Tuesdays with Tony

Ground Manners Matter!

Cats are the perfect killing machine. Look at my sleek physique, my taut muscles, and my powers of concentration. My reflexes are a thing of legend. They aren’t cat-like, they’re Original Cat. Being a predator animal means I take a surprise well, unlike a horse. Despite many, many conversations with the horses that come through the Clinic here at Springhill Equine, I still don’t understand how a falling leaf can be confused with a fire-breathing dragon. Yet every horse explains to me that it could happen, and they need to be prepared! Being prepared for the sudden appearance of dragons can make veterinary care difficult. Read on to learn how to ward off dragons! Spoiler Alert, I have included some graphic pictures of what happens when horses confuse humans for horse-eating tigers.

Save the Toes

Ground mannersToes are perfectly positioned on the end of the human foot to make an excellent target for the equine foot. Add to that the unique ability of the horse to leap up into the air and land with a hoof wherever a human foot happens to be. This ability is compounded by a unique choice in human footwear known as a flip-flop. I’m not sure why you humans even wear these things. You may as well go barefoot. Needless to say, the flip-flop offers no protection to those toes, and shouldn’t be worn around horses. You can also help keep your toes alive by ensuring your horse is respectful on the ground. Training your horse to do the basic showmanship maneuvers will teach them to move away from you, rather than onto you. Pro-tip: your veterinarian will also appreciate it if your horse happily walks and jogs on a lead, and has decent ground manners!

I have included this picture of a toe to reinforce your showmanship work, and proper shoe selection.

A Sedated Horse Can Still Kick

Ground mannersMy Docs often have to do things to horses which said horse doesn’t appreciate very much. The Docs will often use powerful sedatives to help your horse agree that this is something they can do. You will notice that even when your horse is sedated, my Docs still act like they could get kicked. Sedated horses are still very able to kick. They’re less likely to, but they certainly still can, and with surprising speed. Super fun part about sedated horses: they don’t give you any warning before they kick. This means for some procedures, in some locations (especially lower legs, and back legs) my Docs may elect to fully anesthetize your horse. Most of the time the anesthesia lasts for about 20-30 minutes, and then they slowly wake up. This gives the Docs time to fully evaluate and repair a laceration, for example.

How can you help? Always be aware of where you are in relation to the feet. If you’re helping hold for one of my Docs, pay very close attention to how your horse is standing. If you notice anything to indicate a kick is coming, feel free to speak up loudly and quickly!

For this one, I included a lovely kick to a thigh by a very sedated horse during a sheath cleaning.

Needles are your friend

I’m going to start with this lovely picture here:

This was done by a horse who overreacted a wee bit to a needle. I mean seriously, it was a little tiny needle. For the record, this isn’t one of my Docs, but it is a veterinarian. This is why we take needle shyness very, very seriously. When giving shots in the neck, or drawing blood, my Docs are standing in the perfect place to get pawed (that’s what happened in the picture). This is why we bribe horses.

You may have noticed my Docs and their amazing techs feeding your horse treats, and using a clicker. This is to help desensitize them to the stick of a needle. You can definitely help your horse be prepared for needles with a little training! Any one of my minions can show you how to start the process, but basically it involves teaching your horse to tolerate the feeling of the “stick.” This is usually done by gently pinching the skin in the area where the shot will be given, and offering a food reward when they relax. The pressure of the pinch is increased until your horse is pretty sure it’s no big deal.

It’s important to remember that horses are really big, move really fast, and can hurt humans (and cats) really badly. I know what you’re thinking: My horse would never do that! Maybe, and maybe not, but a little bit of training before an accident happens, and a whole lot of paying very close attention to them can go a long way. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting the horses taken care, and getting the humans home safe!

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Until next week ~


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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!