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Restraint Techniques

What happens when you need to clip your horse's bridle path, change a bandage or it's time for deworming, but your horse won't stand still? What can you do? You need some sort of restraint for your horse.

There are several forms of restraint that can be used on a horse to accomplish the task at hand. The objectives of using any of these methods are two fold. First, the least amount of restraint necessary to complete the procedure needs to be determined. Secondly, the purpose of the restraint is to keep the horse and all of the people involved with the horses as safe as possible. From a halter and lead rope to general anesthesia, there are various forms of control available to perform any procedure needed.

The forms of restraint can be divided into two types, physical and chemical. This article will be covering the physical forms of restraint, including halters, lead ropes, stud shanks, twitch, hobbles and stocks.

The halter and lead rope are the basics of restraint. A stud shank or chain can be added to the halter for even more control when needed. The chain can be used in several ways; it can go over the nose and be clipped to the ring on the right side of the halter. The chain can also be slipped over the nose and under the upper lip for a lip chain. In many cases, just these simple forms of restraint can be used to do minor procedures.

Another method of restraint is the twitch. Twitching a horse can be done in various manners, from a skin twitch, to using the lip or the ear. The principle of using the twitch is to distract the horse with a release of endorphins from brain pathways. The released endorphins likely masks the pain at both the place where the twitch is applied and any discomfort elsewhere. The placement of the twitch on the nose is the easiest to maintain for several minutes. Caution should be used if using an ear twitch, because the cartilage can be damaged and a horse can become head shy from its use. Twitching a horse has its limitations. Very painful procedures or procedures that take longer than 10-15 minutes are not likely to be tolerated by the horse.

Many may think that hobbles are used only to keep a horse around when not penned up. However, they can also be used to keep a horse from kicking when the person performing a procedure at risk. Hobbles are not for all horses and should be used only by those with experience with this type of restraint.

Stocks are an excellent form of restraint for many procedures. The horse can be held in one place while the procedure is performed and can be combined with a twitch or chemical restraint to enhance the amount of control placed on the horse. Depending on the type of stocks used, this type of restraint can be very safe for all that are involved.

By using a few simple techniques, many things can be accomplished with minimal risk to the horse and to the people involved.