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Can you tell me where to give my horse his shots and how to give them? I'm afraid I might hurt him by giving them wrong.

-- M. S.


The most crucial question is where to give the shot. Various medications work better when administered in specific locations, so check with the drug maker and/or your veterinarian for the recommended location to give the shot. Annual vaccinations are commonly given in the neck -- which can cause a problem if you don't know where the animal's spine is. Because the human spine runs along the back of the neck, folks commonly assume that a horse's also does. As a result, they will give the shot toward the middle of the neck and sometimes accidentally hit the spine. Look at the drawing at the right to see where the horse's spine actually runs.

The safest spot is in the long "dimple" that runs just below the thick, rope-like structure that supports the mane. I've colored that area green on the drawing.

Photo 1 --
Start by holding the needle -- without the syringe -- between your index and middle fingers. Place your thumb over the end of the needle where the syringe will be inserted. This will help when you get to the place where you actually insert the needle into the horse..

Photo 2 --
Tap the horse's neck firmly several times with the heel of your hand.

Photo 3 --
On the last tap, turn the back of your hand toward the horse and stick the needle in. Watch the needle for a few seconds to see if any blood comes out. If it does, it means you've hit a vein. In that case, just remove the needle and repeat the process in another location.

Photo 4 --
Make sure that the medicine is into the neck of the syringe so you don't get a big air bubble. If there's no blood coming from the needle, insert the syringe into the needle and push the plunger in one smooth motion.

Photo 5 --
Remove the syringe and needle -- and you're done! Notice that Fanny didn't even flinch during the entire procedure!

The total time from start to finish is well under 30 seconds.

(Special thanks to Karen and Trygve for their help with these photos!)
Where to give the shot

Hold the needle between the index and middle finger
Tap the horse's neck several times with the palm of your hand
On the last tap turn your hand and stick the needle in
Attach the syringe and push the plunger
Remove the syringe and needle


Today was the first time I ever gave my horse his yearly shot and I think I really messed up. I did as you said from the question page and I still think I hit a vein. Should I be worried? I waited to see if blood came out. When I pulled the needle out there was a tiny bit of blood in it, and even more on his body. Please let me know ASAP if I need to worry.

T. H.


Nope, you don't have to worry -- you did fine. A little bit of blood at the injection site is normal. There are tiny little blood vessels all through a horse's body, so hitting one is not uncommon. What you need to worry about is hitting a major vein, which would carry the medication to the horse's heart. If you had done that, you would have seen blood flowing out of the needle.

What I suspect may have happened in your case is that you pushed the plunger in until it compressed the rubber end that pushes the medicine out of the syringe. When you released the pressure on the plunger, it created a tiny bit of suction that pulled a trace of blood into the needle. If you pricked your finger with a pin, you'd expect to see some blood on your finger even though there's no major vein there for you to hit.

I hope this helps to calm your nerves a bit! ;o)

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