Safe Horse Handling

Colorado State University (CSU) and Parelli Natural Horse-Man-Ship have agreed to jointly create a safe horse-handling program for veterinary students, veterinarians, and horse owners, educating them about how to work around horses on a daily basis for routine veterinary care and in the event of an emergency.

The project is a result of the parties' mutual dedication to educating veterinarians and the general public on safe horse handling.

Planned for availability within a year, the program is anticipated as an interactive CD-ROM including text, pictures, video, and short scenarios illustrating each section of the program's content.

CSU's Jennifer M. MacLeay, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, assistant professor of large animal medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences and developer of the program proposal, said it would be available in several ways: As part of an online interactive continuing education course through CSU's College of Veterinary Medicine; in the CSU four-year veterinary curriculum in the equine behavior course; to educators from any other veterinary school; and to horse owners through CSU Continuing Education.

Vets enrolling in the course could obtain continuing education credits to maintain licensure while horse owners could receive a certificate of completion from both CSU and Parelli Natural Horse-Man-Ship.

After studying the material, course participants would go to a special CSU web site and complete a course evaluation.

According to Sue Shoemark, dean's assistant at the Parelli International Study Centers in Colorado and Florida, the anticipated program brings a new level of consciousness to handling horses.

A sample of the content might include, but is not limited to, the following:

Handling horses:

  • Haltering, leading, and removing them from a stall;

Handling for a basic physical examination

Basics of restraint:

  • Halter and lead
  • Twitches (hand twitches of ear and shoulder, lip twitches)
  • Chemical sedation

Handling for basic procedures:

  • Administering oral medications
  • Taking rectal temperature
  • Obtaining blood via jugular venipuncture
  • Giving intramuscular injections
  • Taking radiographs (X rays)
  • Giving eye medications
  • Holding a horse while the veterinarian passes a nasogastric tube
  • Holding a horse while the veterinarian performs a reproductive or rectal examination
  • Cleaning the prepuce or udder
  • Handling the newborn foal and post-foaling mare
  • Handling stallions
  • Handling horses during induction and recovery from anesthesia in the field

Handling horses in emergency situations:

  • Horses in stocks
  • Removing down horses from trailers
  • Handling neurologic horses
  • Handling colicky horses
  • Loading and unloading horses with limb fractures/ lacerations from trailers

For veterinarians only:

  • Performing basic procedures
  • Passing a nasogastric tube
  • Oral examination
  • Flushing the nasolacrimal duct (tear duct)
  • Abdominal taps
  • Urinary catheterization
  • Cerebrospinal fluid tap
  • Liver biopsy
  • Rectal ultrasound

About the Author

Meg Cicciarella

Meg Cicciarella is a freelance journalist who lives and writes in Homer, on Alaska's banana belt, the Kenai Peninsula. Her articles have appeared in local, regional, and national newspapers and magazines.

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