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August 01, 2021

Equine Fear Free certification launches

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The Fear Free organization has launched an equine certification program for veterinary professionals.

The course consists of eight one-hour modules that cover Fear Free concepts using video clips and slides to show participants how to examine equine patients safely by using gentle techniques, perform routine procedures in a nonthreatening way, recognize signs of stress in equine patients, and help owners train their horses to cooperate in medical care, hoof care, and more.

Dr. Stacie Boswell, a board-certified large animal surgeon and one of the authors of the course, said she spoke with Dr. Marty Becker, founder of Fear Free, in 2018 about creating an equine program.

“We do not get enough behavioral training in school,” Dr. Boswell said. “Having a way to communicate and teach these concepts is so important.”

Crystal Sharp administers a vaccine
Crystal Sharp, a certified veterinary technician, administers a vaccine to a horse being restrained using Fear Free gentle control techniques. (Photo by Dr. Stacie Boswell)

The concepts included in the course are similar to the concepts for other species, Dr. Boswell said. The three most important are considerate approach, touch gradient, and gentle control.

For example, a considerate approach in horses includes knowing how to manage the interaction within the environment. If a client brings two horses in together, they’re not separated, Dr. Boswell said.

The course also includes advice on how equine veterinarians can help owners in training their horses for care.

“I worked in one practice that was not Fear Free, and the difference in what I see in my patients and my technicians and the team and how owners respond is night and day,” Dr. Boswell said.

In fact, she now has a handful of clients who come to see her specifically because she uses Fear Free techniques.

“It makes a huge difference in how animals respond,” she said.

The other authors for the course include Dr. Tamara Grubb, Dr. Manon Hynes, Dr. Claudia Richter, and Sherrie Yuschak, a registered veterinary technician.

Participants will earn a total of eight hours of continuing education credit approved by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards’ Registry of Approved Continuing Education after finishing the course.

The Fear Free certification programs are available at their website. Students and faculty and staff members at veterinary colleges and veterinary technology programs are able to receive free access to the certification programs. Become a member of Fear Free.