Hi, I'm Paula Hitzler, manager of the MSU Horse Teaching and Research Center. Today
we're going to talk about restraints and how to do it
safely. One of the first things that you need to have on your horse
is a halter and a lead rope. And I know that sounds kind of silly, but you would
be amazed at how many people try to restrain their horse with just the halter,
no lead rope, or just without anything on their head
at all. When we look at a halter fit, we want to
make sure that this halter is about two fingers width below this
facial bone right here, that it's not too low on the horse's face, because you
won't have adequate control. And then you want a nice big, long, safe
lead rope. You want to have this halter completely buckled.
So a couple forms of restraint that we can do just with the halter itself,
is if we've got a minor procedure we need to get done, or we need to distract
this horse for a short amount of time. Let's say the
farrier is having a little difficulty with a horse or
the vet needs to give it a shot or something, and you can help do a quick
form of restraint, is we can grab the horse's
skin forward of the shoulder area. We call
this a shoulder roll. You do not want to grab it at the
shoulder blade because you just can't get a big
fold of skin. So you want to find the lay of the shoulder, go a little forward of
it, and grab a nice big chunk of skin in
your hand and kind of roll it over. You can see by this horse's behavior,
she'll actually wince a little bit when you do that.
It's hard to have this form of restraint last very long,
so it's not something you want to do maybe when you're clipping ears or doing
a procedure that the horse really doesn't like.
But it's kind of a quick little fix it there for you.
Another form of restraint that we can do with just the halter on,
is with assistance, you can pick up a horse's leg.
That might work really well, let's say you're bandaging the right leg
and the horse is constantly picking that leg up, is have someone
hold your horse and you can pick up the left leg, and then someone can go
ahead and wrap that. That's a nice quick little one.
A form of restraint that you can do about the horse's head
that is a little bit more intense, is holding on to the horse's ear. Now
the important thing with doing an ear twitch, or holding the
horse's ear, is all about your technique. Because if this is done improperly you
can actually make a horse really head shy, so I do not recommend
this form of restraint unless you've got really good handling skills
and you can practice good technique when you apply this.
I actually like this form of restraint, I can actually
use this form of restraint over and over and over on a horse,
but it's, again, all about the technique, and that you can actually control the
horse if this horse decides to pull away from you really fast.
So how I like to approach this and teach students how to do this,
is I actually like to have this lead rope in my hand, hold the horse at the
halter so if this horse starts to move around you have some control.
Taking my right hand and putting it at the base of the horse's ear -
remember horses are very very sensitive at the tips of their ears, so you don't
want to just go up and start grabbing the tips of their ear
really fast because they'll start to throw their head, and now you've created
a head shyness problem. But by putting your hand at
the base of the ear - and if this horse starts to wiggle around
just go with it - don't clamp down, just go with the horse.
In fact what you've noticed I've just done is kind of move her head from side
to side, and that also will help to get this horse to lower their head. So it's a
good way to get a horse to lower its head.
With my hand on the base of their ear, I'll pull their head
to the left, or to the right, depending on what side of the horse I'm on,
and I'll put my elbow right into the middle of this horse's neck.
And you can kind of see how she's dropped her head, and she's bent around.
This gives me leverage. One of the most important things when restraining a
horse is leverage advantages, especially for old gals like me.
Because these horses are always going to be quicker and stronger than we are, so
we have to use our leverage and know our leverages in order to take
advantage of controlling this horse. So I'm going to hold her at the base, I'm
going to put my hand or my elbow into her neck,
and I'm going to slowly, very slowly, take a hold of this ear. And if we look
at her demeanor, if we look at her expression,
she can feel this, this will hurt, okay?
Again, this is not something I would do for a very long time, it's kind of
something I would apply if I need to get a
procedure done and the horse is being kind of naughty.
It's kind of a quick little restraint. Now just as you've slowly
taken a hold of the ear, you must slowly release the ear,
okay? Because what I want to be able to do
is apply this restraint to this horse over and over and over again
without her getting head shy and bad about her ears. Now, what's going
to create a problem, and I've seen this happen many, many
times, is someone just goes up and just snatches their ear really
quick like that, and you get that pulling back kind of
reaction from the horse. And I can guarantee that that is going
to create a very head shy horse. So if you cannot, whether it's your size
or your horse ability, or even the horse itself,
cannot slowly do this procedure, I would not recommend
that you do the ear for a restraint. Because you can create some problems
that way. But if done properly, it is a nice form of
restraint. It can get a lot of stuff done and even
modify horses behavior when used properly.
And when I talk about modifying horses behavior, what I mean
is that you can take a hold of the ear, in this case, or any restraint
that allows you to release and still have control,
I can maybe release the contact on the ear a little bit when the horse is being
good, I can tighten the contact on the ear
when horse is being bad. And then this allows the horse to make a
choice. Is the procedure worse than her holding my ear or is her
holding my ear worse than the procedure?
Hopefully the holding of the ear is worse than the procedure and we can
actually teach the horse to put up with whatever procedure that we're doing.