How to Restrain a Horse
There are many different methods of physical and chemical restraint that are used to avoid injury to both horses and people. Restraints are used to supplement control obtained from the halter. If used properly, dangerous situations that cause injury to people and horses can be avoided with simple, effective restraint methods.
Any restraint method used to assist normal management or treatment of the horse should be the mildest and most effective method available, and should be applied for the minimum amount of time necessary to carry out the task.
KNOW WHEN VETERINARY SERVICES SHOULD BE INVOLVED
Many veterinary medical procedures require chemical restraint. A licensed veterinarian should direct the use of tranquilizers and other drugs, as side effects can be harmful to the horse. Also, horses under the influence of medication respond differently than normal. Anyone who handles medicated horses should receive specialized training.
A veterinarian may also use a device called a twitch to temporarily restrain a horse during a veterinary procedure. A horse may also be examined in a stock or chute during a veterinary procedure. Horses can be humanely trained to stand calmly for veterinary handling.
LINK: Listen to this podcast by the International Society for Equitation Science which interviews Dr. Gemma Pearson about vet-proofing horses.
DID YOU KNOW: Restraint of a horse should always be managed by a professional or experienced and trained handler.
Adapted with permission from "Techniques for Safely Handling Horses", Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Oklahoma State University.
What does the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines say about handling and restraint equipment?
“Equipment used for restraint and handling should be effective without causing stress to the horse and should be designed for maximum safety of the handler and horse. Any restraint method used to assist normal management or treatment of the horse should be the most mild and effective method available, and should be applied for the minimum amount of time necessary to carry out the task.
A halter and lead rope is the most common form of restraint. Generally, the safest knots are those that can be quickly untied even if the horse has pulled on it. When used by knowledgeable handlers, other acceptable forms of restraint include hobbles, twitches, lead chains, stocks and chutes.
Tethering is a form of restraint that brings a high risk of injury to horses unless used correctly. For the purpose of this Code, tethering means attaching a long rope or chain to the halter or leg hobble so the horse can graze. Tethering does not refer to tie stalls or briefly tying a horse to a fixed object.”
The following requirements are identified in the Code of Practice:
Corrective action must be taken if restraint devices or equipment cause injury to horses.
Tethering must not cause injury and must only be used if the horse is under supervision. The person applying the tether must be knowledgeable in its use.
Electric cattle prods must not be used for the routine movement or handling of horses on-farm or during loading/unloading. Discretion must be used in an individual extreme situation when animal or human safety is at immediate risk, but prods must never be used repeatedly or used on the face, anus or reproductive organs of horses.
These recommended practices are also provided in the Code of Practice:
- Use properly designed and maintained restraint devices in the manner they were intended to be used.
- Do not turn horses loose in a pasture or stall with a halter on unless the halter has a break- away design.
- Ensure handling equipment is engineered to minimize noise. Loud noises are disturbing to horses.
- Ensure chutes used to restrain horses have break-out walls to assist horses that go down during handling.
Excerpts from the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines (©2013) have been used with permission, Equine Canada and the National Farm Animal Care Council. The process for the development of Codes can be accessed through the National Farm Animal Care Council.