Sedation for Horses

Sedation of horses and ponies is a routine procedure performed on several horses within this practice every week.

Sedated horses are unpredictable and must never be assumed to be totally safe. They can wake up instantly and kick very accurately before returning to a sedentary position.

The degree of sedation and the amount of drugs necessary to achieve a suitable level of sedation varies between horses enormously.

Sedation is regularly requested for procedures such as dentistry and clipping. Sedation is also widely used to perform diagnostic procedures and stitch ups etc. to minimise risk of injury to the horse, personnel and equipment involved.

Horses in a similar way to people can suffer an adverse reaction to drugs ranging from a skin rash to death. Realistically sedation appears to be a very low risk procedure for the horse.

Side effects are uncommon and include the horse falling over, choking if the horse eats before fully awake and colic (very low risk for short procedures).

What to Expect

Sedated horses become sleepy, wobbly on their legs, sweat a lot and urinate frequently. They will often have sudden twitches ranging from the skin flinching to jerking their whole head.


The vet will advise you how long you need to wait after the procedure before the horse can be allowed to eat again. It is also important once the horse is awake to make sure it does eat and pass normal dung. Sedation slows the guts and can cause impaction of food (colic) so the horse must be monitored until it has returned completely to normal.

Horses will urinate a lot during or after sedation.

Fresh water should be available as soon as the horse is awake enough to eat again.

Most horses will require monitoring for 1.5 – 2 hours after the initial injection. They will be awake and alert much sooner than this however – usually 45-60 minutes after initial injection. The duration of sedation depends on which drugs are used and the vet will advise you of this at the time.

If you are at all concerned that your horse is not waking up as expected, showing side effects or any other unusual behaviour after being sedated please phone the clinic straight away – Deben Valley Equine Veterinary Clinic 01728 685 123