Inside the Horse’s Mind: “Don’t Squirt That Wormer/Medication into My Mouth!”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever come home from the barn with wormer, antibiotics, or some other equine medication in your eyebrows/hair/bra/brand new breeches. [Every horse person raises hand.]

Consider the horse’s perspective. Every time you approach him with an oral dosing syringe, he knows you’re going to cram it into his mouth and it’s going to taste bad. A lot of us unintentionally carry it like we’re carrying a loaded gun, anticipating the horse’s head tossing and backpedaling.

Being on the shorter, less powerful, and usually losing side of administering oral medications to a 1200-lb animal is common but unnecessary because there is a way to train your horse to calmly accept them. It’s all about conditioning the horse to it and making it a nice treat and a casual experience.

All you’ll need it applesauce.

This is a trick that a barn owner taught me when she was teaching a young horse how to accept oral medication in a syringe. Spend a few minutes each day for a week or two practicing. Calmly, slowly slide a syringe full of applesauce in your horse’s mouth in the same area the bit would go, being careful not to hit any teeth or gums. Once it’s inserted, wait until they relax and stop fighting. Then they receive the reward of it tasting delicious and they’ll begin to look forward to the treat.

Of course, when you administer real medication, it’s not going to taste good and they might learn to resist again. That’s why it’s important to do the syringe full of applesauce trick every once in a while to keep them relaxed and happy about it.

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