Your horse is going to take veterinary procedure which requires him to stand still and be quiet, but you are afraid of chemical sedatives, then a method called “horse twitch” is the right choice for you.
This method has been used for long as a tool to restrain horses and avoid unnecessary injury to human and horses. This article provides in-deep information about twitches that you want to know.
What is a twitch for horses?
A horse twitch is a device that is used to control horses in stressful situations like veterinary treatment. It is known to calm the horse by releasing endorphins when pressure is applied on him. Endorphins will help him reduce stress and pain.
This pain-killing effects are hypothesized to be similar to acupuncture. When a horse is twitched, his behavior will likely change a bit (glassy eyes, droopy lips). But, this will return to normal once the twitch is removed.
The twitch is considered a humane method of restraint and commonly used by horse owners and veterinarians.
Benefits of twitching horse
Horses are big animals. If they do not like a veterinary exam, they can create a danger to people around them, sometimes even themselves.
If you want to calm a horse by holding up a leg, you may put yourself at risk. Also, this is not always effective.
If you choose chemical sedatives, your horse may face unnecessary health risks. And, your pocket will be less by the expense.
So, a simple twitch allows you to calm your horse with no risk or expense. Although not all horses show positive effect to twitches, you can easily remove the twitch and try something else when it is not right. It causes little or almost no effects to your horse’s health.
Tools to use
Basically, there are 3 tools for horse twitch: rope twitch, chain twitch, and metal clamp twitch.
Different types of twitches
Normally, there are 3 types of twitches: Lip twitch (also known as “nose twitch”), ear twitch, and skin twitch. Each type has different effects to your horse, so you should consider carefully before choosing to apply.
1. Lip twitch (or nose twitch)
Well, this is the most common method of horse twitch in which the horse’s upper lip will be squeezed in a device. This type is believed to have legitimate uses and easy to do.
The vets can use rope, chain, or metal clamp twitch to hold the horse’s lip.
This method shows lower heart rate in the presence of painful stimuli. This reduces a horse’s reaction to the pain as beta-endorphins is released. The pain-killing effect will subdue horses, which is similar to acupuncture.
However, it should only be used for 5 minutes. When used for a longer period, it will increase heart rate and decrease heart rate variability. At that time, there will be no significant change in salivary cortisol levels. And that reduces the effectiveness.
If the horse is so tall, applying this method can be difficult as he can raise his head and shy away from application. And, remember never stand in front of the horse to twitch it because some will strike suddenly when you begin to apply the device.
2. Skin twitch (or neck twitch, shoulder roll)
This method involves taking a firm hold on the skin of the neck just above the shoulder. This can be easier than lip twitch.
It can probably release an endorphin in horses, which also exerts a calming effect like lip twitch. However, sometimes it may appear less effective despite no tools are required.
Shoulder roll is particularly useful for giving IM injections to young horses and horses which resent injections (needle shy).
3. Ear twitch
I would say that this type of twitch is detrimental, not a humane method and should be avoided.
When applied a twitch device on ear, the horse may immobilize like a freezing response by fear or paint as seen in multiple species.
In contract to the lip twitch, ear twitch can lead to significantly increased heart rates and change the heart-rate variability regardless how long it is applied. Cortisol levels will rise dramatically which makes the horse hard to handle.
Besides, this method can cause damage to the horse’s delicate ear tissues. Sadly, in the long-term, horses can become head-shy if you choose this method.
When to use horse twitch?
If your horses need doing some lameness exams and other general procedures that they typically do not like such as nerve blocking, x-rays, or joint injections (and they cannot be sedated for), twitches should be used.
The twitch offers transient calm and distraction which provides enough time for the veterinarian to perform the procedure. This ensures the safety not only for the horse but also for the veterinary staff.
If your horses have had a bad experience with a twitch, they will show less desirable reaction to it in the next application. You should never use twitches to discipline horses since this can lead to negative effects on your horses. Stop using lip twitch if there is any injury around your horse’s upper lip.
How long to use horse twitch?
A twitch should only be applied at the beginning of the procedure and removed by the time the procedure is over. However, as mentioned above, it should be applied no longer than 5 minutes.
The endorphins need about 3 to 5 minutes to be released. After endorphins reach to effective levels, the effect of the twitch will last about 10 to 15 minutes and then wear off quickly. After that, with less natural analgesia, the horse himself has to suffer the pain of the procedure which is still in progress.
So, remember to stop using twitches in time to prevent your horses from any aversion to the twitch.
What if a horse is twitched often?
It is safe to regularly apply a lip twitch on equine patients.
But remember to do it calmly, watch the horse for observable sedation effects (his eyelids may droop, his head may relax, he may become unwilling to move, and so on). Do not forget to stop the application before the effect wears off.
Safety tips of using horse twitch
You should stand on the same side of the horse when using the twitch. This will keep you safe from horse’s kicks with his forelegs. One hand holds the twitch and the other holds the shank chain.
Also, you should use a long-handled hickory twitch as this is safer for you and the horse as well.
Always keep one eye on the horse and one eye on the twitch. If your horse shows any signs of protest, the twitch is not right for him.
So, you have already equipped enough knowledge about horse twitch, haven’t you? Please remember neither too loose twitch nor too tight twitch is effective to your horse.
Always monitor your horse closely. Do not let your horse alone if the twitch is still connected to him.