Vet-Prep: Accept Touch
If you train your horse to accept being touched, you’ll make your veterinarian’s job much easier and more effective. Here’s an easy training method from respected trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight.
Your horse needs to learn that if he accepts touch, the touch will soon go away — that it’s easier to stand still and accept the touch instead of fighting. Step 1. Start with his mouth. Don leather gloves, stand at your horse’s left side, and place two fingers at the left corner of his lip. He should open his mouth slightly. Step 2. Move your fingers. Move your fingers slightly back and into his mouth, avoiding his front and back teeth (Photo 1). He’ll most likely shake his head and pull away from your touch, but keep your fingers in place no matter where he pulls you. Step 3. Reward. Watch for an instant of relaxation. As soon as your horse lowers his head or stops resisting, pull your hand away (Photo 2). Keep up the pressure until he accepts it, then remove your hand immediately to reward him. Step 4. Repeat. Repeat this process until your horse allows you to open his mouth from both sides without resistance. Step 5. Move around. Use this technique to teach your horse to accept your touch on other parts of his face and body. — Heidi Melocco (www.whole-picture. org), a lifelong horsewoman, equine journalist, and photographer based in Mead, Colorado.