Dr. John Hubbell is considered one of the most experienced equine anesthesiologists in the industry. Currently the chief of anesthesia at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., Hubbell was interviewed by The Horse to learn more about equine sedation and anesthesia. 

Hubbell told The Horse that the sedatives in use today include xylazine, acepromazine, detomidine, romifidine, and butorphanol, which were developed between the 1970s and 1990s. Prior to the introduction of these drugs, physical restraints were often used in many medical procedures. 

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Hubbell reported that the sedatives used today take effect within three to five minutes. Adult horses often remain standing, even when heavily sedated. 

With today’s lessened reliance on physical restraints, the safety of the horse and the people surrounding him is heightened. 

Though anesthesia is the safest it’s ever been, there are still risks associated with laying the horse down on its side. Horses that are older (over 17 to 20 years old), those that are large, and those that aren’t used to being handled are at the greatest risk of anesthesia complications. Horses in the last two categories, especially, can be difficult to help stand after anesthesia. 

Hubbell said procedures that use short-term anesthesia, where the horse is recumbent for 20 to 30 minutes, do not present as many potential issues as procedures which require horses to be under anesthesia for more than 90 minutes. 

There are no breed-specific dosing protocols, but Hubbell has found that American Saddlebreds and draft horses often need smaller doses of detomidine or xylazine as compared to Appaloosas, Arabians and Mustangs. 

Hubbell has also found that the atmosphere in which he’s performing the procedure will affect how much sedation is required. He noted that horses which have been handled regularly and that are taught to behave often require smaller doses of sedative.

Read more at The Horse. 



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