A sedative-containing gel for sedating horses is now on the market under the brand name Dormosedan . It costs about $25 per tube and is administered under the horse’s tongue and is absorbed through the mucus membranes. The sedative is detomidine, one of the more common drugs used to sedate horses. Until the gel form came out the drug was given by injection either in the vein or muscle.
I learned about this new product when a miniature horse owner posted the link to an article about it on a forum. The post created a lively discussion about using a sedative to restrain horses for procedures like clipping. There were those who had used it and were very pleased with the results, others couldn’t understand why anyone would resort to sedation a horse, a miniature in particular, to clip or trim hooves. The argument went back and forth, both sides making good points.
There are various ways to restrain a horse: holding them by the halter, holding up one foot, nose or ear twitching, and tranquilizers are among the most common. I really only had one horse that I had to sedate to clip her ears, my Arabian mare, Miramar. She fought us tooth and hoof when we tried the common method of twitching. Twitching a horse involves squeezing the horse’s nose with one of three kinds of tools – metal or “humane” clamp, rope or chain. The rope or chain is a loop on the end of a stick/handle. One slips the loop over the horse’s nose and twists it tight; apparently distracting the horse’s attention from the work being done to the pain it is feeling. It really is barbaric, but effective. The “humane” twitch works like a clamp, but basically does the same thing. So, it is no surprise that horses would opt out of being twitched given their druthers. But, most horses seem to forget previous twitching and allow the handler to slip the twitch onto their noses. My mare was smart enough to remember what that tool was all about and she was not about to let us do it without a fight.
Miramar reacted just as violently to having clippers anywhere near her ears. No amount of patience or tricks like putting cotton balls in her ears to block the buzz of the clippers mattered. We even tried blindfolding her, but as soon as she heard the noise it was all over. I spent hours just letting her listen to the clippers, inching closer and closer, but as soon as I got near the ears there was the explosive reaction from my beloved mare. It seemed to be a reflex reaction, like blinking your eyes if someone sticks a finger in it. Tranquilizing her was the only way to get her bridlepath and ears clipped for a show.
Our miniature horse was opposed to having his feet trimmed and his legs clipped. But he was only 19 inches tall and I could always manage to hold him still against the wall of the wash stall while my farrier trimmed his little feet or my grand daughter clipped his legs. Domino got better about the leg and foot handling with time. I never felt I needed to use any other kind of restraint. Had he been a bigger miniature, say 30-36 inches, or if I were working alone, it may have been a different story.
To read about the gel form of detomidine follow the link to the article in The Horse magazine. Talk to your vet about the advisability of using it on your horse. There are some concerns about it being absorbed through your own skin when you administer it, where it is safe for pregnant mares or for stallions. Discuss it all with your vet.