With more and more horse owners giving their own shots and vaccinations, how do you fare in that department? What are your skills with a syringe and needle? Even more importantly, how do your horses handle the home shot routine? Does this responsibility make you nervous? Does it make your horse nervous? Decide that neither scenario should have to be and get over it.
If your horse is needle shy for your veterinarian as well, then it is your responsibility to get him over that. Your vet likely has his hands full with a crowded regimen of equine patients. He might soon wean himself of the less than desirable patients. Don’t let your horse be one of your vet’s drop-outs just because he is shot shy.
There are things you can and should do to get your horse over his fear of needles, no matter who is going to be the shot giver. Your horse can be taught that there is nothing to fear from this normal maintenance practice. He can learn that shots really don’t hurt and he can change his social behavior in relation to getting stuck. It’s all about a relaxed horse, and relaxed muscles, which won’t feel a stick like tense and bunched muscles do.
Start by examining yourself, your own comfort with giving shots, and your own knowledge of how to go about giving your own horse his shots and vaccinations. Are you confident? Do you know how to give shots, where to give them? Are you familiar and comfortable with the equipment involved? Does your horse’s suspicion of the shot process start with you? Are you the one who makes your horse nervous ?
If you’re the shot culprit, begin with you – fix yourself first. Spend a little time learning about syringes and needles. Know what size needle is best for the work you will need to do. For the most part the smaller the needle you can get away with, the better. The higher the gauge number, the smaller the diameter.
How much medication or vaccine will be needed will determine the size of the syringe you will need. You’ll likely want to use disposable syringes and needles and not bother loading up a syringe gun unless you are going to be giving shot after shot in the same dose, using the same medication.
There are two basic styles of disposable syringes: the type the needle merely slides on, known as the Luer Slip; and the Luer Lock, where a slight turn locks the needle onto the syringe port. Decide which style you will like best by spending some time with both. Whether or not you place the needle first, or leave it on the syringe when making the stick might decide which type you will prefer as well.
Disposable needles and syringes are fairly inexpensive, so procure some and handle the equipment and become comfortable with it. If you want, try the preverbal nursing school practice of using an orange to practice giving shots. Load that syringe with water, and vaccinate an orange to your soul’s content.
Fixing your own inadequacies with the equipment will likely go a ways with your horse being more comfortable. He can sense your feelings, and emotions, and if you’re uncomfortable about administering a shot, he’s going to be nervous at his end of the needle also.
Sooner than later is right to spend some time with your horse, deciding how you will give him his shots. Choose a place where your horse will be comfortable, a location with some space, and not confined. You’ll likely be better off not tying your horse, rather being able to control him firmly right at the halter. Be ready and able to move around just a bit with your horse, but not allowing him to make huge changes in position, leaps, or frantic lunges or rearing.
There are certain places on your horse that are not only the best places, but the approved places to give shots. This information is easily obtained on the Internet or in one of the readily available equine first aid books. Familiarize yourself with the most often used triangle shaped spot on the neck and concentrate on how to give shots there.
Decide what your needle administration technique will be. Will you want to place the needle into your horse’s neck, independent of the syringe being attached, or will you want to leave the two pieces joined together when you insert the needle end of the pair?
Whichever method you think you will use, you will always want to use some sort of pre-stick warning system to let your horse know that he will be getting a slight stick shortly. Horses are known to process by association, so teach him a system so that he won’t be startled by the stick.
Clean is always the first step in giving shots. Never give a shot in an area of your horse’s hide that is dirty. Even if the shot area appears clean, take the precaution of wiping the area with an alcohol wipe. The last thing you want to do is drive dirt, germs or viruses internally into your horse with the stick of the needle. From this step: clean hands, (wearing exam gloves is the best idea) and clean equipment, should never be forgotten.
The most used method of teaching a horse to expect a shot is to tap him at least a half dozen times right in the spot where you will deliver the stick of the needle. Start with a light tap and repeat each tap as a harder contact and then fairly quickly switch to the actual needle stick after the cursory, notification taps.
Using the needle only is likely a good place to start for a newbie to the sport of horse shots. If your horse has a strong reaction, pulls back, or even pulls away from you, he will only be wearing only a small hypodermic needle instead of the whole needle and syringe (full of expensive medication).
Once you and your horse have the confidence factor conquered in this procedure, then you can progress to the one stage technique. Either way is acceptable and will get the job done, as long as you and your horse have done your ground work to be ready and prepared.
One other acceptable and widely used method of shot administration involves taking a pinch of neck skin right by where you will be administering the shot. Take hold of a relatively large section of hide, and pull it straight out towards you, to give your horse both warning of the impending stick, and to give him a slight feeling to concentrate on so he likely won’t feel the stick.
Give the shot right near the pinched skin area, but slightly far enough away from the pinched skin to be firmly in the neck muscle. This method might be one that you will aspire to move to after you have tried and mastered the former, and after you and your horse have gained the assurance that you need together, to bond successfully over the shot experience. Practice, practice, and then practice some more – it will pay off.