Boo! Ready for Your Horse’s Next Vet Appointment?

It’s time for fall vet checkups and just as talk about the doctor or dentist can bring some of us humans anxiety, the idea of having our horses seen by the vet can bring about similar feelings especially if past vet visits have not gone well. In honor of Halloween this Thursday we want to shed some light on preparing for successful visits with our horses and equine professionals.

A big part of being a responsible horse owner is making sure that our horse is prepared to take on the situations that we will be bringing them into. They don’t automatically understand what is going on in our human world and that this stranger who is handling them is a safe person. On the other hand, it’s also not our professional’s job to train our horses and deal with a dangerous horse. Preparing for medical procedures, farrier visits, and general handling should be an integral part of your horses’ training to help keep everyone safe and happy. 

Being There and Preparing for When You Aren’t

Something that surprised me at a recent vet farm call at my barn was how many of the horses’ humans were not there. I was one of a handful of owners who came to the vet appointment that day. For some horses, a routine vet checkup is no big deal, but for those who have an unpleasant history with the vet or are hard to handle it can become a nightmare quickly. 

Being a calming and familiar presence for your horse can be a huge benefit to a visit with a vet, farrier or other equine professional. By being there, you have the opportunity to get first-hand information about your horse and to ask questions. You will also be a witness to anything that may occur during their visit and can help you decide if this is the right person to be working with you and your horse. 

While being there for appointments is the best situation, there may be times when you simply can not make it to an appointment for your horse and your barn owner or a fellow boarder is willing to help out. Even if you plan to always be there for appointments, it’s important to work with your horse so that they are safe to handle in the event something happens to you and you need others to help out. Practicing general handling with different humans while you can be present is a great way to prepare. This can also be of huge benefit if you ever find yourself in an emergency evacuation situation. 

Handling Preparation for Medical Care

Bucket and Rachel at a post-op appointment in 2015.

If your horse can stand for a reasonable amount of time for you and for others then we can start to think about different body parts that may potentially need to be handled. For a farrier appointment this may mean, can your horse pick up their feet easily and hold them for a reasonable amount of time? If they can do that for you with no problem then can they do it for someone else? Does your horse start to lean on the person holding their feet, or snatch them away? If so, you have uncovered something to work on during your training time. Asking your horse to be tolerant of being touched in different places, such as their eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and genitals may all be necessary at some point in their lives. It’s much easier to train for cooperation with handling these areas ahead of time when they aren’t already in pain in that spot. 

Being an Advocate for Your Horse

I have worked with some of the kindest and most patient equine professionals.  Most of the time if you just let them know that your horse is struggling with a certain situation they will be compassionate. You can let them know how you have been working to prepare for the situation and ask for accommodations ahead of time. If you need extra time for your horse to get to know a stranger or need to move slow you can ask to book extra time to allow for going at the horse’s pace. If you have a horse with severe separation anxiety you could bring a buddy out or ask to have the appointment closer to or in their field. Talking about this in advance can help to open communication and make sure everyone is on the same page, it can also help keep everyone safe. Your professional has likely dealt with similar problems at other farms and will likely appreciate your honesty and may have their own suggestions from previous experience.

There may be times when you hear or see something that does not sit right with you. It can be difficult to speak up and be an advocate for your horse when you are not an expert on a subject. However, just as it’s important for us to prepare our horse in a way that keeps the professionals safe, if you see a professional treating horses or humans in an unprofessional or abusive manner it’s important to speak up. You can also end the appointment or discontinue your relationship with that professional if the situation is serious enough.

Collaborating On Your Horses’ Care

Being involved in the care and handling of our horses gives us many benefits. It allows us to create healthier relationships with the professionals that we rely on to help keep our horses healthy. We can also encourage our professionals to communicate with each other and share information to come to more accurate diagnosis or a more effective rehabilitation plan after an injury.

Being hands-on in our horse’s care also helps to strengthen relationships between ourselves and our horses. The more that we educate ourselves and practice different behaviors the more confident we can become in ourselves and our horses which in turn can make our horses more comfortable and confident in themselves and us. 

We hope you all have a spooky and safe Halloween! Have topics in mind related to horses that scare you that you’d like to see us write about or other ideas for preparing for vet appointments? Drop them in the comments below!

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