The Vet is Not a Dance Instructor

Your veterinarian’s job is to diagnosis and treat your horse, not to fix a horses’ rude behavior during routine procedures. It is the horse owner’s responsibility to be sure their horses behave for the vet, farrier, and others. If your horse spends more time dancing around than standing still for exams or treatments you will benefit from practicing the following lessons to teach your horse to stand quietly for the veterinarian.

Place a halter with rope lead on the horse or if you need more control, a bridle with full cheek snaffle and continuous round rope reins. You should also put leg protection on the horse as well so we can work the horse without the interruption of an injury. Go to an enclosure where you and your horse will be able to work safely.

When a horse does not do what we want there are two reasons: 1) We have not designed and implemented a lesson plan to teach the horse what we want. 2) We have not worked on a lesson long enough for the horse to have a clear picture of what we want. Our lesson plan for teaching the horse to stand still for the vet will have several parts and the lesson can be broken up into hours, days, or weeks to accommodate your schedule or your horses learning pattern.

We know what the horse is not doing, standing still. What do we know the horse is doing? Pulling back, stepping into you, moving past you, pulling away from you, each of these issues needs its own lesson. For pulling back we would work on the head down cue and the go forward cue. Stepping into you, we would work on the horse moving the shoulders away from you in hand and even outside turns in a round pen. Pushing past you forward, we need to work on go forward, and back up lessons that teach the horse the correct place to stay next to us. And pulling away from us we need to work on giving to the bit and disengaging the hip. In short, you will teach the horse a cue for the ‘wrong’ movements as well as cues for the counter moves. Then use them to counter his moves and thus teach him to wait for the cue. You will work your lessons with the horse until he does them softly and consistently.

At this point you are ready to put all your new cues to practice. Have your friend do all the things that normal set your horse off and be ready to counter his movements with what you have taught him. If he is unresponsive to your cues, go away from the place you usually have the vet examine your horse and work with energy on the exercises. When he is soft and willing, take him back to the exam site and let him stand. We are teaching him that this spot is a place to rest/stand still. If he wants to move, let him move, but you tell him where, when and how much. He will learn quickly that standing still is a very nice thing to do.

If your horse does not like shots, wormer, his temperature taken, or other specific procedures your vet administers, you will go through specific lesson plans to address these issues as well.