Deworming is a necessary part of horse ownership, and I’m sure we’ve all be there many times. But have you ever had a horse who has had an absolute meltdown just at seeing the syringe? This can be quite a common issue amongst young horses, and who can blame them really! Read on for our top tips on how to help take the stress out of worming.
If your horse has never seen a syringe before, or equally so is nervous of it, the first thing to do is to get them used to being close to it or having it around. Start by standing next to your horse and hold the wormer up against their head. If your horse is fidgety and uncomfortable with this then chances are they won’t be accepting of having it in their mouth! Use positive reinforcement to get your horse used to the syringe by removing it from their space and praising every time they decide to stand still. If your horse is a bit of a foodie then you can use treats to show them that when they stand still, they get rewarded.
Once you have mastered this, start to gently rub the syringe around the corners of their mouth so they can get used to how it feels. Again, if your horse is starting to move away again, use the same method used above by retreating the wormer and praising every time they stand still. Keep repeating this until you can eventually touch your horses’ mouth and nose with it without any fidgeting.
Once you’ve mastered the first step, you can crack on with getting your horse used to having the syringe in their mouth. Our top tip for this is to take it slow and practice a little bit every day. Coat an old syringe in something that tastes nice such as honey or applesauce and try sliding it inside the corner of their mouth. If they try throwing their head or moving away, try to move with them. Once they relax and stand still reward them by taking the syringe out of their mouth. Keep repeating this step until they are comfortable with having the syringe inside their mouth.
If you have achieved doing this with no arguments, fill the syringe with the applesauce or honey and slowly ‘de-worm’ them with this so that they start to associate the syringe with something tasty. Continue to do this every day for about a week prior to when you need to worm.
After a week of using the honey or applesauce, your horse should be well and truly accustomed to being ‘de-wormed’ and it’s time to try the real thing. Similarly, we find it’s best to still coat the syringe in something tasty, but this time when you slot it into their mouth you can de-worm them using the paste.
Follow this up with another de-wormer of the honey or applesauce and repeat for another couple of days so they don’t become defensive about you leaving a bad taste in their mouth!
The idea is that eventually you will be able to do this without any practice at all, and your horse will learn to accept being de-wormed without any issues at all. We hope this has helped, let us know if you have any other suggestions by leaving us a comment.
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