Train your horse to take oral medications!

 

Ah…trying to squirt some meds into a wiggling, thrashing periscope of a horse can be challenging and dangerous. The best time to train your horse to take oral medications is long before you will ever need it. So now is the time. 

 

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horse pills in a syringe

 

Tips to train your horse for oral meds:

 

  • Work in tiny steps.  You don’t need to build Rome in a day, but you do need to break down this particular skill into pieces, then build those pieces together. 
 
  • Work on what you are training every single day. No exceptions. Even when he’s perfected the skill, keep practicing.  This really applies to anything you are teaching your horse.
 
  • Work the new skill – taking some meds – for a few minutes or less daily.
 
  • End on a good note.  It’s tempting to keep going when things go well, but that can wait another day if your training is going poorly, back up to the beginning and end there on a good note. 
 
  • Only dote with praise when your horse is calm and still. If you praise when he’s tossing around, you message will be confusing and it can be dangerous. 

 

finger in the corner of your horse's mouth

He needs to deal.

 

The “tiny steps” when teaching your horse to take oral meds:

 

Well, your horse may be reacting to a few things when he refuses oral meds – something in his mouth OR something in his mouth that tastes awful! So working on him tolerating a big syringe in his mouth is easy. Then you add something that tastes good, then you can get the meds in.

 

  • Train him to tolerate your finger along the corner of his mouth.
 
  • When that is mastered, you can hook your finger into the corner of his mouth. Again, reward when there is no thrashing about. You may only be able to do this for a millisecond at first.
 
  • Then you can add in a large dosing syringe. Some horses know the look of this, so be sure to start with it outside of his mouth, praising often when he’s calm and still. Go back steps if you need to.
 
  • Now you can add putting the empty syringe into the side of his mouth for a second or two.
 
  • When he’s good with that, try some applesauce or molasses or something yummy in the syringe and give it a squirt.  This will teach him that his treats are actually in the syringe.
 
  • When it’s time for meds, you can give him a little yummy stuff, then the meds, then some more yummy stuff.  Depending on the type of med, you may be able to add pills or powder directly into the applesauce, or whatever he likes. 

 

horse-syringe-oral-meds

 

Is this positive reinforcement training?

 

  • Yes it is!  R+ horse training is a safe, fun, and engaging way to teach your horse how to learn new things.  Some people pair this with a clicker, which is a great communication tool.  There are plenty of books that can teach you this method of horse training.

 

  • Take your time and be patient. It will pay off when your horse needs deworming or medications, so dosing is critical and you can’t risk losing a drop.

 

For tips on hiding oral medications from your horse, read this.

 

How have you worked with your horse on this?

 

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Thank you!