I haven’t been a big fan of using a twitch on horses for quite some time.
Some people argue that a twitch might hurt the horse or are in others ways unkind. It’s my understanding that using a twitch correctly on the nose of a horse releases endorphins which are considered soothing to the horse and it’s these that (in theory) make the horse relax or stand still.
But in my experience, I’d rather have been under a horse that’s jumping around than one standing still with a twitch on.
There’s an element of danger getting the twitch on the nose in the first place. Most horses aren’t too keen for starters and a long wooden handle (if that’s the type of twitch you’re using) swinging around, a horse saying no thanks and a couple of people trying to get the twitch on can be a recipe for disaster. And then once the twitch is on, having somebody competent holding (and more importantly keeping hold of) the handle is a challenge in itself.
But none of these things are the main reasons I don’t like twitches and didn’t carry one in the truck when I was working in Farrierville.
Having a twitch on a horse can appear to work well for a while, get some horses to stand still and give the farrier enough time to get the job done quickly. In many cases – get the hind feet trimmed or that last shoe nailed on and clenched up before it all turns to custard.
But I’ve seen too many horses “snap” with a twitch on and I’d want to be nowhere close thanks very much when it happened! Here’s some of the usual stages we see the horse going through when using a twitch:
- put the twitch on
- horse licks his lips and chews – probably more from having something on his nose rather than the natural horsemanship theory of relaxing and accepting…
- horse starts to partly close his eyes
- horse sighs
- horse tilts his head slightly
- horse “calms down”
- farrier works like a man possessed to get the job done quickly and get outta there ASAP
But sometime during the 7th stage is when a horse can snap. Some might argue that there’s a time limit on how long the twitch will work and I agree, there is a limit but those horses that snap can do so at any time from a few minutes or any time afterwards.
So you’ve got a horse calm and standing whilst you work quickly. But the “snap” involves a humongous burst of sudden energy when his head throws around violently or legs flys in any and all directions with little regard to any human being in the way. All this is without any warning which as farriers know, is a great way to get hurt. It could be the horses system fights the endorphins and for a moment, it’s the system that gains the upper hand.
I’ve seen quite a number of horses snap like this with a twitch on and I think there are much better ways to get difficult horses done. And if things are really that bad, it might be better to say no thanks rather than get under a horse with a twitch on and get hurt.