Prepare for Battle: Medicating Horses

It’s in everyone’s best interest if you can medicate a horse without getting into a fight. Here are some tips and tricks to make medicating easier.

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Prepare for Battle: Medicating Horses
By far the easiest way to medicate a horse is to mix crushed pills or powdered medication in his food and let him ingest it that way. | Photo: The Horse Staff

Yes, it’s a very tired joke. “Question: Where does a 1,000-pound gorilla sit? Answer: Wherever he wants.” But that’s the way it can be when trying to medicate an uncooperative horse. When the horse knows what’s coming, he pulls back, clamps his mouth shut, raises his head, and dances around the stall. He sniffs suspiciously at food that hides an offending pill or delicately picks around it. Should you actually succeed in getting medication into his mouth, you can trust that it will be spat out on the ground within moments. And don’t even think about applying a topical medication anywhere close to a wound unless you’re wearing protective armor. What’s even more frustrating is when your fellow boarder shows up to pill her horse, and that horse takes it quickly and easily. Nothing to it, thank you.

Why is it easier to medicate some horses than others? Are some horses just easier to work with than others, or is the problem with what the handler is doing? The answer is that it could be either, or both. For sure, there are less and more successful maneuvers for medicating horses, whether said horse has already learned to gear up for battle or to surrender easily. Here are some approaches you can use that promise more success.

Open Wide

There are two basic ways of getting oral medications into a horse: (Hopefully) letting the horse consume medications in his feed, or by administering the required medications directly into his mouth

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Written by:

Marcia King is an award-winning freelance writer based in Ohio who specializes in equine, canine, and feline veterinary topics. She’s schooled in hunt seat, dressage, and Western pleasure.

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