The Proper Restraint, Part 2

Part 2 of this series on how to properly hold your young foal.

In Part 1 of this series, Dr. Racquel Rodeheaver-Lindroth introduced “the hug,” a gentle technique to restrain young foals. Now she explains variations of the hug for different veterinary techniques, and common mistakes when restraining foals.

Drawing Blood

“Because I’m right-handed, I find it easier to draw blood from the foal’s left side,” Dr. Rodeheaver-Lindroth explains. “I’ll ask the person restraining the foal to be on the foal’s right side. “The person restraining the foal should have their elbow up under the foal’s chin and lift the head,” she continues. “That keeps the holder from wrapping an arm around the throatlatch. “If you hug the throatlatch too tightly, you can cut off the airway of the foal. It also collapses the vein so that I can’t visualize it as well. “Their hand should be at the base of the ear, not to twitch or twist it, but to stabilize the head. Again, that can prevent the handler from getting a head-butt.”

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The holder holds the filly’s head up and a little away from Dr. Rodeheaver-Lindroth, so she has a good view of the jugular. “Again, I think foals appreciate firm pressure,” Dr. Rodeheaver-Lindroth says. “I often hold the neck firmly as I’m holding off the jugular vein.”


“To ensure that a foal receives adequate colostrum within the first few hours of life, veterinarians will commonly pass a nasogastric tube to deliver colostrum straight to the stomach,” Dr. Rodeheaver-Lindroth says. “Know that they are going to squirm. You are passing a tube into the nasal passage, and that is very ticklish!” In this case, Dr. Rodeheaver-Lindroth likes to use a corner of the stall to help stabilize the foal’s hindquarters. “You need a person on each side to brace the foal,” she says. “I stand with my hip against the foal’s shoulder similar to my position for administering oral medication. I have one arm around the foal’s head with my hand supporting its muzzle. “That allows me to manipulate the tube into the nostril but have a firm hold on the foal’s head so that if she jumps up or squirms, I can control the movement of her head.” The real trick to restraining the foal comes when the tube gets farther along. “I want to see the tube pass to ensure that it’s in the esophagus as it’s going into the stomach,” Dr. Rodeheaver-Lindroth explains. “I’ll often ask the person to move their hand so I can see that. “In that case, they need to swing their hip around toward the front of the foal’s shoulder. Or, I have them drop their hand and hold the point of the shoulder on the opposite side from them.”

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Common Mistakes

Holding too tight. If you hold them with a death grip, they’ll either fight or just want to collapse and lie down. Going straight to the head. “When I approach a foal, I don’t go to the head. I always approach the shoulder and side, then move into a hug,” Dr. Rodeheaver-Lindroth says. Being in a rush. If you go in hurried or impatient or trying to rush a procedure, you can make a negative, lasting impression. Go in to hold the foal with a gentle, confident approach, moving slow and steady. Take time to reassure the foal, too. Scratches on the shoulders, withers or at the base of the tail can help instill confidence and gain the foal’s trust.