How can I train my horse to take oral medications with a syringe - like a dewormer?

Ah...trying to squirt some meds into a wiggling, thrashing periscope of a horse can be challenging and dangerous.  The best time to master this skill is long before you will ever need it.  So now is the time.  Do it now.   




As with all things horse, a few guidelines can help you in the process:  


  • Tiny steps.
  • Work on what you are training every single day.  No exceptions.  (Even when he’s perfected it, keep practicing.)
  • Work on it for a few minutes or less.
  • End on a good note.
  • Praise, praise, praise.  
  • Only praise when he is calm and still.  If you praise when he’s tossing around, he will get the wrong idea and you will reinforce the thrashing around.



He needs to deal. 


So what are these “tiny steps”? 

Well, you horse may be reacting to a few things - something in his mouth, or something in his mouth that tastes awful!  So working on him tolerating a big syringe in his mouth is easy.  Then you add something that tastes good, then you can get the meds in.

  • Train him to tolerate your finger along the corner of his mouth. 
  • When that is mastered, you can hook your finger into the corner of his mouth.  Again, reward when there is no thrashing about. You may only be able to do this for a millisecond at first!
  • Then you can add in a large dosing syringe.  Some horses know the look of this, so be sure to start with it outside of his mouth, praising often when he’s calm and still.  (Go back steps if you need to).
  • Now you can add putting the empty syringe into the side of his mouth for a second or two.
  • When he’s good with that, try some applesauce or molasses or something yummy in the syringe and give it a squirt. 
  • This will teach him that his treats are actually in the syringe.  
  • When it’s time for meds, you can give him a little yummy stuff, then the meds, then some more yummy stuff.  




Take your time and be patient.  It will pay off when your horse needs deworming or medications, in which case dosing is critical and you can’t risk losing a drop. 


How have you worked with your horse on this?