How can I teach my horse to behave when the Veterinarian needs to give him an injection?

This is always a fun one:  Your Veterinarian comes out for a routine visit, and your perfectly mannered four legged critter turns into a leg flailing and head tossing dingbat when the Vet tries to give him an injection.  (Always embarrassing, and always dangerous for everyone involved.)  
You can train your horse to behave, I promise.  Here’s how you can break it down into manageable steps for your horse to overcome this behavior. 



Use a syringe for maximum realness when your horse is ready for the big leagues.

Remember these golden rules for training:

  • Tiny steps.
  • Work on it every single day.  No exceptions.  (Even when he’s perfected the behavior, 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.
  • Think of approaching every step below as an opportunity to advance and retreat.  You should know where your horse’s comfort zone starts and ends.  If you push it too much, retreat back to something that he’s OK with to build his confidence.  Don’t find his uncomfortable area and pick at it, this will only decrease his confidence.  For example, on step 3 below, if your horse gets tense or restless when you approach with the pen, retreat the pen and let him relax before pushing that envelope again.  


Step One - Can your horse NOT have a cow if you touch his jugular groove?


Here are your tiny steps to follow to teach your horse to behave during injections.  Your horse should be calm and still with each step before you proceed to the next step.  Back up to previous steps if you need to.  Some horses will have this down in a few days, others, not so much.


  • Mimic where your Veterinarian would stand and pet him on the jugular groove.  
  • Apply pressure to the jugular groove with your thumb or fingers. 
  • While applying pressure to the jugular groove, use your other hand to press gently with the rounded end of a pen.  You can also use a syringe without a needle.  This is good to practice if your horse is reactive when the plunger of the syringe is depressed into his vein.  


Step Two - Can your horse be normal and civilized while you apply pressure to the jugular groove?


  • Hold a rubber band across or along the jugular groove.
  • Hold a rubber band across the jugular groove and gently snap it against his neck.  This mimics the pinch a needle can have. This step is critical, be sure to practice the snap when he is relaxed.  The photo shows a hair tie, which is a good option if the snap of a rubber band may send your horse to the next county.  Pass the hair band test before trying the rubber band, which snaps more.


Step Three - Snap!  



Be patient and you will be amazed!   And just think, if your horse can “get over himself” with needles, imagine what else you can train him to do!!

What have you done to overcome your horse’s bad reaction to needles?