Use Caution When Working on Sedated Horses

Chemical restraints help relax horses and dull pain, but can pose a significant risk for farriers

Pictured Above: Veterinarians often use a combination of drugs when sedating a horse to maximize the sedative effect while minimizing the volume of drugs used. When intravenous sedation is necessary, a vet should perform the task to avoid intra-arterial injections, which can result in a severe reaction.

Horses that are nervous, lame or irritable aren’t the most pleasant to trim or shoe — and they can be downright dangerous. Sedation is commonly used in these types of horses so that a farrier and equine veterinarian can work safely. In fact, 90% of farriers say they shoe sedated horses, according to a recent American Farriers Journal poll.

Dr. Amy Rucker, an ambulatory veterinarian and owner of Midwest Equine in Columbia, Mo., says that she routinely sedates horses that have lameness issues.

“The sedation has two effects,” says the Interna­tional Equine Veterinarian Hall of Fame member. “It will mildly dull pain and helps the horse relax.”

Farrier Takeaways

  • Sedating horses for farrier work might be necessary in some scenarios but isn’t foolproof.
  • A horse can unexpectedly erupt out of sedation, creating a potentially dangerous situation for a farrier working beneath it.
  • Farriers who choose to work on sedated horses need the horse owner to understand the importance of the surrounding environment and staying focused on the task at hand.

But sedation is not a foolproof solution. Horses can “wake up,” kick out or spook without warning. The reaction might be sparked by a simple action such as someone walking behind the horse…

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Katie navarra

Katie Navarra

Katie Navarra is a freelance writer who draws from her experiences owning and showing horses, and inter­viewing the industry’s leading pro­fessionals.

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