Equine Pill Resistance is an Odyssey of Its Own

I don’t have children, but some days owning a horse mimics parenting a toddler to me, especially when it comes to coaxing my 17.3-hand Irish Sport Horse to ingest his medicine!

In his youth and middle years, my horse ate EVERYTHING in his bucket and licked it until a sheen glowed on the plastic. Those halcyon days of mealtime are over. Mr. Suspicious sniffs the bucket regardless of its contents. Any whiff of the unfamiliar or, in his mind, distasteful is rejected. “Talk to the hoof, mother. I’m not eating that, whatever that is! And if you think I don’t know, there is a foreign food buried in the apple, banana, carrot, cookie, or hiding under the mint, think again!”

What do beleaguered horse owners do when pills are like a mountain?

Here is a list in no particular order of approaches I’ve tried to coax my horse into taking his medicine like a good boy.

According to Kentucky Equine Research, “Cut a hole into a chunk of apple or carrot and push the pill into the hole. Give several unmedicated chunks to the horse and then offer the doctored chunk, followed quickly by a few more plain ones. With luck, the horse will chew and swallow without noticing the pill.”

Yes, I tried this method with every fruit and cookie imaginable, including pill pockets. Yes, I gave my horse chunks without the medicine. Yes, I became adept like a fruit surgeon at carving the smallest possible hole into the fruit and hiding it.

Result? Ten minutes of dramatic sniffing before eating around any fruit or grain that hid pills. Next.

Again, KER offered another suggestion that works for most horses except my food detective. “…the next thing to try is grinding the pill into a powder and mixing it with a larger portion of something delicious. You can try blending the powder into applesauce, yogurt, molasses, pancake syrup, or even cake frosting. A few tablespoons (or more) of one of these carrier substances will often hide the taste of the pill.”

I admit I didn’t try pancake syrup or cake frosting. Yes, horses have an exceptionally good smell, but my horse’s smell sense borders on the bionic!

Result? Applesauce, yogurt, and molasses failed to mask the pill smell even when ground into microscopic particles!

Moving on. Yes, I ground the pills into some sweet feed but giving my horse sweet feed when he needs to ingest Prascend pills daily to monitor Cushing’s seems backward to me. I skipped this option.

Last one. Ready? Mix the ground pills into yogurt or applesauce and give it to your horse like you do a dewormer. Mmm…

Diligently, I ground the pills daily and mixed the substance with water instead of a sweet substance. I hid the syringe in my back pocket. I practiced my syringe application skills.

Result? I managed to get all the mixture in my horse’s mouth AND avoided a dislocated shoulder or thumb! Still not the best option, even if my health insurance does cover joint dislocations.

The end of our joint odyssey came in a bottle of organic agave low glycemic sweetener I found when I reorganized a kitchen cupboard. Two teaspoons of agave to cover the pills and a handful of equine senior and my horse shelved his pickiness and hyper-smelling routine. The bucket retained its shine, and pills were ingested EVERY day.

Wait, there must be a trick? Yes and no. One teaspoon covers the pills, but the second teaspoon is sprinkled around the bucket. When I bought a new bucket, I seasoned it outside with water to dull the plastic smell but then smeared agave around the entire surface.


This post is too long, but I’ve talked to so many horse owners who struggle with giving their horses medicine.

Good luck, and save your surgical skills for carving a piece of cake for yourself!