RESTRAINT Methods of Controlling and Securing the Horse.The means by which horses may be restrained and made amenable to operations and the administration of medicines must depend upon a number of factors, especially the age, breed of horse, and the particular operation it is intended to perform.
No hard and fast rules can be laid down. As much will depend upon the skill, tact, and judgment of the operator himself as on the individual peculiarities of the horse to be operated upon. What is a successful method in the hands of one man may be a disastrous failure in the hands of another.
Horses differ a great deal in temperament. Some nervous, excitable horses will require patience and kindness rather than rough usage; others, again, will not respond to caresses, but are quickly cowed by a suitable method of restraint; e.g. some well-bred, excitable horses will resist violently even if a twitch is applied, but will stand quietly and submit to operation when it is removed and their fears are allayed by kindness. For some a general is the only safe method of restraint, and it is the close observer of the temperament and habits of the horse who will choose the most suitable one.
It is the object of the author of these notes not to describe every appliance, but chiefly those which he has found to be most serviceable under the different conditions met with in a busy practice.
It is always advisable, however, to try benign methods first; if these fail more drastic applica tions must be used; but whatever method is adopted one must consider not only the safety of the operator and his assistants, but also that of the animal. For minor operations it is not usually necessary to cast the animal, and there are many appliances which can be used for the purpose of control.
The head must always be secured either by a halter, head-stall, or bridle, and a bridle with blinkers is always to be advised.
It will be found of great advantage to pass the halter-rope twice through a ring or round a post; there is then no fear of the attendant being injured by the fore feet, and if knee-caps are applied the horse will not hurt himself. The ring for this purpose should be on a level with the head, so that the fore legs cannot get over the rope during struggling. If the ceiling of the building is fairly low a ring may be put in it and the head pulled up tight. This answers very well indeed for horses that rear or kick when being clipped.
For operations on young foals, e.g. docking, it is usually sufficient to pull them up to a ring in the manger and hold them securely pressed against the wall. The halter should always be hitched before this is done, otherwise the lower jaw may be injured, and the rope must never be tied.
For operations on the nose and teeth two halters may be applied, one in a reverse manner. The horse having been backed into a stall, the ropes are put around a stall-post or through a ring on each side and held by two men. A strong head-collar with two ropes answers the same purpose. Other restraining appliances for the head include: (1) Twitches; (2) Gags; (3) Blinders, Bluffs, and Blinkers; (4) Side-rod and Cradle; (5) Cross-reins.
(1) Twitches are of various kinds; some are called humane, but all operate by bringing pressure on the nerves, so taking the attention of the animal from the part operated upon.
They may be described as necessary evils, and although some humanitarians consider them to be barbarous instruments of torture, it is quite impossible to control some animals with out them. They should, however, only be resorted to when absolutely necessary.
The commonest form of twitch consists of a strong piece of soft rope, preferably of cotton or hemp, in the form of a loop attached to a strong round pole, varying in length from 1 to 5 feet.
The twitch may be applied to the upper or lower lip or to the ear, but if to the latter a piece of hair should be included, and it should be put well over the base of the ear. Care should be taken not to use too much force, otherwise the muscles of the ear may be torn. Sometimes the loop is placed round the lower jaw, but this method is rather dangerous; it may cause the mouth to be cut, and is not to be advised unless it is impossible to place it on the upper lip or ear, either through injury to these parts or viciousness.
A so-called humane twitch is made of two pieces of grooved wood hinged at one end. The upper lip is included and fastened in that position by means of a strap. It is too short to hold with any advantage, easily slips off, and is useless for many purposes. It has the advantage when the operation is being per formed single-handed that it may be left in position and needs no one to hold it. It is also useful when casting animals.
A short twitch about one foot long may be utilized for the same purpose by tying it to the head-stall with a piece of cord.
(2) Gags. Various gags have been invented by experts in the breaking of horses, e.g. Galvayne, but most of them operate by pulling the corners of the mouth upwards and by com pressing the head.
A halter can easily be made into a gag in cases of emergency by removing the rope from under the jaw, placing it in the mouth and pulling it as tightly as necessary. Sometimes a loop of the halter shank is placed round the lower jaw. Care should be taken not to include the tongue, as it is not at all rare for that organ to be severed or very badly injured in this way.
This method is not to be advised. A better way is to make a running loop low down on the nose so as to compress the false nostril and nasal peak (Fig. 200). This is usually effective.
The Polish gag acts on the same principle as a tourniquet. A loop of rope is put in the mouth and carried over the head; by means of a piece of stick it is tightened up as may be necessary.
(3) Blinders, bluffs, and blinkers are usually made of leather or partly of canvas and leather, and are strapped over the head, so as to restrict the vision of the animal. Some horses thus blinded are rendered perfectly docile, but this is not always the case, as the following thrilling experience of the author will show: A thoroughbred colt was being prepared for operation, but as soon as blindfolded he seemed to lose all sense of reason, rushed madly round the box, and finally plunged head first at the wall, which fortunately was old and made of wood, and fell through on the other side. Since this experience the author has preferred the use of blinkers, unless the animal is securely fastened by the head.
Blinkers have the advantage of preventing the horse seeing what is going on behind with out causing alarm, at the same time allowing him to see where he is and where he is going. They might be more often used with advantage. An ordinary harness bridle answers very well.
For stallions blinders or bluffs are most useful and necessary when they are obliged to mix with other horses; e.g. at shows, or when travel ling. These are usually made of canvas, and some of them just fit over and cover the eyes.
(4) Side-rod. This is a round wooden pole or rod, provided with a leather strap at each end, one of which is buckled on the head-stall and the other on the surcingle or roller. It is especially useful for stallions that have a habit of biting, for horses that tear their rugs, and sometimes to control a vicious animal during minor operations.
The cradle is an appliance put round the neck. It consists of a number of parallel wooden rods with rounded ends, strapped together by two bands of leather in a circular manner and fastened round the neck. It is made in various sizes, and is useful to prevent animals biting their legs after firing or blistering. It should always be made to fit, for if it is too small or too loose it is of no use, and if too large it may cause injury to the animal. Nervous horses will sometimes throw themselves down when it is applied, and it may get caught on a pro jection in the stable. A much more effective
appliance is— (5) Cross-reins. — Two reins crossing over the neck are fastened to the head-stall and the roller or surcingle of the animal, so that he is quite unable to get his head down to the fore legs, or turn it to bite the hind ones. It causes very little discomfort, does not chafe the neck, and can be adjusted easily to fit any size of horse.
Securing one or more Legs. This makes it more difficult for a horse to kick, though it does not absolutely prevent him from doing so on occasion.
If a fore leg is held up it should be on the side on which is the operator, and to secure it in that position a knee-band may be applied. This consists of a leather strap with two loops and a buckle and is strapped tightly round the forearm and pastern. A stirrup leather answers the purpose very well, or a rope may be fastened round the pastern, the loose end being brought over the withers, to be held there by an assistant. Knee-caps should always be worn, and there should be a soft bed of straw.
For operations on the hind leg—e.g. firing curbs, back tendons, etc., or even for firing the fore legs—a most effective apparatus is the single side-line. There are several kinds, but most of them consist of a collar piece round the neck and a rope which is attached to a hind limb. This is pulled forwards so that all the weight rests on the other hind leg.
Probably the best form of side-line and method of fixing is the following: It consists of a strong leather collar-piece (shaped like a false collar) to which a rope is fixed with a loop at the point of attachment. The rope is covered with leather to make it stronger and run easier. A leather heel - piece with two iron D's is put round the pastern, and the rope threaded through after passing between the fore legs. The rope is passed round the outside of the fore leg through the loop near the collar, then back, and over the two ropes behind the fore leg so as completely to encircle it. The hind limb thus hobbled is pulled forward so that the point of the toe only lightly touches the ground. The horse can thus balance himself, but cannot put any weight on the leg to enable him to kick with the free leg or to rear. The other hind leg can be operated upon with ease, as can also the fore leg.
The author has fired hundreds of horses of all breeds with perfect safety by this means, so long as the rope is held by a reliable assistant.
If the side-line described is not at hand, one can be made by means of a stout piece of webbing or cotton rope with a padded loop at one end to go round the pastern, or a hobble strap with two D's through which the rope can pass, so as not to injure the skin of the heel.
The hobble or loop is put round the hind pastern, and the loose end of the rope may be passed through an ordinary harness collar round the neck, or through a surcingle round the body. The leg can thus be pulled forwards and upwards by taking a turn of the rope round the fixed part.
Another method is to pass the loose end between the fore legs, round the shoulder over the withers, and down again, making a fold round the other part of the rope near the elbow.
Sometimes it is necessary to fix a hind limb in a backward direction; e.g. in shoeing a kicker.
One end of the side line is applied round the neck to form a collar, and fastened there while the loose end is passed round the pastern, or through a hobble placed on the hind leg to be secured. By the aid of an assistant the leg is pulled backwards, while another assistant seizes the foot, resting it on his leg as in the manner for shoeing. This is a very useful method for some horses, but others will struggle violently until released, or until they throw themselves down, so that great care has to be exercised.
A modification of this method is to carry the rope from the neck along the back, making a loop round the base of the tail and so down to the pastern.
The disadvantage of this procedure is that the animal in his attempts to struggle makes the tail sore, and with some horses it creates a tendency to kick.
Securing both. Hind Legs. Sometimes it is necessary to hobble both hind legs for opera tions such as docking, or to prevent injury to the stallion when serving the mare. For this purpose may be used: (a) The covering Hobbles. The commonest kind of hobble is made of two ropes with loops at one end padded with soft leather or felt to go round each pastern. They are then twisted up tightly to prevent much lateral movement, brought between the fore legs, and tied round the neck. One rope is usually made longer than the other, and has a felt pad to go over the withers to prevent injury there.
(b) The ordinary casting hobbles may be utilized. Two are placed on the hind pasterns and the rope and chain passed through each, then between the fore legs, round the shoulder, over the withers, and looped over the fixed part, being held forwards by an assistant.
Stocks or Trevis. In America, and to a less extent in England, these are commonly used to control animals when other methods have failed. They are especially useful to shoe unruly horses or mules. There are many kinds, but all are fixtures made of wood built into the ground. The object is to control as far as possible the animal's movements and at the same time to prevent injury to the operator. They consist of four posts let well down into the ground and cemented there; two or more cross pieces at each side and at each end; a sling to go under the body to prevent lying down, and some arrangement to enable a hind leg to be pulled up and secured in whatever position is required.
Sometimes also there are iron rings in the floor with which to attach the feet. Beams are sometimes put above to prevent rearing, or plunging out of the stocks.
The disadvantages of stocks are: (1) They are unmovable and not at hand when wanted.
(2) It takes some considerable time to fix the animal.
(3) They must be made of very strong material, otherwise they are easily broken.
(4) Some animals are difficult to get in, and when fixed plunge and struggle most violently, sometimes to their injury.
The advantages claimed are: (1) The animals cannot kick the operator.
(2) There is not the danger of casting, and for old animals with anchylosis of the spine casting is a serious consideration.
(3) The operation can be more readily per formed while standing; e.g. shoeing.
(4) After being put in the stocks several times, the animal will often submit to being shod without them.
Improved Stocks. One of the best stocks is an American invention. It can be fixed in a forge or stable, and when not in use may be folded up flat against the wall, so economizing space.
It is made of two parallel pieces fastened at the side of the building by means of hinges or stout posts let into the wall. Fixed to the side-pieces is an appliance to grasp the pastern, lift it up, and fix it in whatever position is most desirable.
The horse can be walked in as into a stall, and the side-pieces, operating on hinges, can then be adjusted, and a belly-band working on a crank fixed underneath.
Major Abson, A.V.C., has had one of these stocks now for sixteen years, and speaks in very high terms of its efficiency. Although it is in frequent use he has never had a horse injured, and in all that period has only once had to renew the canvas part which goes under the belly.