You Need a Veterinarian

Recently, while picking up horse supplies at a local tack store, my sister and I began talking with the store clerk. We got onto the topic of the cost of supplies and learned that he was a sheep breeder. My sister, who is a small-animal veterinarian, asked who does his veterinary work for him. He replied that he does all his own veterinary work.

My sister smiled, never letting on she was a vet, saying, ”That’s probably a savings,” and quickly changed the topic. Later, she told me she felt sorry for the sheep and hoped they were overall a healthy lot.

I told her that we often hear from readers who do their own vet work. The most-frequent reason is that there aren’t enough horse vets. Other times I’m told that they research their own problems and rarely need help. (I hope their research isn’t totally Internet-based!) I’ve also been told that the stable owner/trainer does the barn’s vet work and has been around long enough to know as much as a real vet. (No comment on that one.)

Of course, we work hard to make Horse Journal a solid resource for horse care and buying decisions, with loads of hands-on information. We want to help you recognize different problems and know what needs to be done. But, you’ve probably noticed, we often also advise you to call the vet, words, I’m told, that annoy some readers.

I’m not sure why this is irritating because, if you’ve done your ”research,” you know many problems can initially show symptoms that fit many illnesses and the longer you wait for a proper diagnosis, the more likely the problem will worsen. Plus, few of us have the diagnostic equipment often needed or the access to prescription drugs.

I agree that there aren’t as many equine veterinarians compared to small-animal vets, and it can be tough to get someone out if you aren’t a regular client. Being an equine vet isn’t glamorous or highly profitable, compared to their small-animal peers. Most people can restrain their dog, but a lot of horse owners don’t have a clue how to safely handle a horse, and many don’t want anyone else to do so either. (”Don’t shank down on Thunderbolt, you’ll hurt him!”)

My own vet won’t allow owners to handle their own horses and brings a professional holder with him. He said he’s been too close to injury several times, usually because the owner was untrained. He said he’s especially concerned when he arrives at a barn and finds out the horse’s name is ”Precious” or ”Sweetie Pie.”

If you don’t have a regular vet, you need to find one and establish yourself as a client. By all means, do educate yourself, but choose reliable sources and don’t use that as a substitute for proper veterinary care.

We know a lot of readers give their own vaccines, and we’ve run articles explaining the process. We also tell you to be upfront about that with your vet. Maybe you’ll only need his/her services for emergencies, but I want to remind you that teeth do need floating and an annual look-see by your vet isn’t a bad idea. At our last vet visit, we went through the feeding program. He cut out one supplement per horse. By year’s end, we’ll have paid for the visit.

But here’s the bottom line: I love my horse, and I’m educated and experienced enough to know that taking a chance on her health because I think I know what I’m doing isn’t a risk I want to take.

Cynthia Foley

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