommended - they said that she was best with him but I think we will find a better one.
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post #2 of 11 Old 01-26-2009, 11:10 AM
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There can be. It's possible that she was stuck with needles more than once by an inexperienced person who couldn't find a vein when they sedated her. That can be very traumatic. Usually they don't forget something like that. My late elderly paint used to grit his teeth and put up a little fuss when the vet would bring the needle near (he was a rescue). If the vet that came out is the one that she had with the previous owner, maybe she just doesn't like him and associates him with pain. I would find a different good vet.

John 14:6 - Jesus said unto him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me."
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post #3 of 11 Old 01-26-2009, 02:53 PM
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I had a mare that if she saw another horse getting a shot first she would start shaking... but if we did her first it wasnt an issue....


It's not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.
- Paul "Bear" Bryant (Former college football coach)
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post #4 of 11 Old 01-27-2009, 01:54 AM
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I have a friend whose mare gets so upset about getting shots that they actually had to give her a sedative if they needed to give her more than one shot. She would rear up and throw herself around and pretty much put anyone who was near her in danger of getting hurt.

She was a little bit of a nut about a lot of things, but the shots really seemed to put her over the edge.
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post #5 of 11 Old 01-27-2009, 11:17 AM
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A very big part of being needle shy/vet shy is lack of desensitization to the movements/experiences that are common in a vet visit and lack of respect and confidence in their handlers. Even horses that are so "needle shy" that they require sedation, twitching and confinement in stocks all at the same time can become safe and easy to vaccinate or draw blood on with a bit of groundwork.
(My mare used to require heavy sedation, stocks and a twitch but now she can be easily vaccinated standing in an open pasture with nothing but a loop of rope around her neck.)

Start by ensure that she respects your space and your leadership. Then add in moves that simulate vaccination/injection/blood draw and only stop the motion when she stands still for at least 10-15 seconds. Gradually get more "aggressive"--faster, more sudden--with the movements as your horse becomes less worried by them and always remember to stop only when your horse is standing still (at first) and work up to not only standing still but looking at you like "yeah, and?".

Cindy D.
Licensed Veterinary Technician
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post #6 of 11 Old 01-27-2009, 12:26 PM
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We had one horse at our barn that was completely insane and was needle shy. You could do anything you wanted to him but he had a bad experience once with a vet, the old owner wanted the horse to be vaccinated for something at a show so they gav ehim the shot while he was in the trailer and he spooked and reared up and it bent the needle back into his neck then they had to painfully remove it. Ever since then he was freaked out about needles but he had very good reason. But typically giving them a sedative would help.

"The horse you get off is not the same as the horse you got on; it is your job as a rider to ensure that as often as possible the change is for the better."
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post #7 of 11 Old 01-27-2009, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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Ryle - our mare was brand new to us when the vet came last year so no, she had no respect or confidence in us at that point. She didn't mind the vet running his hands over her and checking her out but when he left and came back in her stall with the needles she lost it. The vet made me leave the stall because he was afraid I'd get hurt. She was truly ready to attack - serious panic. I really felt for her. We talked a little about sedation but figured that if she was that paniced over a needle there was no sense in giving her more pokes than she needed (she only needed 2). The vet said that he didn't think that oral sedation would be very effective considering how freaked out she was. He ended up getting a little rough with her - and I'm not sure that helped the situation. He basically had her against the wall and grabbed a HANDFUL of her neck and twisted the skin. It must have hurt because she did stand still long enough for him to give her 2 quick pokes. I'm hopeful that our next vet will try to think of a more long term solution.

In the mean time would you recommend working with her with empty (no needle) syringes? She will stand still forever while you are fussing with her and rubbing her, she loves it. She has no issues with me giving her gentle squeezed on her neck either.

Foxy - I wouldn't be surprised if Lily had some type of horrible experience like that. I just wish I really knew!
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post #8 of 11 Old 01-28-2009, 12:40 PM
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newhorsemom, I have a horse, Walka, that to say he is needle shy is a HUGE understatement. I could wonder and suppose why but the reality is he does. What we've done, and by we I mean my vet and myself as it's a team effort, is this... first, I have mimiced all the actions that the vet does. Pinch the v area on the neck used a syringe and poked though not real hard ect... weeks ahead in preparation. No problems.

Now it's vet day. I have a very understanding and calm vet and he over time, and it has taken just that, worked with Walka and his fears by talking matter of factly and business as usual and will circle him and give him his shots. At first it was really scary, but Walka was trying to get away, not hurt anyone. Now, this last season, my big brave boy (yes I'm being sarcastic) stood still, ram rod still, and took it like a "man". And my vet had to come back for boosters that season too.

It has taken a few years to get here but it looks hopeful. If your vet has any savy, he or she will see that it is a fear issue not an attitude issue. The vet's demeanor will either excellerate or calm the situation.

I cannot hold the lead rope for my vet with Walka, because Walka feeds off my anxiety. That is how sensitive some of these horses are.

Good luck, hope you find a horse savy vet and don't get discouraged.
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post #9 of 11 Old 01-29-2009, 12:06 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, I think that we need to find a vet that will help us work through this. I completely agree that it is a fear issue. Lily has never shown a mean bone in her body but she was so panicked that she would have done anything to get away from the needle. I think I will try to communicate with the new vet a month or two prior to "booster day" and see what they say.

Where exactly on the neck is the "V"? Where would I get empty syringes? I guess I'll just try to slowly get her alright with them. She knows us now so hopefully that will help. Before she was new to us and living in a new environment so it may have been extra traumatic for her.

Thanks for the input!
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post #10 of 11 Old 01-29-2009, 12:18 PM
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My mare is very "vet" shy. And of course "vet needles shy" too. I tried to pock her really strong with the toothpicks everywhere on neck, twist skin, name it for 2 weeks before the vet visit. She lets me do it. As long as it's vet - no way (he actually made her work really hard before giving shots). Certainly not an attitude, but the real fear of stranger. However I know those "poking" works for some horses, so you may try it!
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