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Question for all the horse people...

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by conservationgal, Apr 10, 2007.

  1. conservationgal

    conservationgal WSU DVM Class of 2011
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    So today in my horse reproduction lab, I was the only person to volunteer to do stallion semen collection. Right after I said I wanted to do it, I regretted it. I have always liked horses, but I have never owned one and have only ridden a few times. The reason I am taking a horse management course is to gain more experience in the equine field.

    Anyways, back to my story...basically the stallion was quite rowdy and kept mounting the dummy awkwardly. Needless to say, I ended up getting stepped on and thrown to the ground (thank goodness for helmets!). I got up though and 'finished the job.'

    The whole experience made me a little nervous, especially me being a small female. I guess I want to know if this kind of thing gets easier and if others have had similar experiences with large animals. It just left me feeling embarrassed, even though my prof smiled and told me I did good. I just felt stupid!
     
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  3. aggiegolf

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    It will get easier once you gain more experience with them. Most people have to get kicked hard once or twice to become so careful and alert that it's unlikely that it will happen again.

    Always take note of your distance between yourself and the horse. You would be surprised at what angles they can throw their hoof at you.

    When I'm working with a horse, I always try to twitch him. I can't really explain what "twitching" is in words, but if you ask your professor he can explain it to you. It gives you greater control over the horse.


    Also, it's GOOD to be nervous at first. It keeps you on your toes and helps to ensure your safety. People get hurt all the time because they become too comfortable around them. Just remember that they aren't pets, and they WILL do crazy, unpredictable things.


    Good luck and hang in there!
     
  4. CanadianDVM

    CanadianDVM TR0LL
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    I gotta say - this irritated the hell out of me. It gives the impression that using a twitch for everyday handling is something that is acceptable - which it isnt. Although there are definitely circumstances when restraint is required - they are the exception rather than the rule. Further more if i'm doing a procedure on a horse that is dangerous, i'm going to opt for chemical restraint (sedation) which is much more reliable than using a twitch.

    Finally, i've come across many clients who would rather take their horse to another vet than let you twitch it... so i'd be careful with "twitching every horse you handle"
     
  5. aggiegolf

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    I'm sorry for irritating you. I didn't mean to give that impression. I also don't understand how sedation is more acceptable.


    Since you're the professional, maybe you can give her better advice on handling horses. It doesn't help her when you get riled up over what I said about twitching. And it's not like chemical restraint is really an option available to her.


    Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning ;)
     
  6. Pennymare

    Pennymare Ohio State Class of 2011
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    Conservationgal,

    Your guts are admirable! because working with stallons during breeding is rather tricky and unpredictable---most horse people have little experience with it. So your professor, if he knows your background, probably respects your willingness to participate! Plus, I am really glad you are unharmed.

    As for handling, there is always an element of danger with horses...almost any equine vet or lifelong horseman accumulates injuries...just like riders eventually fall off (usually quite often lol).

    But you can avoid injury and getting pushed around by horses by learning about and being aware of their behavior. For example, body language and pressure/release are so unbelievably important in equine communication. If you want to explore horsemanship more, I would recommend a horse training class or riding lessons with different instructors.

    Sometimes you can pick this stuff up with experience (I imagine some folks do it unconsciously),but you may miss out on some techniques that will make you safer and more successful. I agree that people do often forget to stay alert and get too close. If several experienced horsemen teach you what to look for and do---and then you practice it, you can quickly become a better horseman.
     
  7. FriskyPony

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    Wow, that's impressive! I've spent a lot of time with horses, and I still don't know if I'd be up to working with a stallion! Don't feel bad, so many people who ride horses have never interacted with a stallion before--they can be hard (ummm, sorry, I couldn't resist, but I promise my mind doesn't usually reside in the gutter :p ) to handle! Really, I'm sure your professor has respect for you for having the guts (and skills) to do this!

    Perhaps you could tell your professor that you wish you could have done a better job, and ask if s/he could give you some pointers, etc, or help you improve your handling skills.

    The best advice I've ever gotten from a vet: "No horse is worth your life." (Yes, it does pain me to admit it, but it is true!) So, if you feel unsafe, don't worry, either just get out of the situation (as safely as possible for both you and the horse), or if you are uncertain, ask your superior if the situation is dangerous, or whatever. Don't get discouraged, and remember that no matter what anyone else says/wants you to do, if you feel truly unsafe, then just apologize, and explain that you really feel unsafe and would be uncomfortable doing that. And remember that at the end of the day, if you felt unsafe, you made the right decision--who cares if you did the task you were unsure about if the result was that you got hurt (or died--not that you'd be likely to die!, but it helps illustrate my point) trying!

    Oh, and regarding twitching, I know there are situations in which twitching and/or sedation are a good option (but only by people who really know what they're doing). I think perhaps some of us were a bit taken back by a seemingly casual recommendation that someone (especially perhaps someone with not a lot of experience to draw from) think about using a twitch. I'm sure you didn't mean it this way, but it really did sound a bit like you were recommending twitching for day to day horse interactions.
     
  8. Orthonut

    Orthonut Garryowen
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    If you got thrown to the ground

    1) You need to refrain from breeding shed activities until you absolutely understand exactly what to do in every situation. It is completely unacceptable for someone to get knocked down by the stallion "because he was a little rowdy." YOU COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED.

    2) That stallion needs more training, especially before being used in a teaching program for non-horsepeople. If the stallion is a known rank horse, then under no circumstances should inexperienced personnel be ANYWHERE near the breeding shed. That is just asking for trouble. If the horse is a good sire and fails the behavioural training, then it may be worth it to continue collecting/breeding him, but he should NEVER be exposed to newbies.

    3) That stallion needs a new stallion handler. see #1

    I continue to be AMAZED at the number of people who think AI/collection/breeding work is something someone that doesn't have horse experience can do. Even with years of experience it is EXTREMELY dangerous. The stallion handler is THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON in the breeding shed. Why? Because YOU are responsible for not only the stallion's safety, but the safety of everyone else in the shed. One wrong move and someone could be killed or maimed or seriously injured. YOU are the person everyone else trusts-when you are the collector, you have to focus on your job-you can't be worried that the handler can't control the horse-in some situations you have your back turned to both of them-you can't see what's going on at the head end of the horse.

    Repro/Therio is no laughing matter. I suggest you get more horse experience, in just handling etc-and THEN learn how to properly handle a stud BEFORE you enter the breeding shed again.
     
  9. Emio

    Emio Fudge Bane
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    i rather agree with orthonut... and pennymare. stallions can get quite rowdy, and the fact that you did get knocked down is quite serious. if he's moving around enough to get you off your feet, what's to say he won't just keep prancing right over top of you?

    your guts are indeed admirable, but be careful to avoid recklessness. it will get much easier... once you understand horses' minds, and even biomechanics, you'll be able to anticipate their movements and either get out of the way, or if you do become able enough, counteract their movements. that takes time, though. working with geldings first is recommended for obvious reasons ;)

    lol, aggie, you did say always try to use a twitch. that put me off too! you know better than that ;)
     
  10. FishHick

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    I agree with the others about taking lessons to learn to read horse body language. I have worked with stallions, and assisted in breeding sheds. You have to be on your toes and able to think one step ahead of the stallion. They only have one thing on their mind, and its not you!

    Think about what you could have done differently, learn from it, and move on. Easier said than done, I know. But, being nervous next time will only make it an even more dangerous situation next time. The fact that you volunteered with minimal experience is very admirable though!:thumbup:

    On a side note-How is a stallion supposed to breed while being twitched? :confused: I dont think its possible. Twitching is a useful tool in the right situation, definately not every situation.
     
  11. Emio

    Emio Fudge Bane
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    well, duh, you use sedation instead :rolleyes: . how about ace?
     
  12. FishHick

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    I now have pictures in my head of a stallion trying to mount all doped up :laugh:
     
  13. Pennymare

    Pennymare Ohio State Class of 2011
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    I think that the most common technique is to place a lead chain through the stallion's mouth upon entering the breeding shed. Using this restraint only during breeding work establishes a standard pattern of behavior---so that the stallion begins to learn what behavior is acceptable in the breeding shed. You send the chain through the two side loops of the halter, keeping it looped either over or under the nose until it's time to breed.

    Or so I've been taught and observed in my horse classes. According to my instructor, stallions like you to set up a routine for breeding. They even have a routine from paddock to the actual collection. He also said that the stallion should be allowed 'some rowdiness' in order to become ahem, excited. ;)

    I imagine that there are other ways to work the situation, but this technique seemed pretty organized (Note: the stallion handler was VERY experienced)

    As for sedation, we would have to mat the breeding shed in BIG PILLOWS first :rolleyes:
     
  14. anc84

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    As I was reading all the other posts, I was wondering why no one brought this up! I don't think a stallion is going to mount twitched or sedated. You just have to be able to handle them. That's why, like the others said, it is so important to know horses and read body language- and further to know the specific stallion and his types of behaviors while being collected.

    And outside of collecting, twitching should not just be done for any reason. For those who don't know what it is, it's squeezing and twisting a pressure point on the nose with either a rope attached to a wood handle or something that looks a lot like a huge metal nutcracker that clamps down on the nose. It should only be used on unruly horses that need to stand still for procedures and not just on any horse that is well-behaved or that needs to do perform a task- like a stallion.
     
  15. jnt179

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    Ace on stallions could cause major problems. Penile paralysis could occur. Last thing you want for a breeding stallion:p There was another sedation of choice that we would use in Equine Repro. I believe it was Xylazine, but not positive. So don't hold me to it. The stallion we used was being retrained for the breeding shed. The manager that had him prior to him being used at school just let him rush the dummy. He was very dangerous at first but with time he got better.
     
  16. fromjersey

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    Where were you? In horse lab or on the MTV show - JACKASS? :eek:
     
    #15 fromjersey, Apr 11, 2007
    Last edited: May 21, 2009
  17. Wisco

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    Good job for getting up again and finishing the job. Those are some of the risks with working with large animals, the problem most people have is that they dont respect how powerful and "wild" these animals are. Anyways with practice comes perfection, right? I have been collecting semen and working with stallions for a long time and I still get the occassional kick and stepped on. Anyways it seems someone shouldve pushed over the stallions butt because some stallions do jump around and end up sideways on the missouri causing the collector to get into harms way, it wasn't your fault. Good luck and have fun!
     
  18. fromjersey

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    Hopefully you will know how powerful and "wild" they really are without having a bad experience.
     
    #17 fromjersey, Apr 11, 2007
    Last edited: May 21, 2009
  19. MissBehavior

    MissBehavior Junior Member
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    I absolutely agree. I am quite experienced in handling unruly (read: dangerous) horses, and I once had the opportunity to collect from an extremely well-behaved stallion. Everything went smoothly, but I knew that I was doing something potentially life-threatening. I trusted the stallion handler, knew the stallion quite well, and was confident in my abilities. Without all three of those criteria I think your chances for a disaster are much higher.

    Thanks to FriskyPony for the "No horse is worth your life" reminder. I think horse people need to hear this more often, because we tend to forget! And it's not just stallions or problem horses that can kill/maim you. The more docile ones can get you too, because we tend to let our guard down with them. Awareness and knowledge of equine behavior are key!

    I also agree that twitching should only be a last resort, in an emergency situation, and is no substitute for proper training and handling. The twitch is a rather archaic device that I don't think fits with modern criteria for animal welfare.
     
  20. Emio

    Emio Fudge Bane
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    thaaank you! hence my rolling eyes, haha.

    good thread though... i think a lot of valid points were brought up about handling horses. now the poor girl that applied for work at the horse-killer's place is gonna be even more skeptical about working with horses!
     
  21. hoodle

    hoodle UC-Davis DVM/PhD
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    I think this is a little excessive. A twitch has its place in every barn/vet's tack box, even though it's out of style. Yes, it should be used only occasionally, only by people who know what they're doing, etc. However, if it's a short procedure that needs to be done (a quick injection, a quick feel of something, etc) the risks of chemical sedation far outweigh the brief discomfort/animal rights accusations that come with twitching.

    A twitch used wrong is torture - it's simply immobilizing with pain. A twitch used correctly is a tool, and one which is useful within its limits. It looks more barbaric than it is!

    BTW, a twitch should always be a CLOTH loop, not a metal loop. It's the metal loops that cause serious damage. The cloth loops are really relatively painless, for short periods, and again, can be extremely effective and safe in the right circumstance.
     
  22. Pennymare

    Pennymare Ohio State Class of 2011
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    I too agree that twitching should only be used on a misbehaving horse to get them to stay still for short term work (not everyday work or breeding).

    But I think twitches are useful and acceptable when they are used correctly. Someone should be adjusting the pressure to give a 'release'/reward when the horse starts to stand quietly. Personally, I don't like it when people just leave the twitch tight---then it's a bit inhumane (and doesn't teach the horse anything).
     
  23. Pennymare

    Pennymare Ohio State Class of 2011
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    I agree with Hoodle---twitches are also really useful if there's no vet with drugs around to help with a (short) procedure.
     
  24. Sassygirl

    Sassygirl OSU CVM Class of 2011
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    Thanks for taking the words out of my mouth. A twitch is a very valuable tool if used properly.

    We had a mare at our clinic who had a high-tensile wire cut over her hock. We had to scrub and rebandage the wound at least once per day. My vet went out of town for a conference and the horse started getting annoyed with the proceedings and fussing while I changed the dressing. Soon she was aiming kicks at my head. I'm no idiot; as soon as I heard that hind hoof whistle past my ear I went to the vet box, pulled out our twitch, and called my dad so that he could restrain her for me.

    In this case the mare's behavior was dangerous and the vet was away so sedation was not an option. Additionally, even if sedation was an option, most practitioners would agree that it is much too risky to sedate an animal daily for bandages changes if other options are available.
     
  25. Emio

    Emio Fudge Bane
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    i don't use twitches a lot... very rarely, in fact. demonic ponies are an exception. but my point is that do properly used twitches not produce a chemical effect? i was taught that endorphins are released when twitches (and upper lip chains) are used correctly. in other words, wouldn't "releasing pressure" cease the endorphin effect and just be an irritating loop on his nose? granted, using a twitch for extended periods of time can cause tissue damage, but i think brief continuous use would be better than discontinuous use? not to mention the risk of losing the grip to a head toss.

    i really don't know, i'm asking.
     
  26. Pennymare

    Pennymare Ohio State Class of 2011
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    You know, I've learned the endorphins concept too, so it might be valid to leave it tight for that reason. I just know that horses will stop fighting when you decrease the pressure with the little two-armed twitch. The one that looks like a walnut cracker...:)

    I'm no twitch-expert by any means; if the horse won't settle at all, it doesn't make sense to loosen your grip. But if they do, I would think really tight pressure would only piss them off. I was thinking only a little bit of a release, not making it very loose, if that makes sense.
     
  27. hoodle

    hoodle UC-Davis DVM/PhD
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    I think it depends on how many people are involved! A lot of times that walnut cracker twitch is used because it can be kept at a certain tightness and secured, so that the one person doing the bandage dressing (great example, Sassygirl - totally agree) can work alone, safely, albeit briefly and with great care and attention (ie, you don't do it loose in the stall - you do it in proper, safe, carefully made cross-ties with breakaways etc).

    If you have another person involved doing the manual tightening (ie, the loop at the end of the stick) then a greater degree of dexterity and customization is possible. You loosen because it seems a bit tight... the horse looks questionably like acting up again... you tighten again... and don't loose up twice. Alternatively, you loosen and the horse is fine, and you stay at whatever tightness seems both effective and pleasant as possible.

    Some horses really love it! they totally relax, they drop their penis, they drool, stare off into space. Some have been mishandled and totally freak out at the possibility of your grabbing their nose, which is not at all worth it. Some seem to just need the reassurance that they are out of control, and then they relax. It's totally individual.

    Properly done, twitching should be a very low-adrenaline procedure for all involved.
     
  28. conservationgal

    conservationgal WSU DVM Class of 2011
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    Thank you everyone for your input and experiences! :love:

    I would like to clarify that I did not necessarily feel horribly frightened in this situation, rather I was frustrated with the difficulty of working with the stallion. My professor (who was the handler) is absolutely amazing and is a board-certified veterinarian. He would never intentionally put myself or any other student in harm's way. This exercise was part of a horse reproduction lab and out of all the other students, I was the only one who was willing to do the collection.

    I understand that this was a serious and advanced task, but some people make it seem as if I just decided to waltz into the barn and do a semen collection. No, that is not the case. I wanted the experience, so I took the opportunity plain and simple.

    Again, thank you to everyone for your responses. It gives me hope and motivation to keep trying to gain all kinds of equine experience.

    PS - I play rugby, so I am used to getting thrown around!
     
  29. Sassygirl

    Sassygirl OSU CVM Class of 2011
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    Don't worry, I don't think any of us think that you just waltzed into the barn and decided to try semen collection ;). However, I do think most of us are of the opinion that your professor should have taken more care. If you were "thrown to the ground" at any point, the exercise should not have been allowed to continue.
     
  30. lazyjayn

    lazyjayn Member
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    Some basic horsemanship lessons would probably do you a ton of good- not even riding, just ground handling/ grooming/ tack. It's amazing how much more aware of where the horse's other three feet you are when you've got one in your hand.

    And way to go on trying something the rest of the class wouldn't. Dangerous, but now you've got a cool story. Just not one for sharing at dinner.

    j.
     
  31. aggiegolf

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    Lol. I did say 'always' didn't I. I get myself into a lot of trouble on here when I don't carefully review what I typed. Oh well. Git r done.
     

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