Giving an Eye Medication with Positive Reinforcement

It’s an unfortunate part of horse care and ownership, but horses do get sick and injured. When they do, the treatment process can be quite a challenge.

Most medical procedures, whether that is giving a drug orally or through injection, cleaning a wound, or applying a bandage, are inherently an unpleasant experience for the horse. These necessary procedures often involve pain, bitter tasting medications, nasty smelling topicals, or worse.

It can be difficult enough to give oral medications or treat sensitive areas on a small dog or cat, who can be physically restrained. Other livestock species are also medicated with restraints, such as stocks and squeeze shoots for cattle. But with horses, we usually expect them to stand still with just a halter and lead, as we do the necessary procedures.

The vet can sedate the horse for initial treatment, but as owners, we are expected to do the follow up care relying on our horse’s good manners.

With 20-25 horses here on my farm, I’m often treating some kind of injury or issue. This week, one of the horses here, Henry, developed an eye condition and needed ointment in his eye 3x per day.

I decided to video one of his treatments so you can see how I reward good behavior through the obviously not-so-fun procedure for Henry of having his sore eye opened and ointment applied.

You can use the same technique I show here for many other medical procedures.

Hit play to start the video below.

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