Five Lifesaving Skills that all Horses Need to Know

I know we all use our horses for many different things.  Some of us trail ride, some of us show, some of us just like to watch them in the field.  It really doesn’t matter.  What does matter, though, is that I think every horse should know 5 basic things.  These 5 things may make the difference between life and death for them.  We are fortunate – we don’t live in an area where there are wildfires or the need to evacuate in a moment’s notice.  But even if we don’t need to leave quickly, we still need to be able to handle our horse in an emergency.  Here are the 5 lifesaving things:

  1. Be able to catch and halter easily. If you can’t catch your horse, you can’t take him. It may take a few sessions in a round pen, but it CAN be taught.
  2. Lead well. By lead well, I mean to walk at your side, to stop when you do and to keep a respectful distance.  Not only will it make it safer for you to handle your horse, it makes it safer for your horse as well.
  3. Pick up his feet easily. (And that means all 4!) This may not be an emergency item, but you would be surprised at how many horses don’t know.  Your farrier and vet will thank you too!
  4. Have a rectal temperature taken. In an emergency, when you don’t have help, you may need to take your horses temperature.  If you have never taught them, it may be a disaster (for you at least- the horse just won’t let it happen and may remind you that you have never even lifted up the tail, much less inserted a foreign object there!)
  5. Load in a trailer. Not with tranquilization, not with an hour of coaxing, shoving, ropes, whips or grain. Do you need to evacuate?  Is your horse colicing and loading (or not) to go to a referral hospital?  An emergency is not the time when you should be seeing (and hoping) if your horse will load.

These things don’t cost money, they just take time.  They also apply to any age horse, from a foal to the geriatric horse. There are a lot of trainers who can help you, or you can get a lot of this knowledge from books, DVD’s or online.  If you need help or need to know where to look, let me know and I can get you the information you need.  After all, your horse’s health matters to me too.

Elizabeth D. Callahan, DVM, DACT, DABVP

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