How Do I Get My Horse to Behave for the Veterinarian?

How Do I Get My Horse to Behave for the Veterinarian?

The most important thing you can teach your mare is to stand still and allow people (such as the farrier or veterinarian) to handle her and work on any part of her body and for any amount of time.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Q. I bought a 7-year-old Arabian mare that was supposed to be good for the veterinarian, farrier, etc. Not! She is very difficult to give shots to. Do you have any tips on how to get her to accept shots better?

Rachel Toombs, via email


A. Your question raises a couple of other questions in my mind, and I wish I had a little more information! Other than for shots, does she have good ground manners? Does she behave when being led? Standing in the cross-ties? At meal time?

For the sake of argument, I am going to assume that your mare needs some remedial work on manners. This might be the time to enlist help from a trainer as “unlearning” bad habits is always more challenging than learning the right ones from the beginning. There are also resources available such as books and articles written by horsemen and women who have had great success working with horses.

The most important thing you can teach your mare is to stand still and allow people (such as the farrier or veterinarian) to handle her and work on any part of her body and for any amount of time. Start by tying her in her stall or in cross-ties and spending time picking up her feet and holding them or going over her body with grooming equipment. Gradually increase the amount of time you ask her to stand quietly and reward her with treats or affirmation when she does what you’ve asked. If she’s very restless, even the shortest amount of time should be rewarded until she understands that what you’re asking (just for her to stand still) is very simple! You can also put food in front of her to distract her during this process.

It is possible your new mare had a bad experience in the past and is genuinely afraid of the veterinarian and/or farrier. I would suggest you talk with both of these professionals well ahead of her scheduled appointments and let them know of your mare’s situation. They will want to be sure to allow enough time to handle her patiently and quietly.

If you are not able to gradually condition her to being handled by these professionals, a last option, in extreme cases, is to tranquilize her while they provide services. It is important to keep everyone safe, but I would only recommend that as a last resort. Good luck and, with some patience and practice, I bet you might see a difference!

About the Author

Megan Green, DVM

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