Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Handle Difficult or Panicked Horse

Your horse is extremely agitated and you must move them from point A to point B. You are concerned about how to do this safely and without your horse escaping or causing injury to itself or others.

You must be in command and take charge of the situation. Your cues must be more intense than whatever has made the horse anxious. This requires confidence. If you do not feel that confidence, someone else should handle the horse if that is possible.

Supplies Needed

Procedure

This description is for a right-handed person and assumes that the horse is paying attention to your signal.

Halter the horse. Start by trying to restrain the horse within the corral or stall, before opening the gate or door. Practice stopping the horse and asking them to take several steps back. If you cannot do this in the corral, you will not be able to do it once you are in the open.

Always stay to the side of the horse, at the shoulder. If the horse bolts, you must keep the neck in an arc around you. Never let the horse get its head away from you. If the head is ever turned away from you, you are instantly in an unsafe and mechanically disadvantaged position and may have to release them for your own safety.

Grasp the lead rope with your right hand about 1 foot from the halter and begin walking with confidence toward your destination. Keep a safe zone between the horse's head and your left shoulder. If the horse begins passing you, check them back with an ample push on the nose band of the halter. Increase that signal until they stop. If this does not work, then pull their nose toward you and drive their hind end around so that they face you.

If the horse goes backwards, allow enough lead rope out to stay out of the way of the front feet, but keep pressure until they yield and move forward again. If they fail to do this, then again drive and disengage the hind end until they are facing you. Once you have control, begin confident walking again.

Attempt to get to a secure enclosure as quickly as possible. Do not tie a horse that is anxious. Instead, hand off to another confident handler to hold, or release in a secure and safe enclosure.

Tips for safety & Success

To perform this skill safely, your horse must respect you and must pay attention to your signal. Aside from having trust in me, I want my horses to consider me more of a potential concern than almost anything that could happen to us. In other words, their focus is on me at almost all times. If I lose that focus, I will try to get it back by increasing my intensity. This must be focused and calm intensity. If I panic, the horse will lose all interest in my guidance.

Do not try to move a horse if it will cause them great pain or additional injury. In such a case, simply try to comfort them while you wait for your veterinarian to arrive.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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