That’s something I see in almost every single advert for horses for sale.
And it’s great, as far as it goes.
But what about when the professional, whoever it may be, is gone and now you’re left to perform whatever ongoing procedure or treatment is required?
This was brought home to me recently by a coincidental pair of events at the stables where I board. My horse got an abscess on his off front foot. And another horse threw a shoe and managed to puncture her sole in the process. Both require soaking twice a day as part of their treatment.
Everyone knows that it is a good idea to train your horse to pick up his feet – seems like a no-brainer.
But how many have thought ahead to the possibility of having to have your horse put his foot down in a specific place? Or even in a bucket or tub of something to soak? I was lucky enough to have a horse who tolerates this pretty well without any previous experience that I know of. However, the other horse was a very different story, refusing to put her foot down, jumping around, and finally rearing and striking out – she was one unhappy customer.
Luckily, a very clever person at the barn (not me, I was already thinking “tranq her”) figured out a solution. He cut a piece of heavy plastic and after thoroughly washing down the wash stall floor, blocked the drain with it. We led the horse in, and started hosing her legs as if it was a normal after-ride hose-down. As the water rose I walked around her very casually and put the Epsom salts into the water; once the water was high enough to be a good soaking depth, we turned off the hose and just had her stand there for her fifteen minute soak (patting, stroking, and “good girl-ing” all the while).
But what if the wash stall had not had sufficient slope to make it practical to do what we did? What if there had been no plastic to hand. Even more important, what if that very clever man had not been there to think out of the box enough to come up with an alternative? How would we have solved the problem of her fear of the soaking tub?
And there are other procedures that seem to us humans to be ordinary and not worrisome, but to a horse can be terrifying, for no reason we can understand.
Hoses- I know many horses like a bath; I’m willing to bet that the ones who do were introduced gradually to the hose as part of their stable-manners training. But for those horses who have not had the benefit of this kind of introduction, it becomes an ordeal with the dreaded horse-eating hose. We were so very lucky that mare with the puncture was not one of those!
Clippers – how many people have acclimatized their horse to the clippers? Even if you never plan to clip your horse for the winter, or for showing, sometimes an area needs to be clipped for veterinary purposes and it is not always necessary to tranquilize the horse to carry out whatever procedure he needs to be clipped for. Clipping around a small wound or skin condition to allow direct applicatoin of ointment or other medication – really, would you want to have to tranq him for what should be at most a 5-minute clip job?
Anyone have a horse that shies away from the fly-spray bottle? Oh, I see some hands going up. What a pain, no? And in the area where I keep my horse, fly-spray is a given; the bugs fly around in squadrons and will torment any poor animal who has not been protected. The way I got my horse to accept it was this:
t took the fly spray bottle in my grooming kit with me for an ordinary grooming session(this was in March, before the bugs got bad – remember – think ahead!) and when I was finished grooming him, I picked up the spray bottle and didn’t spray anything. I just moved it around his body the way I would if I were actually spraying him. He got a bit anxious but I spoke reassuringly to him and he settled down. I repeated this for the next 3 or 4 grooming sessions. Then I ramped it up a bit. As I moved the bottle around his body I started making spraying noises with my mouth – “wisht wisht wisht“. After another 3 or 4 sessions, I kept making the noises but actually sprayed his legs a couple of times. I eventually worked my way up his body, and soon I was also able to stop “widht-ing” at him. Now I can approach him in the paddock and he will stand while I spray him.
And trailer loading can take a whole article of its own – suffice it to say that it helps a lot to load every once in a while when you’re not going anywhere special.
Try to think ahead to situations that may occur, and train your horse gradually to accept them before it becomes a necessity. Do it gradually, over time, and don’t over-stress them – it doesn’t have to happen in a day. But if you do this, when the day comes that you have a situation on your hands that needs immediate cooperation from the horse, you won’t have to struggle and stress him even further.