Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's up, Doc? Choosing a Veterinarian for Your Horse

This article is from our March newsletter, which you can view here:

By: Darlene M. Cox, darlc5@aol.com

Anyone who has owned a horse will need to obtain the services of a veterinarian at some point, whether it is simply for vaccination administration or for an emergency call to stitch a cut or something much more serious. One of the most important responsibilities we have as horse owners is to choose wisely those who provide medical services to our equine partners. For the well being of your horse, it is good to have identified a veterinarian as the "vet of record" before the need arises to place an emergency call, but how do you select a vet that is a good match for your horse or your ideals as a horse owner? You can "vet" the veterinarians in your area by conducting phone interviews with them and asking pertinent questions about their practice and their philosophy to treatment. These short interviews and the information gleaned from them can be the beginning basis toward choosing your veterinarian.

Veterinarians come in all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, personalities, and specialties. Several factors must be considered when making your selection. While expense may most likely be the first thought that comes to mind, the most important criterion is the availability of your veterinarian to respond to an emergency call. Throughout the years, I have used several veterinarians whose fees have been roughly in the same ballpark, give or take a couple hundred dollars, so on a cost comparative basis, it pretty much pans out. Availability can be broken down to two factors: how close the veterinarian's practice is to your farm and how large is his clientele. A more experienced veterinarian may also have more clients, whereby response time may be slower than that of a less-experienced, yet quite capable, vet. Younger vets, those establishing their client base and most recently out of veterinarian school, will be on top of their game with the latest treatment protocols. Don't rule out a younger, less experienced vet simply because they have not yet set roots down in an area.

Personality and gender may also play a role in making a better choice. If you are someone who is inquisitive and wants to know everything that the vet is doing to your horse, then you would be better matched with a veterinarian that is comfortable with taking the time to answer your questions, rather than one who quickly, efficiently, and quietly renders care to your horse and then just as quickly leaves for their next appointment, leaving you behind with unanswered questions. With regard to gender, you may prefer the care of a woman over a man or vice versa. Some feel a female veterinarian handles their horse more gently and patiently than a male vet. Others may recognize the ability of a male vet to better control your horse during treatment. Regardless of your vet's gender, professionalism and competency should be recognizable traits, and a vet possessing them will always keep the best interests of your horse (his patient) and you (his client) in keen focus.

Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, your vet works for you. You are entrusting the well being of your beloved horse under his care, so making an informed decision in choosing the best vet is very important.

Happy trails!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Goodbye Old Friend

Last week I had to say goodbye to an old friend, my 27-year-old horse Strawberry, a Missouri Fox Trotter. He had colicked through the night on Wednesday, and, when I went out to feed him Thursday morning, I knew something wasn't right. He was always the one who would whinny at me when he saw me coming to remind me that feeding time was ten minutes ago or would knock on the barn doors to hurry me up in getting those doors open so he could get to his stall and eat. It was a bit irritating at times, but, boy, what I wouldn't do to hear those sounds again.

We had gotten Straw about twelve years ago when he was fifteen. We weren't sure that we wanted a horse that old, but, since my husband wasn't an avid rider and my sons were young at the time, we decided that an older, more experienced trail horse was what we needed. I decided to try him out at a local state park on the rainiest, coldest day possible. Nothing phased him through all of it, so right then I knew he would be a keeper. What I didn't know was how much of a true keeper he would turn out to be. I was initially looking for a suitable horse for my husband, but when we got Straw home, my oldest son claimed him. Justin was six at the time and just starting to get into the horse scene. It wasn't long before Justin and Straw were quite the pair. They seemed to bond from the beginning. Straw would take Justin anywhere without a second thought and do anything he asked him to do.

Straw was the kind of horse that you could put anyone on and who was liked by all. Anyone could ride him, from our neighborhood girls to friends from our church, regardless of their level of experience. As he got older, though, we would definitely like to go on shorter rides and head to the barn. One time, my friend and I were riding down our road which requires crossing railroad tracks. Well, Straw decided he didn't want to go over the tracks but wanted to go back home to the other horses. He took off at a gallop; I couldn't believe it! My friend was laughing so hard that she couldn't stop him until he got to the gate at which time we switched horses and Strawberry had to do the ride over with me on his back. He wasn't too happy but went anyway. The girls who came over to ride would have to keep turning him away from the barn direction to keep him moving. He would like to mess with their heads a little, but that would help to make them better riders in the end.

He would also love to get extra grain or hay while traveling on our camping trips. He would work his body and head so that he could help himself to the hay. Each time we would think that surely we had moved it out of reach. He would just get bored or hungry and need something to eat. The last time Strawberry went to Brown County State Park he thought he needed a little extra to eat on the way home. We had gotten totes with different lids on them to keep the coons out of the feed while we were down there. We also thought that this would be a good way to keep Strawberry from helping himself when he got bored. Well, lo and behold, guess who found his way into the tote? Strawberry. Fortunately, after being gone for a week there wasn't much left in there to eat. He was so proud of himself and the other horses in there didn't think it was really fair. He was such a stinker at times, but that's what made us love him all the more and makes it that much more difficult to let him go.

Thursday afternoon we thought he might pull through, but by 7:30 that night he had taken a turn for the worse and we had to have the vet back out. After a muscle relaxer, mineral oil, and three pain killers throughout the day, the vet said there was nothing else to do. At that time it was evident that he had to be put down. He was in a lot of pain and not doing well at all. Surgery was out of the question because of his age. At that time, I knew I had done everything possible to keep him going but now I had to let him go.

He truly was an amazing animal. He was definitely loved and had a long good life. He has truly left a void in our lives, but, as my oldest said, "Let'r buck, Strawberry. You will be missed."

---By Linda Fish, one of our saddle experts