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When dealing with an anxious horse, prescription drugs sometimes are necessary to make a bad situation safer.
Tia Nelson, a veterinarian-farrier in Helena, Mont., once had to put a horse down after a farrier tied a front leg up because the horse was being difficult to shoe and hopped it around to make it behave.
“The horse landed wrong and broke its cannon bone,” she says. “I had to tell the shoer that his job was to shoe the horse and not to train it. If he absolutely has to shoe a horse like this one, then call me and I will come sedate the horse. He said it would be pretty expensive and I replied that it would be much cheaper than what just happened here.”
When weighing the use of physical or chemical restraints, Nelson sides with prescription drugs.
“There’s risk,” she says, “of possible catastrophic harm when using physical restraints.”
Some of these techniques can work with some horses — with an experienced person — but many horses fight the restraint and may injure themselves or the people around them.
“I have offered to train horses to stand for the shoer, but I charge for that service,” Nelson says. “And now, as a veterinarian, I offer the service of sedating horses for the farrier if it’s a horse that is dangerous.”