When I began at For Love of the Horse and learned a bit about the herbs and how to administer them, I was hoping and praying that my Mustang mare, Annie, would never need them. She was rescued off of an Indian Reservation when she was 2 and no matter what I did, she was next to impossible to deworm. I not only had to be sneaky, but I also ended up with more of the nasty paste on the side of her face as well as all over me. It was a nightmare and I dreaded giving ANYTHING via syringe. As it turned out, there came a day when Annie needed herbs. Great. Now what?
I decided that since horses do NOT have an agenda, that it was best that I not have one either. Any horse person knows this; if you act like you have 5 minutes, it will take ALL DAY, but if you act like you have all day, it’ll take 5 minutes. With this in mind, I haltered Annie and decided that if it took all day, we were going to take herbs in a calm and quiet manner. It worked. After only one brief panic attack (by her) and a very calm “me”, in a matter of minutes, she decided that I wasn’t out to poke her eye out with the syringe and she took the herbs like a champ. From that day on, I can give her anything via syringe, and she comes running for it.
We get a lot of questions from our clients, telling us that their horse won’t accept a syringe, or that they don’t like the herbs. My answer? Be patient. Go slow with it. Let your horse get used to the taste. Maybe it will take 3 minutes, maybe it will take 3 hours, and maybe it’ll take 3 days. Horses are creatures of habit and when something changes, they’ll sometimes take offense! Let them get used to the taste, take your time introducing with a syringe. I think often times, the caretaker will approach the horse in an aggressive manner (even if it IS unintentional), “demanding” that they take this syringe filled with foreign “stuff”. Everything we do with our horses should be a fun and positive experience, so instead of getting frustrated, back up a bit, when you both start to get mad, stop and start fresh next time. Give your horse a little time to think about it.
Also, keep in mind that you can mix the solution as thick or as thin as your horse prefers. If they tend to be messy and slobbery, losing a lot of the herbs, mix it thicker, like the consistency of pudding. If they REALLY like the herbs, I tend to mix them thin, with more water, so they think they’re getting more. You can experiment with the consistency until you find what works for both of you. That is key, finding a happy medium so that you are both satisfied with the experience.
So many of our clients tell us that their horses quite literally run to get their herbs. They consider it a treat. Is it possible, that at some level, they know it’s working to help them? Maybe. Is it because those caretakers begin the process with patience and make it a positive experience? Maybe. Or maybe they just simply like the taste (which seems to be the case with my horses!). Either way, it’s a very good feeling to go out with a syringe of herbs and have my horses take them and enjoy it. They like it and it’s helping them. It doesn’t get any more rewarding than that.