The ability to provide remote anaesthesia may seem far fetching to most of us in horse ownership; however, we are all too aware of the equine welfare issues facing us in the UK currently. At Lingfield Equine Vets we are proud to support the a number of police forces trying to tackle these problems. This results in provides round the clock, mostly antisocial hours, veterinary care. The first step in the this care is attempting to safely catch and restrain wild or injured horses and ponies; and then moving them out of often incredibly precarious situations for both animals and the general public.
Sadly, every week horses are found in poor conditions or injured, without owners, often very distrusting of human intervention. Many such cases are abandoned in urban areas, even on busy highways, including the M25. The safest way in which we can catch these animals is by sedating or even anaesthetising them in a non intrusive form, by use of a dart gun.
However, this is not just an emergency technique use in feral animals. We have certainly used this to safely inject a variety of medications, including vaccinations, to needle phobic horses where alternative retraining techniques have failed. The video below shows Gemma Pearson demonstrating overshadowing as one technique for retraining of horses that are wary of injections and therefore challenging for the equine vet to treat.
This is an exceptionally effective training method and should be attempted in any case exhibiting adverse behaviour surrounding injections. However, some horses do not respond to such methods, and manifest extreme and dangerous responses. This makes the situation extremely stressful and represents a very high of injury to the handler and veterinary surgeon.
There are several options for injecting challenging horses from a distance, two of which involve additional equipment: use of a jab stick or use of a dart gun. We, and a few other practitioners do use the jab stick successfully in a number of cases; however, fundamentally, this relies on being able to safely approach the nervous animal and inject from a maximum distance of about 1.5m away - perfect for injecting safely over a door. The greatest advantage of darting is the ability to stay well way from the animal, which ensures they remain calm and people involved are kept at a safe distance. Although darting may sound very dramatic, it is very well tolerated by horses who are unable to be injected safely by other techniques.
Darting is a specialist technique provided by relatively few practitioners within the UK. Our skilled equine vets are experienced with this technique can offer support to other veterinary surgeons where needed. If you would like more information about any of these techniques; handling the horse that is difficult to inject; or you are a veterinary surgeon who would like support for a relevant case, please give us a call.