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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May. 11, 2002
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    S Ctrl Kentucky
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    Default Anyone had any Luck Reforming a Needle Phobic Horse?

    Dixie, my lovely North American Spotted Draft mare that I bought last spring is wonderful in every way but one - you guessed it. She's terrified of needles! And because of her size (17h, 1600 lbs) it doesn't do much good arguing with her.

    I had the vet out today to do spring shots. He was great at getting the quick shot in with first, the tranq and then the vaccines, but pulling a Coggins test was a fiasco. We ended up putting her in her stall with her head out and the lead rope wrapped around an 8 by 8 inch beam and praying that she didn't break the halter (she didn't). But he had to stick the needle in first and try like hell to hook it up to the syringe. It took about 20 minutes and thank God he finally got it, but not before she shook two needles out and then developed a hematoma.

    I'm afraid he's not going to want come out for her if she continues to be so difficult. My biggest concern is that if she gets injured, he won't be able to treat her because she won't hold still to be tranq'd.

    He suggested building stocks, but getting my husband to tackle a project like that for something that will only be used maybe twice a year will be, to put it mildly, difficult.

    So has anyone been able to de-sensitize their needle-phobic horse? Are there any other techniques that you've had success with? I'm open to anything. Thank you!
    RIP Full Metal Jacket "Jack" 1998 -2/27/09
    RIP Salisbury Hill "Ted" 1979-4/2/10
    "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of" -Springsteen



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar. 6, 2009
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    8,618

    Default

    I have two that are tough this way ~ I put a set of blinkers on them so they do see what is about to happen. Sounds like your mare might need the stocks or chute to safely enable the vet to do his work. Jingles for you and your mare and your vet ~ so glad everything was accomplished and no one was hurt.
    Zu Zu Bailey " IT"S A WONDERFUL LIFE !"



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 13, 2006
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    Sno County
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    3,778

    Default

    What has worked for my needle phobic horse was using a body rope. You take a long soft rope with a snap- regular lead rope snap- at one end. Loop it around the horse's barrel, feed the free end through the snap, then through the halter ring and tie off to something solid, like a tree. When you approach with the needle and they flip out and pull back, they will only be pulling against themselves and will come forward from the increased pressure around their middle. No worries about pulling neck muscles or tearing down barn walls. The horse learns very quickly that it isn't getting them anywhere and behaves. My horse stands like a stone for needles now.
    Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr. 4, 2007
    Location
    Jasper, GA
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    2,148

    Default

    Your vet doesn't own a twitch??? Honestly, a twitch or a lip chain are what most vets use when faced with this choice. If he doesn't know how or thinks they are cruel, you might want to switch vets!

    Yes, we have a few that we have rehabbed. Just trust and patience and a little training. I do my own vaccines, so I can work a shot in slowly and since they trust me, over time, they realize it isn't that bad.

    Often, the needle "phobic" drafts just haven't been exposed to needles (Amish and some rural folk aren't always real big on vaccines) but even the true needle phobic will settle down with a relationship. The first timers, as adults, are often taken by surprise by complete strangers and just lose their cool.

    Training: Just sneak in a IM shot now (you don't even need to inject anything) and then...followed by lots of treats. First, just have a needle around them while you groom -so they lose their fear. Basically use clicker training techniques or trick training for shots.

    The best place for the draft is the muscles on the lower sides of the rear. You hold their tail to one side, throw their balance slightly off and put the needle in the other cheek from the side the tail is being pulled to (in basically the butt lower cheek/upper back thigh -below the anus by about eight inches). It is super thin skin, so the needle GOES RIGHT in and so, it doesn't hurt them. It is that tough hide that gets in the way and causes pain. They also can't kick you from that angle.

    If I am by myself (especially for Pen), I might go for the side of the croup sometimes on the difficult horse because I can jab and hop out of the way. If they jump, once they stop moving, I can go back in and inject. Supposedly this spot can lead to abcess, but hey with a one ton horse or bigger, sometimes you have to get what you can get. I have yet to have an absess, but it is a risk injecting there. But for the kicker or difficult horse, you can sneak it in there fast with a very quick jab.

    Honestly, a twitch for your vet in the short term (I can't believe he/she didn't use a twitch -that just isn't right with that vet) and do a bit of training. Your horse will come around right quick.

    The vet should have twitched...a draft is too big to mess with if they are going to fight you.

    Furthermore, a set of stocks on the untrained horse (has the vet trained a horse to stocks before? have you?) is downright dangerous. I own stocks, I use them on occassion with my stallion. But work around drafts and you hear of stocks flipping right over if a horse really freaks.
    Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2000
    Location
    MA
    Posts
    12,667

    Default

    Yes.
    Clicker training, in one case, where it was true fear.

    In another case, I ended up tying up a leg after the beast struck at me (and, in this case, it was an opinionated/spoiled vs. frightened mare).
    Got the bloodwork, and then proceeded to dispense treats for the mare every time I was at that barn all summer and she faced me and didn't pin her ears.
    When I returned in the fall, she wasn't thrilled, but she tolerated it.
    Currently, we have an understanding.
    (although the last time I tried to get a temperature on her, she double-barreled the stall wall, and the barn owner thought I was a goner...)

    With the horse you're describing, might want to go with oral dosing of sedatives until you can get her desensitized. That way no one gets hurt, and negative associations aren't reinforced.
    "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

    ...just settin' on the Group W bench.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr. 4, 2007
    Location
    Jasper, GA
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    2,148

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mtn trails View Post
    What has worked for my needle phobic horse was using a body rope. You take a long soft rope with a snap- regular lead rope snap- at one end. Loop it around the horse's barrel, feed the free end through the snap, then through the halter ring and tie off to something solid, like a tree. When you approach with the needle and they flip out and pull back, they will only be pulling against themselves and will come forward from the increased pressure around their middle. No worries about pulling neck muscles or tearing down barn walls. The horse learns very quickly that it isn't getting them anywhere and behaves. My horse stands like a stone for needles now.
    I like this too.
    Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr. 4, 2007
    Location
    Jasper, GA
    Posts
    2,148

    Default

    Reread your post. What the heck...he couldn't afford a vacutainer for blood collection on a difficult horse? But had to fumble around trying to twist the luer lock syringe. nope. nope. nope. not ok.

    honestly...find another vet.
    Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep. 1, 2004
    Location
    north of Atlanta GA
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    3,747

    Default

    I have a needle phobic horse and it sucks. She came out of the womb this way.(She turns 5 this year) It took the vet, myself and one other person to hold her down at 2 days old to get blood drawn and she hasn't changed a bit since. We usually just put a twitch on her and she is fine. I decided to train this out of her and for about 3-4 weeks prior to shots this spring, I would poke her with a toothpick at first and then if she stood still she got a treat. I moved on to poking her with the needle and then to actually sticking the needle into her neck. She was great about this. I then started poking her jugular grove with the needle without sticking it in. (I don't feel comfortable actually trying to hit the vein) She accepted this fine. The vet shows up and I feel great that I finally have a well behaved horse. Well forget that, she immediately turned into the bitch from hell as soon as the vet got near her. So I resorted to the twitch once again and everything went fine.

    At least I know I can get a shot in her if necessary without using a twitch. And I have my trusty twitch for vet visits.

    Honestly, you should just reach for the twitch and get it over with quick and easy.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    May. 11, 2002
    Location
    S Ctrl Kentucky
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    3,375

    Default

    ZuZu - I've never tried blinkers - thanks for the suggestion!

    Mtn Trails - that sounds like it might work, although I don't know if I have a tree in a good spot that would work.

    Ghazzu - I'll ask him for some oral tranq for before he comes out the next time, altho with the amount he put in her, it didn't really put a dent into her being so "reactionary". Thankfully, she wasn't mean, just did NOT want to have a needle put in her.

    bird - the toothpick idea is BRILLIANT! I'll try that and see how she does. She's very treat motivated, so I'll give her a couple of pokes and if she stands still, the treat dispenser will go to work. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

    Cielo Azure - first of all, you know why you should never assume, right? I didn't even mention the twitch because we did try it and it had zero effect on her. And I really don't appreciate you going off on my vet without knowing the situation completely. As far as the vacutainer, as witnessed here, perhaps you can be so utterly rude as to tell your vet how to do their business, but I trust him to be the professional that he always has been and which he was today. And I REALLY don't like people who speak (write) to other people they don't know and are so completely rude. Please don't bother to reply [edit] - I won't read it.
    Last edited by admin; Mar. 17, 2010 at 08:08 PM. Reason: to remove personal attack
    RIP Full Metal Jacket "Jack" 1998 -2/27/09
    RIP Salisbury Hill "Ted" 1979-4/2/10
    "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of" -Springsteen



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr. 4, 2007
    Location
    Jasper, GA
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Fessy's Mom View Post
    ZuZu - I've never tried blinkers - thanks for the suggestion!

    Mtn Trails - that sounds like it might work, although I don't know if I have a tree in a good spot that would work.

    Ghazzu - I'll ask him for some oral tranq for before he comes out the next time, altho with the amount he put in her, it didn't really put a dent into her being so "reactionary". Thankfully, she wasn't mean, just did NOT want to have a needle put in her.

    bird - the toothpick idea is BRILLIANT! I'll try that and see how she does. She's very treat motivated, so I'll give her a couple of pokes and if she stands still, the treat dispenser will go to work. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

    Cielo Azure - first of all, you know why you should never assume, right? I didn't even mention the twitch because we did try it and it had zero effect on her. And I really don't appreciate you going off on my vet without knowing the situation completely. As far as the vacutainer, as witnessed here, perhaps you can be so utterly rude as to tell your vet how to do their business, but I trust him to be the professional that he always has been and which he was today. And I REALLY don't like people who speak (write) to other people they don't know and are so completely rude. Please don't bother to reply [edit] - I won't read it.
    Reported this posting to mods

    (edited: people who can't be bothered to write down the whole story, and then jump all over them for suggesting the obvious...because they didn't write down the whole event -including the obvious. Kind of amazing logic).
    Last edited by admin; Mar. 17, 2010 at 08:09 PM.
    Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug. 26, 1999
    Location
    Concord, California, USA
    Posts
    8,196

    Default

    A very strange history, sorry to be long, but:

    Picked up my 3 year old from breeder (who was a vet tech). She never mentioned any needle phobia on his part. Delivered him to colt starter. When he arrived, she gave him his spring shots, with me simply holding the lead and patting him on the nose. Vet came a week or two later to give him WNV vaccination. No issues.

    Brought him home that fall. Signed him up for fall shot clinic. Wasn't able to be there. Told he reared and struck out and had to be tranq'd (!) The vet was the same one who had given him his WNV injection with no issues.

    Last two years, he's been tranq'd (IM) for shots. Vet gives him a quick IM shot, then moves on to other horses, comes back to my guy when tranq has taken effect.

    SO.....he got hurt last fall. When it reached riding time after injury, very restricted exercise, manic young horse. Had to give him ACE in order to get "30 mins of walk ONLY." Didn't want to jab him every day, so hand walked alternate days. It got to be a real wrestling match. I tried blocking his view, neck twitch of a handful of skin, chain over nose,...he was so difficult. Vet then gave him fluphenazine. Effects lasted only 10 days, then back to manic. When she came for exams, she didn't want him rodeo-ing on the lunge, so tranq'd (IV) for that - another battle. If you twitch him, he reacts even worse....so....strangely, we've found that using even a cotton rope as a lip "chain" immobilizes him sufficiently to give an injection. I don't know whether he has given up or what, but I can now simply place a cotton rope as a lip chain, give a steady pull (no jerks!) if he moves, and inject. He has moved less and less each time, and has been immobile the last three times.

    Fortunately, we are now up to enough work that I haven't had to ACE him - he seems to be settling down, but spring shots are just around the corner.....Anyway - the "lip chain" works for my guy, and he is big and strong and very needlephobic. We give him LOTS of treats when he stands quietly now, even if it's "forced" by the "chain." Hopefully, that's why he's getting better and better about it.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct. 28, 2007
    Location
    NY
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    Default

    That's too bad bird4416. I've watched (Animal Planet ?) videos were they trained dolphins, every day, to jump up onto a slide and present the underside of their tail, and the handlers pinch the skin and hit it with a syringe (without needle) to prepare them for injections and blood taking. I guess they have some other element there (maybe a stranger each time taking the place of the vet). Oh well, looked like it worked there, but maybe it's different circumstances.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr. 10, 2006
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    7,355

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghazzu View Post
    Yes.
    Clicker training, in one case, where it was true fear.
    This.

    Also for horses that are truly needlephobes and scared, you really are best NOT cornering them or making them feel claustrophobic. Coming at them aggressively, in a stall, small space, etc. will only get someone hurt-- most likely YOU.
    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep. 1, 2004
    Location
    north of Atlanta GA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chall View Post
    That's too bad bird4416. I've watched (Animal Planet ?) videos were they trained dolphins, every day, to jump up onto a slide and present the underside of their tail, and the handlers pinch the skin and hit it with a syringe (without needle) to prepare them for injections and blood taking. I guess they have some other element there (maybe a stranger each time taking the place of the vet). Oh well, looked like it worked there, but maybe it's different circumstances.
    I've seriously considered having several horse savy friends come over and work with her some. Next time shots are due, I think I'll recruit some people she isn't familiar with to give her a little needle training about 2 weeks prior and see if that makes a difference.



  15. #15
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    Oct. 28, 2007
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    NY
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    Good idea. If you do that, maybe setup a routine involving giving a treat in a specific way, then the pinch/hit, then another treat in the specific way. Then each "stranger" follows that specific routine. And when your vet (finally) arrives, hand him the treat, tell him how to give it (the routine) and then he does the shot. Then your horse may recognize the "routine" if it's different from how you normally give treats.
    Good luck let us know how it works out.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    May. 4, 2003
    Location
    Canada
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    There is an article entitled "How to rehab horses with injectin shyness" by Sue M. McDonnell Phd. She is at the New Bolton Centre in the Equine Bahavious Lab at U. Penn. Vet. Medical School.

    I don't know how to post it, but when trying to find it again I googled the New Bolton Centre and put in "needle desensitization" and it came up.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul. 14, 2000
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    midwest
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    Quote Originally Posted by bird4416 View Post
    I have a needle phobic horse and it sucks. She came out of the womb this way.(She turns 5 this year) It took the vet, myself and one other person to hold her down at 2 days old to get blood drawn and she hasn't changed a bit since. We usually just put a twitch on her and she is fine. I decided to train this out of her and for about 3-4 weeks prior to shots this spring, I would poke her with a toothpick at first and then if she stood still she got a treat. I moved on to poking her with the needle and then to actually sticking the needle into her neck. She was great about this. I then started poking her jugular grove with the needle without sticking it in. (I don't feel comfortable actually trying to hit the vein) She accepted this fine. The vet shows up and I feel great that I finally have a well behaved horse
    Now this is brilliant and going in my tool box!

    I have only ever covered the eye (or twitched) on the side where the shot needs to be and that has worked "well enough" but they sure weren't desensitized.



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Oct. 23, 2004
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    Sisters, Oregon
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    My horse was quite needle phobic when I got him. He was really afraid and not just being a jerk. My vet is great and sort of made it her cause to gain his trust. When ever she was out she would take treats with her out to the pasture and rub and poke at his neck and give him treats and then walk away. She would even stop in if she was passing by and do that. It has helped tremendously. He now sort of fusses but she talks to him and he settles right down. He was one that even if you put your hand over his eye to shield it from what you were doing he would lose it.

    The really funny thing is that he had an injury and required sedation to deal with. My regular vet was out of town and the one that was coming out "Knew about" my guy. She called my regular vet to ask her how to get around him the most effectively with the least hysterics. My vet told her "Take a big bucket of treats". It was pretty funny, the vet tech was holding this huge bucket of treats and just kept handing them to him and he was a rockstar! I did ask them if they were going to charge me extra for the 20 pounds of treats! (they didn't!)
    Kanoe Godby
    www.dyrkgodby.com
    See, I was raised by wolves and am really behind the 8-ball on diplomatic issue resolution.



  19. #19
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    Jul. 2, 2003
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    Woodland, Ca
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    Another vote for clicker training.



  20. #20
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    Feb. 28, 2006
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    The rocky part of KY
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    I'm planning the treat training method for the old guy, who wasn't at all as bad as some of the stories here! He's still a wiggler though and hard on my vet. I'll be using my DH and DD for the second person and was planning to pinch or use a pin, I have a dosing syringe for the object. I'm glad that the technique has worked in some cases and I wish both of us good luck!
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible



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