Most horse owners consider their four-hooved friend a member of the family — a child if you will. Similar to choosing a pediatrician, selecting the right veterinarian for a horse is a process that should not be treated lightly.
Simply looking in the Yellow Pages or Googling “equine vet” is not enough of a vetting process. Not all veterinarians treat horses, and not all equine vets will be a natural fit for your and your horse.
Word-of-mouth investigation is more helpful. Ask for recommendations from others in the horse community, including horse owners at your boarding stable, barn or tack and feed store
After you make a list of possibilities, make an appointment with each prospective vet and engage him or her in an interview of sorts (there is nothing better than a face-to-face meeting to gauge whether or not a relationship will work). Inquire about education and training. Ask if they specialize in horses, or all large animals such as cattle or pigs. Equine specialists may have their own facilities for surgery and treatments, or they may rely on the referral of complicated cases to local referral hospitals.
Is the prospective vet familiar with the breed of horse you own and the circumstances surrounding the type of riding or discipline you follow.
Good personality and “bedside manner” are important, but should not be the only reasons to prefer one veterinarian over another. Some popular equine veterinarians may possess more charm than expertise. The American Association of Equine practitioners has a helpful website to assist you in locating a reputable vet that matches your particular needs in your local area.
Following is a short list of important qualities to look for in an equine vet:
It’s important to know where and when a veterinarian received his or her degree, and how much experience they have. Also, has he or she specialized in a particular field? Veterinarians must also participate in continuing education, so finding out if they are abreast of the latest treatments and technologies is vital. Also, what is their opinion about the rising field of holistic care for horses, or the use of natural supplements? You might consider chiropractic treatment, and finding out their level of expertise is essential.
Being able to explain options and the advantages and disadvantages of a particular treatment plan is crucial. Will your veterinarian understand your needs, explain exams or procedures step by step, outline costs, describe potential outcomes, and follow up and provide support? A vet should be able to use laymen’s terms and communicate in an understandable manner.
Solo practitioners may have a full schedule, and limited availability. If this is the case make sure you discuss the possibility of nighttime and weekend appointments. An important consideration is whether or not the vet makes barn calls. Transporting a sick or injured horse to a veterinary facility can be a difficult and even dangerous. Barn calls can save time and avoid possible additional injuries to horses and handlers. If a mobile veterinary clinic for large animal care is available in your area, it may be a good choice for quality, convenient, stress free care that benefits both the horse and the owner.
There is much to consider when choosing a veterinarian. Do your homework, ask the right questions and learn how to partner with a vet for the best health of your horse.