My nervous mare and vets... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 10:47 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy My nervous mare and vets...

I don't know where to put this thread, but I think it'll be ok here...

Candy is scared of vets. First time I thought it was just a scared young vet and he was making her nervous and that was the reason. So for next time I called another vet. He was very confident and nice. He came to say hi and gave her a treat, but when we opened the door she turned away so she faced us with her rear and gave me a hard time to put her halter on. That is very unlikely for her. He saw she was nervous and he put that thing on her nose (don't know how it's called in english, it gets her attention and she gets calmer), and she was ok that time.

Today another vet came, the only equine vet in slovenia. She turned immediatly, before he even came to stable. Again I had problems to catch her in stall and when he came in she was shaking. He was talking to her and was very fast. He gave vacs to another horse and then went back to her to check her eye. I was barely able to get her and then she tried galloping in stall, she tried to rear and tried to get away. It took us some time to calm her down.

Why is she acting like this and how to calm her?

Oh, and those three visits had half a year between each.


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post #2 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 12:20 PM
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Get a toothpick and ask someone pretend being a vet. So just practice: go in stall with other person, get her, poke her with the toothpick. And just keep doing it for while. That's how I worked with my mare.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass: it's about learning to dance in the rain..."

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."

"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours."
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post #3 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 12:27 PM
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Also it maybe your nerves that she is reacting to now.

The thing on her nose in english is a twitch. My mare has to have one sometimes.
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post #4 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 12:28 PM
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Some horses are just afraid of vets. Period.
I believe it is a smell (medical smell).
I have met more than one horse who becomes a basket case when there is simply a vet on the property.

You can try to desensitize her to the whole procedure process like was mentioned. Hopefully that will work.

Otherwise I suggest making sure she is haltered and ready when the vet gets there so the vet can get in and out without risk to anyone.

I believe the tool you are speaking of is called a twitch.
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post #5 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 01:00 PM
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If she won't stand still for the vet work her.. Take her AWAY from the vet and lunge her having her change directions frequently and take her back to the vet and let her rest. Repeat this a few times (hopefully the vet would have a little time) and she might realize that the vet is better than being worked.

I don't know its just a suggestion.
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post #6 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Buckcherry View Post
If she won't stand still for the vet work her.. Take her AWAY from the vet and lunge her having her change directions frequently and take her back to the vet and let her rest. Repeat this a few times (hopefully the vet would have a little time) and she might realize that the vet is better than being worked.

I don't know its just a suggestion.
Not too many vets have the time or the desire to stand around while someone lunges their horse into submission/exhaustion.
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post #7 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 01:36 PM
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It's not about submission/exhaustion its about gaining respest and trust from the horse.

It's not about making the horse tired as hell so he will stand still it's about making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. Make it hard for him to act silly by working him and bring him back and let him rest.

I'm pretty sure my vet and other vets I have met would take a little time out to help me correct a problem with my horse But maybe vets here are nicer.
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post #8 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 01:51 PM
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If you have to take the horse away and lunge it, and bring it back to the vet, there is too much time between issue (acting bad for the vet) and the lunging for the horse to associate lunging with the vet and having to behave for the vet.

I really think it has nothing to do with my vets being nice or not nice. It has to do with owners being responsible. Vets have a schedule to keep. Taking time to train your horse is not in that schedule. I suppose if you scheduled in advance offering to pay for the extra time then it is fine.
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post #9 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 01:51 PM
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As per ABs post my suspicion would be it's a smell thing.

In 2008 I watched a group doing a study (for Monty Roberts actually). They had a number of objects they would introduce to a round pen and observe the behaviour of a number of different horses. Things they knew like feed buckets, things they probably hadn't seen, like inflatable palm trees! Lol Then things that might have differing associations like vets coats.

Certainly the horses reacted differently to vets and butchers coats that had been used, versus newly bought coats that hadn't and therefore had no associated smell. The new coats got little to no reaction, whereas the worn coats did.

In terms of cure the greatest tool you need to develop is trust in YOU. I am not a great fan of working the horse in circumstance like this. Where there is already genuine fear all it's often does is risk triggering the flight reaction, which won't help.

I'm also not a fan of twitches personally and wouldn't allow one near a horse of mine. However I accept many people choose to use them. My reasons are several but basically they effectively fall under the 'flooding' category a bit like you could use hobbling for a similar result. (the endorphin release via twitches is very limited , if any, in actual fact.) used inappropriately I have seen twitching cause the exact fear you are describing.

Ultimately none of us can know the reason for the fear and what has caused it previously, and as not twitching after the previous event didn't work any better, then the flooding hasn't worked. So ultimately as I said you need to work on her trust in you, along with any desensitisation you can (such as toothpicks etc as mentioned by someone else). Desensitisation exercises are a chance for you to build trust, as is any groundwork you can do.

The only other thing that can work,depending on practicality to you, is to overpower the horses senses temporarily. For example something with a strong scent held close to the nose for a minute or so before the vet arrives can mask the ability to smell the vet for a while if that is the fear trigger.

A final thing that can work is to use clicker training. Though I wouldn't use it for everything, for some things it can be very effective. I have taught horses a relax and zone out cue from a clicker. Horses that have reared even on twitches with two big male handlers during clipping, now stand like puppies.

It's whatever works.

Last edited by Doe; 07-27-2011 at 01:55 PM.
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post #10 of 21 Old 07-27-2011, 01:53 PM
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I have a vet-shy mare as well. The key is to stay calm around her. The vet must be confident and not let her sense that something is amiss. I must maintain the same attitude, very no-nonsense. Don't get angry or upset or scared, just remain calm and do what has to be done. Use common sense.

My dad's gelding is an absolute nutter around the vet. A few times ago, when she had to examine his head, he backed up into a corner and started to strike out and rear--completely unacceptable, but he truly was terrified, so you can't go beating a horse for that. A twitch used to work for him, which is I'm assuming what the vet used on your horse, and if you can get away with that, great! But it no longer works for this gelding.

Instead, we decided that I would pre-medicate him. I don't know if it's available in your country or not, but they now may a Dormosedan oral gel, which will sedate and calm your horse before the vet gets there. You give it just like dewormer. However, I am comfortable giving IM shots, so now I get the drug from the vet beforehand and give it to the gelding half an hour before the appointment. We've only done this once, but it worked like a charm. He's still not fun to give shots to, but he's far better behaved for me than the vet, and while he acted up he was by no means dangerous. Then, drugged, he stood calmly and quietly for his eye exam, with no fuss at all.
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