The Horse Handling Table Topic discussion at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners Annual Meeting, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas, included how we use the horse’s natural instincts, characteristics, and wants in developing an approach to the horse as it pertains to veterinary medicine. Understanding how the horse sees the world at the moment is the key to how we develop the approach. The spectrum of how the horse sees the world ranges from fear to dominance. The spectrum and other important points along it, looks like this:

Fearful <–> Curious <–> Friendly <–> Respectful <–> Pushy <–> Bold <–> Biting <–> Dominant

The optimum spot is between friendly and respectful. It is the veterinarian’s duty to adjust the horse’s mind to this spot. About 80% of the horses, however, fall into the fearful category. The fearful horse will require a softer and more patient approach. The disrespectful horse will require a firmer approach. Respect is established by getting the horse to yield to and from pressure. Using these principles, the veterinarian can then prepare the horse for the application of any veterinary procedure. In my experience this is the safest and most time-efficient way to handle a horse. When properly applied, the veterinarian’s work is twice as safe and half as difficult.

This Table Topic was moderated by Mark Fitch, DVM, of Quality Equine Veterinary Services Inc., in Boulder, Colo., and David Hayes, DVM, owner of The Pet Hospital in Meridian, Idaho.