Sedating horses that are unruly or in pain has its place in the industry. It benefits both the horse and the farrier. What doesn’t have a place, though, are farriers administering intravenous sedatives.
Licensed veterinarians are the only practitioners who can legally administer injectable drugs. Sedation in the wrong hands has the potential to create significant problems. Veterinarians carry insurance to protect themselves against these situations, farriers can purchase liability insurance but it does not extend the same protections as veterinarians. Chances are that if the insurance company learns that you’re administering the sedation, you’re on your own. There is no protection from your liability insurance company at that point, says Mary Bramley, a New Hampshire farrier and a former attorney.
“I hear a lot of farriers say, ‘My client would never sue me. We all know, it was an accident,’” Bramley says. “I also hear a lot of farriers say this horse isn’t worth more than $500 and the owner would never sue me. You’d be surprised how important an animal is to someone regardless of the monetary value.”
Many of the clients’ horses that Bramley works on are also insured, which concerns her more than others. The reason being that if something were to go wrong, it is not just the horse owner who is “coming after her,” but also an insurance company with deep resources to do so.
“The laws are meant to be pushed to determine which parameters of the law apply to farrier work, but sedation is not an area to stretch boundaries,” she says. “The case history has been clear on who can administer sedatives.”
- Farriers Should Not Sedate Clients’ Horses: An improper injection can lead to significant medical and legal liabilities.
- Use Caution When Working on Sedated Horses: Chemical restraints help relax horses and dull pain, but can pose a significant risk for farriers.
- Dealing with the Unruly Horse: Even with sedatives, don’t start working on a difficult horse until the odds are in your favor.