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Crazy needle-phobic horse...

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  • Crazy needle-phobic horse...

    2nd time the vet was out & 2nd time we failed at getting my 2yr old chestnut TB filly her spring shots & coggins drawn. I never had believed the chestnut TB mare theory, but I'm starting to...

    When I'm by myself, the horse let's me pinch, poke, prod her. She gets a little antsy, but settles. After the first failure, the vet suggested just poking her w/ the needle cap to get her used to it, but I even graudated to using a toothpick b/c I read that advice on here.

    Enter vet. I give her an oral sedative 30min before. No effect. Vet barely gives her 2 half-shots of an IM tranquilizer. No effect. Adrenaline just overpowers it. We worked with her on and off for 1.5 hrs... tried a lip chain... wouldn't let us near her with the twitch... she just gets herself in a tizzy whenever the thought of shots / needles comes around. And she doesn't bolt or just throw her head around. She rears, which is especially scary for a semi-drugged horse.

    My plan is to continue working with her, poke, prod, and recruit friends to poke, prod. The problem is that she now associates the vet with "bad" needles, so I'm not sure how well that will help. What should I do? Try a different vet that she doesn't know? Buy some vaccines at the feed store & try to give them myself (doesn't solve the problem for drawing coggins though...)?

    I'm really just venting... I know we have to just keep de-sensitizing... but any other suggestions would definitely be appreciated. It's just especially frustrating b/c she's so sane & good w/ everything else!

  • #2
    Have you ever twitched her successfully?
    I dislike twitching, but my gelding is a needle-phobe too and what we do is when the vet gets to my place, he gets everything lined up for my boy and then we twitch him before he's completely clued in to what's going on. My vet is pretty quick with the shots/coggins and the twitch is only on for a couple of minutes. Believe it or not, he's still kind of jumpy with the twitch, but at least he doesn't rear! I know you said you tried the twitch but it sounded like you had tried it after he was already worked up. Try it when he's calm and unsuspecting first and see how it goes.


    • #3
      By any chance does she associate the sight of the needle with the poke? If so, have you tried blocking her sight? We have had horses over the years who we have to either blind fold or cover their eye with our hand whenever they were to get a shot or blood drawn. This method typically worked well enough to get the job done.


      • Original Poster

        Oldpony - No, have never twitched her successfully, so that's a good suggestion. I guess I'll be investing in a twitch... and add that to our practice routine...

        SaddleUp - Tried blocking the eye; it was successful for 1 of the half-shots of tranquilizer, but after that, if you went near her eyes, she shot up.

        The real problem (vet agrees) is that this horse is just too clever... Every new trick we had up our sleeves, she mastered before -most of the time- we even got to try it!


        • #5
          I have a six year old mare who is like that. The moment she sees the vets truck she snorts (lol) and the moment she sees the needle she just gets this look. There are two things that I noticed have helped calm her down. First is I don't show her the needle, we turn so our body is facing hers, needle in right hand (so she can't see it.) And then I also have started throwing a chain over her nose. No need to use it. The moment it's on and if she touches it, she's fine. My vet also grabs a fist full of her skin (like a neck twitch) and hits it with her finger. Gets her used to being "poked". The main thing my mare does is shake her head and then the needle goes flying.. gotta move fast with her lol.


          • #6
            1. Give the shots yourself- 1 per week, followed by a ton of praise, food, etc. See if she comes around.

            or 2. Have vet prepare shots ahead of time, and call you from the driveway when he's pulling in. Put twitch on mare before he enters barn. Make sure its on for a good 5 minutes before anything remotely interesting happens. Waiting until the horse is excited or even interested to try tranq or a twitch guarantees failure.

            If all else fails, I know someone who trailers to teh vet and puts their horse in the breeding stocks for shots.

            Also, every time the vet is out for something unrelated- have him give the mare treats and make friends.


            • #7
              IVs are much less painful for the horse, so why do 1/2 IM tranq injections. Just do a single IV.

              Vor vaccines though, do you have dutch doors? I have had a couple of horses that the anticipation drives them batty. With a halter and routine chain on, I just pop a needle into the neck, from the other side of the door, just holding the shank. Then wait until they calm back down, and get them to walk back up to chesting the door. Then attach the syringe, check, and push.

              You can then often not pull the needle all the way back out (not thru the skin), but just part way, redirect, and pop back in slightly different direction. Attach the next vaccine and again, check for blood, then inject.


              • Original Poster

                Crazyhorses - Unfortunately, just a chain over the nose won't cut it. And we did try "sneaking up on her" and blocking with the body... no avail.

                Joiedevie - I think that your #1 option is a good plan & that's what I'd LIKE to do... I know how to give shots & have given vaccines to my other horse regularly, but this is the filly's first set of vaccines EVER, so I'd prefer a vet to be there the first time in case she had a reaction to something. As for #2, I think that'll be a good suggestion. She gave me another oral tranq to give her before she comes next time... we tried to get ahead of it this time too... but it just had no effect on her. Even before the vet got there.

                Fairview - She didn't WANT to give 2 half IM injections... just worked out that way b/c she ended up wearing the other half when she reared up / bolted. We did one in the neck & one in the butt... b/c after the neck one, she wouldn't let the vet near her neck. The idea was just to stick her fast, wait a while, make her droopy, and go from there. I may experiment a bit with sticking her over the stall door. My only fear with that is that she'd rear and hit her head on the top of the door.

                I am definitely appreciative of the suggestions! They'll give me some things to try & add to our practice sessions!


                • #9
                  I have been through the same thing. But my horse is a 16.2H big bruiser Hanoverian. I don't know what happened in his past but he was totally needle phobic when I got him.

                  This is what we did....every time my vet was out she had a pocket (or two) full of treats and she would go out in the pasture and stand there till he approached her. She would give him treats and fawn all over him the first couple of times. Then on subsequent visits she would do the same thing but rub and poke his neck. She worked up to actually giving him a shot out in the pasture. Now he can be in the barn, actually in the cross ties and she can do vaccines and blood draws with little drama. He doesn't think it is the most fun he's had during his day but he tolerates it.
                  I realize that my vet is pretty extra ordinary to invest this much time and effort in to turning him around, but I think she took it as a personal challenge!

                  We have another horse that is kind of a turd about shots. We just put a blinkered bridle on him before we do it. It's over before he knows it and it's not as if you are reaching up to cover his eye...which is a dead giveaway that something bad is going to happen!
                  Kanoe Godby
                  See, I was raised by wolves and am really behind the 8-ball on diplomatic issue resolution.


                  • #10
                    We've had two like that. The vet just has a female vet tech do it...works like a charm. Or my daughter (who is an equine vet tech), as long as she/s home.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Fairview Horse Center View Post
                      IVs are much less painful for the horse......
                      Never heard of that one and it's a good way to kill a horse if it won't stand still for an IV injection.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by lbw25 View Post
                        Fairview - She didn't WANT to give 2 half IM injections... just worked out that way b/c she ended up wearing the other half when she reared up / bolted. We did one in the neck & one in the butt... b/c after the neck one, she wouldn't let the vet near her neck. The idea was just to stick her fast, wait a while, make her droopy, and go from there. I may experiment a bit with sticking her over the stall door. My only fear with that is that she'd rear and hit her head on the top of the door. !
                        I think IM tranq is pertty useless. I once had 7 cc of ace and 3 of rompun into a horse that was still crazy about mane pulling. Just 3 of Rompun IV had their legs buckling, so I could do anything I wanted.

                        PLUS, an IM stick will always get a worse reaction than an IV stick.


                        • #13
                          This was my winter project a couple of years ago. Thanks to someone on COTH I read this article and am very happy (as is my mare) with the outcome.



                          • #14
                            Originally posted by davistina67 View Post
                            Never heard of that one and it's a good way to kill a horse if it won't stand still for an IV injection.
                            I guess her point was that IV is less painful and maybe would not be such an issue. Which is a good point. Presumably the vet giving the shot knows what they are doing and if you are going to tranq then you may as well go a route that will give the best result.


                            • #15
                              Realizing that ANY injection has potential for an infection but I have given IM saline shots for training on a needle phobe that I bought once. Started off with twitch, went to lip chain, poked for a week with needle cap and then with toothpick until she decided she wasn't being killed. Then used needle and inserted it and gave NS "shot"....doesn't burn and little to no risk of reaction and if it goes in a vein it's OK too. In about a month she was fine with shots out in the field with nothing but halter on.

                              I did have one that hated the white jacket/lab coat.....would get really wired up when he saw that coming toward him.....got the vet to take it off and all was well....I spent the next couple weeks wearing a white scrub jacket around him all the time....he finally decided it wasn't a big deal either.
                              Colored Cowhorse Ranch
                              Northern NV


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by coloredcowhorse View Post
                                I did have one that hated the white jacket/lab coat.....would get really wired up when he saw that coming toward him.....got the vet to take it off and all was well....I spent the next couple weeks wearing a white scrub jacket around him all the time....he finally decided it wasn't a big deal either.
                                Vets should wear green. Horses like green.


                                • #17
                                  Thought our little guy was getting needle-phobic after his last reaction to the vet giving him bit of banamine after his feed-room break-in scare. Was all set to re-train, had to give him is EWT-WNV vacc, walked in halter him, popped him with the vaccine... nothing, couldn't care less. Used some ace for some body clipping another day... nothing. Vet shows up this week for rabies and coggins. Pony has a complete meltdown, almost ripped the cross-ties off the wall before the vet even came into the aisle. It wasn't the needles, it was my soft spoken mild mannered vet that set him off. Than it clicked... I'm pretty sure it was because the little booger fought though his gelding and wouldn't go all the way out for it, and remembers the vet from that. Last time that man gave him a shot, he got sleepy... than woke up to blood and parts everywhere, than when he really came to, THE FAMILY JEWELS WERE GONE AND IT'S ALL HIS FAULT!!!! I wedged him into a corner, distracted him with some peppermints while vet did what he had to with a very watchful eye glued on him the whole time. If its just the vet that sets him off, might just have the vet stop by whenever he is at our barn for anything else and bring the little guy some goodies... much easier to fix/deal with than needle-phobia.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by sketcher View Post
                                    Vets should wear green. Horses like green.
                                    Or brown....shows much less dirt!! esp baby poop brown.
                                    Colored Cowhorse Ranch
                                    Northern NV


                                    • #19
                                      Blindfold not just cover her eye. My mare is horrid for shots and each time has gotten worse to this year she was rearing and trowing her legs everywhere running backwards as well as throwing her head at us. Tucked a towel under her halter. My vet had all shots lined up does coggins first as the other shots can be done quicker.


                                      • #20
                                        Dormosedan oral gel! You can use that then an injectable sedative, if needed. My vet just started using it, and loves it for the nutters.
                                        "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer