If you’re working on a horse that won’t hold still for trimming or shoeing, it’s important that you work closely with an equine veterinarian when sedating the animal.

Robert Magnus believes it is extremely important that a vet work closely with the farrier when a horse has to be tranquilized.

“As an example, a vet needs to administer the tranquilizer and stick around for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes to see how the horse reacts,” says the equine veterinarian with the Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hospital at Oconomowoc, Wis. “Each horse responds differently to tranquilizers and a farrier should ask the vet to wait around to see how the horse does.

“It’s uncomfortable for both the farrier and vet when time is not taken after injection to assess the horse’s response to medication.”

Vets Only

As veterinary malpractice insurance premiums have doubled in recent years, so have liability concerns. “Because of this, we won’t sell tranquilizers to others and haven’t done so for a number of years,” says Magnus. “If a farrier administers tranquilizers and a serious problem develops, the liability will fall on his or her shoulders.”

He also points out that sedating horses is not a money-maker for vets and is mainly done as a service for the two dozen farriers his clinic vets work with on a regular basis. “We charge the owner for administering tranquilizers, but it’s not profitable for us when we have to run out to a farm to do just one horse for a farrier,” says Magnus.

Tranquilizer Selection

Magnus says proper tranquilizer selection needs to be based on input from the farrier. This includes information such as:

1. A badly behaved horse.

2. A horse that kicks.

3. A horse that won’t let the farrier pick up a leg.

4. A horse that goes ballistic when a shoe is nailed on.

5. A horse that gets overly excited during trimming.

“By having the farrier analyze the specific problems, this helps the vet know what to prescribe,” says Magnus. “We need to know the horse’s disposition, attention span and estimated weight before deciding what dose of a particular tranquilizer to use.”

Magnus says under- or over-sedating a horse can be a major concern. As an example, a horse that gets too large a dose of a tranquilizer may lean forward in the cross-ties, place all its weight on one foot, become uncoordinated when the farrier has a leg lifted, lean on the farrier or even fall over.

When a horse is sedated, Magnus says vets and farriers frequently get a false sense of security. “A badly behaved, sedated horse is actually worse than a calm, non-sedated horse,” he says. “You are never quite sure what the badly behaved horse is going to do when sedated.

“A sedated horse that seems to be doing well can all of a sudden lose it and become extremely dangerous. Yet a horse that isn’t tranquilized for hoof-care work will usually give you some warning signs before acting up.”

Pick The Time

Magnus says a farrier needs to help the vet decide on the best time to sedate a horse. “If only working on the rear feet of a problem horse seem to be a concern for you, I’d recommend that you do the front feet before having the vet administer the tranquilizer,” says Magnus.

“There’s certainly no reason to give a tranquilizer to a horse when you’re doing a portion of the hoof-care work that doesn’t require one.”