How To Prepare for Shots?
Over time on the forum I've read threads pertaining to ensuring your horse is well mannered for both the vet and the farrier. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I've not properly ever worked with my mare Dai to be calm when she's getting her yearly shots.
She's a good, sweet girl but is incredibly shy and somewhat fearful. Whenever the vet comes for vaccinations, she just sidesteps and circles round and round me whilst he follows her. Eventually he can get the needle in and is so very patient and calm with her. She actually quite 'likes' him in that she'll put her head right on his chest for a good scratch...but she really doesn't like the needles.
Does anyone have any suggestions for me to work on over the next months before its time for spring vaccinations and floating? I know I should've done this ages ago...and feel fortunate that my vet is as gentle as he is with her. But I really need to 'fix' this as it is my responsibility.
Thanks in advance HF'ers!
I'm going to list a few things that would help.
Teach her to ground tie (or refresh it)
Get her desensitized to having gloves on her
Refresh her ground manners
Sack her out to things, including poking her, rubbing sponges on her, any kind of noise associated with vet or farrier (might be gloves snapping, things being shook, sponges being rubbed on her)
I guarantee, if you have solid training and work on a few or, better, all of them then she'll be fine.
I've heard that desensitizing a needle fearful horse to being poked with a pointy toothpick can help... As well as training them to put their head down (and thereby relaxing the neck muscles, apparently that makes the needle going in less painful?) when they feel the toothpick prick.
If you were going to try the toothpick route, I might start carrying a toothpick or two in your coat/jacket pocket and just poking her a few times every time you see/work with her. That way it'll become routine and she'll hopefully think less of it when the vet comes. Maybe even have the vet poke her with a toothpick first, then the actual needle, then another toothpick prick...
However, I've never had to do either because Lacey is a complete dead-head about the vet so I'm not sure if those things would actually work...
On a pretty completely unrelated note that might be related, I successfully trained my cat to love having his nails clipped (he used to growl, bite, etc about getting his nails done) by feeding him a delicious treat (a small piece of lunch meat) after I clipped each nail. Maybe it would work to (using the toothpick again) poke her with the toothpick, feed her a bit of carrot, poke, carrot, poke, carrot, etc...
I think maybe you need to teach your horse to stand. The problem might not be so much the needle as a strange person approaching it. We farriers often have the same problem. In my opinion the second thing horses should be taught is to ground tie. it's like teaching a dog to sit and stay. Place the horse in a spot and jigle the lead rope and say "stand" in a firm voice. Back off ten feet or so and allow the lead rope to lay on the ground while hanging on to the end. When your horse moves back her a step or two bring her back to the same exact spot and tell her to stand. The next time she moves be a little stronger with the lead rope giving it a couple of distinct taps. In fifteen minutes most horses get the idea. Then you move to their side and repeat the whole thing. Move to the other side and then in back. Hide behind the tail. If your horse pivots to keep their eyes on you its alright but they should not be alowed to move away. By this time you should be able to drop the rope on the ground and move twenty feet or so from the horse without her moving. Walk around her. Jump up and down. Try to entice her to move. After two or three lessons she should stand in one spot relaxed without moving for ten minutes or more. She won't move when you tack up or mount. Your farrier and vet will love her. It's a rare horse that is needle sensitive. I have seen them though and they are a real pain. You might have a friend approach her while ground tied with you keeping control of the end of the rope to desensitize her if that is a problem.
Thanks everyone! I so appreciate the advice!
I think the main point about all of this is that I need someone else to approach her. She is fine with me...will ground tie. Stand stock still when I'm working around her and is pretty darn good with her ground manners. When it is me.
She's even quite good with the farrier because I think she sees him way more often than the vet. So I think I need to desensitize her with strangers rather than work on this solely by myself.
Although...I do like the idea of the toothpick. But again, I'm thinking if it's me working on her with that...she's used to me and seeks me out as her herd leader because she is so shy. She hides behind me when my gelding turns an ear back at her when I'm there. It's like...Mom! Save me! Kinda of funny really. So I think me + toothpick would take about 10 minutes for her to accept. And not really representative of how it would be when the vet is involved.
So I think the key is...having a 'stranger' approach her with the scary pointy thing!
Now...I just have to find volunteers for this! I've got my DH and a neighbour who can help me.
My vet totally gets it though and I cannot stress enough how wonderful he is with her. So very calm with such a soothing voice. It really is just a 5 minute 'battle' to get her to stand...but is also not right. I need to fix this and I think with all of your responses I have a good starting point. Work with a stranger!
JandD, Walka is very needle phobic, probably from his operation as a foal and all the ensuing visits. I tried everything, including conditioning him with a toothpick, and he is very good......with me.
I think you hit the nail on the head that it is the "someone else" issue. While Walka is still very nervous about his vet visits, he stands like a brave gelding though his heart races. I've succumbed to giving him treats while being examined, and then blocking his eye during the actual injections. Works like a charm and each year it just gets easier.
I think having others handle him and touch him is a great idea. Walka is also my guy, and will let me do anything I want (too bad I'm so nervous about giving him injections, eh?), so I'm having others handle and touch him all over. It's getting better.
Thanks Walkamile. I think you are spot on! And I really should've realized this ages ago.
Dai is so very shy around folks she doesn't know. She doesn't run but definitely hangs back just out of reach when people she doesn't know are around. She doesn't run away, but is on the edge...like...I want you to notice me but am scared!
And as they are backyard ponies....they don't have a huge interaction with others. I'm out there all the time so both are quite used to me being the boss. But when on the occasion that others come round...Jake asserts himself to be the boss under me...and Dai is just...wait? what? who's that?
So I just have to figure out how to get her used to strangers (to her) and feeling confident that they are ok and not out to hurt her.
She's so really sweet...and you can just see her thinking...I want these people to pet me and pay attention to me...but I'm just not sure. I just need to exposure her to more strangers. She does love attention...in her shy way.
This really has been quite an eye opener to me! Gosh I really appreciate it!
Bring a toothpick and poke your horse several times in neck area where the shot goes every time you socialize with her for several days in row before vet comes. That's what I do. I also give a piece of carrot after the each "poke". She learns that 1) it's not all that scary and painful and 2) something good is coming right after. :-)
Yep the more people handling your horse, the better. Just be careful!
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