In which the vet comes for Spring Shots and there aren't any pictures, sorry

My camera got left in the house this morning, because I was more interested in getting the MUD off of the mares before Dr. Miller arrived to administer the annual vaccinations. 

(I'd love to bathe the horses prior to injections, just to minimize the amount of junk that gets pushed under the skin at the injection site, but that is So. Not. Happening. in the Swampland in early March, sigh).

(However, did you notice that we have MUD again?  The sn*w is finally melting!!!!)

I've seen plenty of horses at endurance rides who are not tolerent of a basic vet exam, let alone needles.  Not just green endurance horses, either--I've seen plenty of experienced horses with experienced riders who, for whatever reason, see no problem with their 1200-pound monster leaping all over the pulsers and the vets.  Whassup wit dat? 

Let me tell ya:  if your horse won't stand reasonably still for a pulse, I won't pulse it.  I'm not getting paid to pulse horses, and I'm not insured to pulse horses, so if somebody brings me a knucklehead for a pulse at a ride and it wants to play freight train, I step politely aside and ask the owner to come back again when the horse can stand.  I've seen vets pull unruly horses from competition because they couldn't be examined safely...but not nearly often enough, IMHO!

Having said that, it's been a priority to train my own horses to accept vet intrusions, especially Fiddle with her bad attitude and "body space issues".   Let's face it:  I'd rather practice this stuff at home, in daylight, under the roof, during a scheduled exam, than try to teach a horse to behave when she's bleeding  in a field someplace.

Here's how we do it at Haiku Farm:

*  Horse is cross-tied or on a leadrope.
*  Vet approaches, greets the horse with a stroke and some words, takes a pulse and a temp.  When the thermometer goes in the back end of the horse, a cookie gets stuffed in the front end.
****(Horse: "Hey, um??  Cookie?" )****
*   Vet gives injection #1.  At the same time, I stuff a cookie in the horse's mouth.
****(Horse: "Huh.  Cookie!" )
*   Vet gives injection #2.  I stuff in another cookie.
****( Horse:  "Cookie!  Cookie!" )
repeat until injections are finished. 
Then, the horse gets an extra cookie, just because.

The intran-nasal is a little trickier, because having a long skinny straw stuck up a nostril is something that no horse can really ignore. 

We start with me, rubbing the nostril with a thumb.  Then the inside of the nostril.  Then (icky, I know--you can wear rubber gloves if you want) further into the nostril.   Then it's the vet's turn:  outside, then edge, then in with a finger.  There are cookies throughout this exercise, but only when the horse is standing quietly, allowing the intrusion.  By the time the long skinny straw gets shoved up the nose, the horse will just stand, waiting for a cookie.

How long did all that training take?  Well, about 4 years, total.  We practice for at least 5 minutes, once or twice per year, preferably the night before the vet comes out.  Or....not.  Because sometimes I forget.  So, real time:  about 30 minutes, for two horses, over the space of four years.

The horses NEVER forget:

Dr Miller = cookies.


What kind of stuff do you do to make your vets visit easier, Dear Readers?


  1. well, speaking for Georgia DOG - her vet thinks she has An Excellent Temperament! A big visit yesterday for an ongoing poor tummy ended up with some epxressing of anal glands. Yum. She was remarkably accepting and angelic. Not so when she went out of the room and met a barking german shepherd at the door of the clinic. Nothing can prepare her [or me] for stuff like that! :p

    Clearly our visits are not as exciting as with horses.

  2. HMPH. You beat me to the spring shots vet post. My vax vet is coming tomorrow (today!) morning. I am true to my style, so I alternate threatening to send my nag to the glue factory if she doesn't STAND STILL NOW! with copious applications of cookies. I am lucky that Dixie is a hardy soul who is not intimidated by my constant threats.

  3. No one should ever underestimate the power of a few cookies.

    And that reminds me: March dewormers are due.

  4. This one is a SERIOUS problem with Phebes. Here's the score...I can train, I can vaccinate her, I can stick my fingers up her nose, do all the things a vet might do without sedation, I can ram my fingers in her mouth, hang on her tongue, etc. But let the vet drive up? As soon as she sees the truck her head shoots straight up, and she won't stand still (although she does well an rides for vetting). I've practiced shots by using a needle-less syringe, pinching her here, there, giving treats. When the vet shows she won't touch a treat, period. I don't know how to fix that she knows the difference between a vet and me.

  5. Good advice. Poor Pie, who is very friendly to everyone, including vets, felt seriously betrayed by the intranasal strangles - I need to work with him on that.

  6. When I first got my horse, who is a rescue and had been badly abused by a male trainer, even getting her to hold still for the farrier was a trial. The first vet visit was just a get acquainted visit where he fed many cookies. Next visit was shots and she did great. Third visit was 2nd dose for strangles, not so good. We actually had to take her off the cross ties and back get into her stall to get them done. Well six months later for her next ones, she wouldn't even take cookies from the vet, his female tech or me. I knew I had a problem then. For my horse to pass up food, unheard of! This is a horse that mugs people for cookies, she even listens to my 3 year old niece if there is a cookie in it for her. Wouldn't let the vet NEAR her at all. I ended up having to give the sedation injection myself. So my solution, I had the vet out more often for cookie visits. Luckily he didn't live to far away and really liked my horse. Now she does just fine, as long as there are cookies. LOL.

  7. I'm really glad Will isn't an endurance horse, because I don't think he would pulse down with a vet standing nearby. He just hates vets. Even when he gets cookies. Even when they're not his vet. (Boss in VA could NOT catch him in the field, and he never even treated him.)

    HOWEVER! He DOES stand still for all his procedures. He can sulk and make all the nasty faces he wants, but he knows better than to kick or knock over a human. (He did try to bite a vet once. That went over very badly with Mommy.) I would love it if he relaxed and let the docs do their thing, but I'll settle for making crabby faces while the docs do their thing.

  8. So, here's something else:

    For Fiddle's first two years with me, whenever I saw a vet--at a friend's barn, at my boarding barn when s/he was treating some other non-emergency situation, at the trailhead, or at a ride when we weren't competing, I would request a "fake vet check," complete with cap membrane refill check, jug vein pinch, neck skin pinch, cold stethoscope on the side, poke the butt muscles, pick up the feet, and a trot-out. Sometimes we didn't do the whole thing, sometimes we did. If you have a strange vet handle your horse 6 or 10 times per year, instead once or twice (and there are needles!), it becomes less of an event.

    Vets smell different than non-vets, I'm convinced. It's the rubber gloves in the pocket, the nolvasan on the skin, and maybe even that dreadful thermos of coffee that lives in the truck. (Also, the TRUCK smells different than normal trucks!!!)

    Practicing the procedure is good, but practicing with a bunch of real vets is best. Fee's first "vet visit" with me was to the chiropractor...same vet smell, but a lot more feel good fast sensations on top of it. I'm sure that it helped!

  9. For my horse it wasn't so much the smell because her mom smells that way. I worked at a small animal er as a tech for the first 2 years I owned her, I'd go or to the barn before and after work in my scrubs. The other horses however thought I was EVIL! At least until I started bringing apples. LOL. For her it was any male at all, and unfortunately the only female horse vet where I was at the time was... Lets just say not confidence inspiring.

  10. My mare does excellent with the vet so no problem there. But I do enjoy watching him wrestle with the mini donkey at our barn for his exam and shots! It's like a WWE event with body slams against the walls and choke holds and everything else.
    When my sister gives everyone their de-wormers, he usually always puts up a fight. So she lunges the little brat until he gives in and takes his de-wormer like a champ. He may only be 3 feet tall but he acts like he's king of the herd. But he's so darn cute!!


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