In an American Farriers Journal survey, farriers were asked how they deal with a situation when a horse becomes so difficult to work with that a sedative may be required.

Much of the data compiled from this survey of nearly 300 farriers was used in an article that appeared on Pages 64 to 67 in the May/June 2014 issue of American Farriers Journal.

The surveyed farriers were also asked to provide additional comments on how they deal with difficult or unruly horses. Based on the number of comments from more than 150 farriers, this appears to be a major concern.

When owners or trainers say, “The horse didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” one farrier’s response is, “Drunk drivers don’t mean to kill people, but they do!” He’s convinced that there is a lack of respect for farriers when footcare clients think they should risk getting hurt when working on a animal.

Sedating Horses

Safety for both the horse and the farrier appears to be the major concern when dealing with unruly horses. And as a number of these farriers pointed out, a consistently unruly horse is usually a clear indicator that the owner has a training problem and will not be a desirable client.

If a horse you are
working with needs to
be sedated, how do
you handle the situation?

Options % Of Farriers Wait for the vet to come out and administer the sedative   20% Reschedule the horse for a later appointment         


Set up a vet appointment in advance for an unruly horse  79%

— 2014 American Farriers Journal survey

Several farriers indicated sedation helps keep all parties involved when working on a difficult horse, especially if the owner has to pay the vet to administer the drug.

Other farriers pointed out that most horses that require sedation are normally in pain or lame. Once that can be controlled or solved, sedation should no longer be needed.

One farrier wants the vet to be present the first time a sedative is administered so he or she can make a clear diagnosis of the horse’s pain concerns. Still others want the vet to stay there while the farrier works on the horse in case more sedative is needed.

Other farriers want the owner to have to pay the vet’s fee to sedate the horse so the owner may realize it might be cheaper in the long run to train the horse to stand for the farrier.

While one farrier only has a few horses that require sedation, he says it’s a different story when he’s trimming and shoeing an unruly $125,000 warmblood where he doesn’t want to risk injury to himself or the horse.

Rescheduling Horses

When a behavior problem develops, most farriers reschedule the horse for a later date. This allows the owner to schedule a vet to administer a sedative or provide the Dormosedan gel that owners can administer themselves.

If a horse is so unruly that it needs sedation to shoe or trim, it is usually better to leave it for another visit rather than trying to sedate a stressed horse.

With difficult horses, farriers say it pays to plan your day accordingly. Several farriers mentioned that they try to schedule a horse that needs to be sedated first thing in the morning when both the farrier and vet are not running late. Others text the barn manager or trainer while driving so a sedative can be adminstered before the farrier pulls into the yard.

Another farrier charges an additional fee for working on drugged horses. His goal is to make it an expensive lesson for the owner so the situation changes one way or another. Another farrier charges more when working on these horses at a vet clinic since he normally ends up standing around for a period of time.

Other farriers say they’ve had good luck weaning a horse off a sedative after several footcare appointments. It normally depends on how much time the owner works with the horse between appointments.

One farrier used to carry drugs for dealing with unruly horses even though it was illegal, but now makes the owner pay for the vet to come out and sedate the horse. He says this leads to the owner training the horse, getting another farrier or paying the vet to watch the farrier work.

The result is that this farrier now works on fewer unruly horses than before.