Skip navigation.
The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine logo Home

The Dog Doctors Youth Outreach Program

Animal Doc

How Do They Operate On A Horse?

Actually, operating on a horse is very similar to operating on a human.

There is an operating room, and although the surgery table is a little different, much of the other equipment is the same. There are doctors, anesthesiologists, assistants and technicians.

Let's see how an operation is performed!

Anesthetizing the Horse

First, the operating room is prepared. It must be extremely clean and all of the surgical instruments are sterilized.

Before anyone enters the room they must either put on "scrubs" or a surgery gown. Everyone must also put on a mask and a cap.

All of this is done to keep germs from infecting the horse.

The horse is given a tranquilizer which calms the horse and is then brought into the anesthesia room so he/she can be put to sleep for the operation.

The tranquilized horse is then positioned in a special part of the anesthesia room that has padded walls.

The wall on the right can be tightened against the horse with ropes so that the horse is held up when he/she falls asleep.

The horse is then given a drug to make him/her sleep, and the padded wall prevents the horse from getting hurt as he/she falls asleep. If the wall was not there, the horse would fall down quickly and might get hurt.

The doctor holds the horse's head up as the horse goes to sleep, which occurs in just a few minutes.

When the horse falls asleep, the doctors and assistants lay the horse down gently.

Transferring the Horse

When the horse falls asleep, the horse's legs are wrapped up to protect them and then special ropes are attached to the horse's legs.

The ropes are attached to a hook that is attached to a special motorized crane. The horse is then picked up by his legs! (This does not damage the horse).

Once the horse is lifted up he/she must be transferred to the operating room. Everybody helps move the horse, because the average horse weighs 1000 pounds!

The horse is carefully laid on the operating table. For this operation the feet are straight up in the air!

The horse's legs are unhooked from the crane.

The horse's legs are then hooked to poles that are alongside the table. This will keep the legs up in the air and out of the way.

Here you can see how the horse's legs are attached to the poles.

Anesthesiology Equipment

Here is one of the anesthesiologists. He is monitoring all of the equipment that keeps the horse asleep.

This is the respirator. It breathes for the horse during anesthesia.

The bellows is the part that looks like a slinky. It expands and contracts to move air into the horse's lungs.

These machines keep track of the horse's heart rate and blood pressure, and regulate the mixture of anesthetic gases that are being given to the horse through the bellows.

The Operation

The doctors must make sure that they wash their hands and arms very thoroughly. They cannot have any germs infecting the horse.

The area that will be operated on must be shaved to remove hair.

Here a doctor is using an electric shaver to prepare the area.

After shaving, the area is completely covered in an anti-bacterial solution to kill germs that normally live on the skin.

Here the doctor is applying the solution.

After shaving and applying the solution, sterile sheets are placed over the horse (all except the head).

A small area is cut into the sheet and the operation is performed in this area.

Here we see Dr. Anne Baskett performing surgery on the horse.

Notice that everyone is wearing scrubs, gowns, masks, caps, and gloves.


After the operation the horse's feet are once again attached to the crane.

The horse is then lifted up again on the crane to be transferred to the recovery room.

Notice how the doctor has to hold the horse's head up as the horse is transferred into the recovery room.

The horse is placed on a soft pad and the feet are released from the crane.

The horse is then allowed to sleep until the anesthetic drugs wear off. A towel is placed over the eyes to protect them.

The horse breathes through a tube that is left in the mouth until the horse wakes up.

They usually sleep about 45 minutes and then are up on their feet again!


Last Updated April 10, 2007

The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the administration of the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.

Contact Us

Office for Academic Affairs
College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-7372
Phone: 706.542.8411
FAX: 706.542.5828

Note: Treatment of animals should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Veterinarians should consult the current literature and current pharmacological formularies before initiating any treatment protocol.

Exotic Animal Links

University of Georgia Wildlife Treatment

Zoo Atlanta

Riverbanks Zoo

The Georgia Aquarium