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When a Horse Doesn’t Want That Shot

16 August 2011 No Comment

When a Horse Doesn’t Want That Shot
by International Equine Science

If a horse refuses to accept an injection, what do you, as either the treating veterinarian, or the concerned horse owner, do? Apply a twitch or get the horse into stocks? Yell at the horse, or hold it tightly against a wall?
According to Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, while any of these choices might get the job done that day, the next time the horse needs an injection, its behavior will most likely be worse, necessitating stronger restraint. Finally, the horse may become dangerous, lunging at the handler, rearing, biting and striking out. McDonnell, of the Equine Behavior Lab at the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania, told attendees of the AAEP convention that the horse is actually only behaving as people have trained it to.

“Behavioral compliance or non?compliance of an animal is mostly the result of the animal’s experience with people, rather than the basic temperament of the animal,” she said.

In order to change such learned negative behavior to positive, accepting behavior, McDonnell recommends creating a plan for each horse and facility that systematically allows the horse to learn three related but simple concepts: 1) the procedure is not too painful; 2) the procedure is followed by a reward; 3) ordinary resistance or reaction will not stop the procedure nor direct the technician’s behavior.

McDonnell outlines how to go about this process, with specific examples. For a copy of her paper, go to www.caltest.nbc.upenn.edu/behavior and click on “lab reference.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2001 issue of International Equine Science. IES, an eight-page newsletter, provides the latest scientific information on the athletic horse – an advertising-free and quick-to-read monthly update on equine research. www.equinescience.com (802) 888-6189.

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