Help with de-worming

Ask The Trainer

I’ve always had trouble de-worming my horse. He is a picky eater, and sometimes doesn’t finish his feed, so I really don’t want to use a daily feed-through de-wormer. I’m certain it’ll be wasted at times. I’ve been trying to use a paste de-wormer, but he fights me so badly. It takes me forever to get it in him, and we’re both angry by the time its done. It’s a huge battle that sometimes takes several people. He’s even lifted me off my feet! I’m desparate to find a way to get him to accept the syringe of paste de-wormer, especially now that spring is on the way! Help, please??

Most often, the horse fights because he is either frightened and defensive by you trying to force something into his mouth, or he plain finds it a weird and nasty experience and doesn’t want to do it. The solution is to show the horse that there is nothing to fear and accustom him to the procedure. Additionally, you want to him to think that this is actually a GOOD thing to do, you want him to accept it. Here’s my technique for a horse that does not like to have something pushed into his mouth, such as a paste de-wormer.

I take a carrot and stick it into the corner of the mouth as if it is a dewormer tube. I take it out, and put it back a time or two, and then give it to the horse. I do that for several days. Then I take an empty dewormer tube and fill it with pureed carrots, or applesauce, and squirt it up in the horse’s mouth like you would the dewormer. Then, I give the carrot, as usual. I do that for a few days. Then I take the the empty tube, and fill it with plain water, and squirt that in the mouth, and then give the carrot. We work on that for a few days. If you take your time, by now the horse loves the sight of that tube. Finally, I give the actual medicine, and then the carrot.

The idea is to de-sensitize the horse to the idea of sticking things in his mouth, and then to the idea of squirting things in his mouth. Squirting the water is not particularly delicious, but it is familiar and non-threatening, and at that point the horse usually switches its attention from goodies in the tube, to goodies AFTER the tube. The tube itself, and the processes of squirting has become non-threatening. Now, to the horse, it’s just an end to a means (the carrot).

Good luck!