How to gain your horses confidence by understanding his innate behaviour….. Part 3

Preparation for the vet


How to get your horse confident around eye ointment and cream.

Over the previous two Pegasus articles I have shared with you many ideas to help gain your horses confidence.  These ideas are well tried and tested and they all come from understanding the innate behaviour of the horse.

I want to go over these points again to refresh our memories and draw them into this months article on eye ointments and creams.


The Check List 

  • Horses are prey animals and need to move their feet when worried
  • Recognise that if you make a horse stand when he is scared he will probably exhibit one of the following unwanted behaviours:

o Rear ~ prance ~ head shake ~buck~bronc~bolt

o pull ~ brace ~ not pick feet up/open eye/mouth/clamp tail etc)

o bite ~squash ~ kick ~ strike

  • Make sure that you can touch your horse all over
  • Allow a horse to see & smell the object of concern
  • Be aware that they cannot see objects that are put right under their nose
  • Horsemans handshake ~ holding your hand (or object) at least 3ft away
  • Use approach and retreat
  • Keep your body language & your emotions relaxed
  • Be aware of your attitude and keeping your eyes ‘soft’
  • Keep breathing (!)
  • Recognise and reward the smallest try
  • Keep training sessions short and motivating
  • Focus on a positive outcome and not on the primary task
  • Setting yourself up for success – keep sessions short and achievable
  • Putting  preparation work in before the vets visit!

Learning and utilising the above ways of being around a horse will already have you and your horse in a more confident and trusting relationship and has you in a good place for dealing with more difficult injuries in more difficult areas such as eyes and ears and sheaths, underbelly and lower leg/feet.


Preparation for eye ointment & Cream

Debbie bathing eyeHandle your horses body all over until there are no and I mean NO areas that bother him, this is really important because if they bother him without an injury or irritation having taken place then you are guaranteed disaster if he does injury one of these ’no-go’ areas.

If you have purchased a horse who is head shy, whether that be literally his head, or his ears eyes or mouth, then you need to help him through this as soon as possible.

Using approach and retreat as discussed in my first two articles you can slowly desensitise your horse to his whole head being rubbed and handled.

  • Please note that if your horse seems to get worse during the desensitisation work then please seek the advice of a professional.  A good behaviourist will be able to ascertain whether it is behavioural or whether the horse has an injury that is not obvious either in his ear mouth jaw or area around his poll.


Once your horse is relaxed with you doing this you need to stretch this a little further:

Put your fingers in and out of his mouth

Gently rub on and around his gums

Put your finger around the tip of his ear and gently rub into the ear

Put your fingers around the outside of his nostrils and gently move them inside

Gently rub over his eyes in a light sweeping motion towards his nose

Once your horse is accepting this then go a little further, this is a very important time for using approach and retreat methods.  You will soon be able to have your horse enjoying an inner ear scratch! Possibly not a nostril scratch, but most probably an ear scratch!

With the eyes, once you have your horse happily de-sensitised to you rubbing gently over and around his eyes then practise bathing them with a very mild chamomile tea or just warm water to begin with.  Start by bathing around the outside of the eye (you might have to retreat back to the middle of his jaw – observe and listen, he will tell you where!) slowly working towards the eye and away from the eye.    TAKE YOUR TIME and reward by finishing when all is still going really well!

You will soon find you can bathe your horses eye and you will be amazed out how easily this can transfer over to you being able to use an eye ointment because you will have already developed a relationship based on trust and mutual respect.


Creams & Ointments 

By now I am sure you know what I am going to say! yes, you have guessed it!  Go through the check list and make sure that everything is in place and then go through the motions, let them see the cream/ointment, let them smell it and then apply it to an un-injured area first.  Then go to the injured area (e.g. near fore just below knee) and apply a small amount on the shoulder and work your way down to the injury site, gently rubbing around the outside first.


Next month we are going to talk about handling and picking up feet.

Until then, enjoy the weather, enjoy the long evenings and enjoy your horsemanship.


My best wishes



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