Palm Partnership Training™
Because all other equine health issues hinge on your veterinarian’s medical expertise and recommendations, he/she is the most important equine professional that you will work with
Communication Is the Key.
Good communication with your vet is essential to the good care of your horse. Therefore, in selecting a vet, look for a professional who communicates clearly and who can explain to you, in terms you can understand, the diagnosis of your horse’s condition, why the health issue occurred, and ways you can improve your horse’s health.
You must be an active participant in your horse’s health care. The more you know about equine health issues, the easier it will be for your vet to communicate with you and the more willing he will be to spend the time explaining your horse’s condition/problem to you in detail. But, no matter what your level of expertise, your vet must demonstrate that he has time for you.
When your vet sees that you are willing to learn all you need to know to do follow-up care of your horse, he should be willing to thoroughly demonstrate the treatment he recommends. The best learning experience I had was giving the vet follow-up reports in which I had to describe how a cut was healing and how a horse felt after a bellyache. If either you or he feels that you are unable to carry out the follow-up treatment, you both need to be honest and open about it. The best interest of the horse must always come before pride and ego!
Another way you can help your relationship with your vet is by training your horse to be a good patient. A good equine patient is one who stands quietly while being examined and who needs only mild restraint, if any, while being treated. A horse with good, basic, ground training should stand quietly for a vet exam. (Helpful videos and DVDs: “Clipping—A Stress Fee Experience,” “Grooming for the Show Ring” and “How to Easily Bathe Your Horse.”)
Reading Your Horse—A Form of Communication
Caring for any animal is challenging because they cannot talk to us and tell us how they feel. It is especially difficult with horses because they do not live in close proximity to us as do our cats and dogs. To me, caring for horses is never dull because learning the “inner horse” makes it constantly interesting. By learning the “inner horse,” I mean learning his habits and personality to the degree that you immediately know when something is wrong and/or not routine.
If your lifestyle is such that you have to board your horse, then you never get the chance to build that special bond that comes when you are your horse’s caretaker as well as rider. You must rely on someone else being able to know when something is “out of whack” with your horse. That is why choosing a boarding facility should be more about the humans in charge than the physical facility itself.
Even if you do board your horse, try to visit your horse as often as possible even if you just stay long enough to check up on him. People with a family member in a nursing home are told to visit as often as possible. The belief is that the staff will be extra vigilant of those patients whose families visit often. The same is true with your boarded horse. Also, spend as much time as possible with him there observing his habits so that you can immediately pick up on something that is not right.
When you know your horse’s daily habits, you can spot when something is out of the ordinary. For example, if your horse is stalled most of the time, you know when he lies down. Or, if he spends most of his days in the pasture, then he probably does not lie down at all. So, if you see him in the pasture lying down or lying down in his stall at an odd time, then you know that is out of the ordinary. You need to observe him carefully to make sure he does not start to roll which can be an indication of colic.
It is also important to know your horse’s eating and drinking habits as they can be indicative of potential problems. If he drops a lot of grain when he is eating, then he may have a tooth problem. If he eats very quickly, chances are that he is not digesting his food to the optimum, and you should think about feeding him three smaller meals per day to help digestion.
Water intake it of the utmost importance. The only way to monitor your horse’s water consumption is by using buckets. Often in the winter, horses stop drinking as much. To encourage drinking, you can add one-half teaspoon of salt to the bucket—especially if the temperature drops below 32 degrees.
Learning to read your horse’s body language is also important. A horse that is “parked out” (front and back legs stretched out) may be in distress from colic. A horse that stands with his head hung low may either be ill or depressed. A horse that normally grazes constantly but is just standing still in the pasture is behaving abnormally. These are examples of body language that you need to learn to interpret in order to be the best caretaker possible of your equine partner.
When to Call the Vet
Once you learn to read your horse, then it makes it easier to determine when to call your vet. When in doubt, of course always err on the side of caution and call! If you are a first-time horse owner, call whenever something looks out of the ordinary. If you are an experienced horse owner, then you have to determine if it is something you can handle yourself or if you need assistance.
You can save a lot of money if you are able to do some of your own health maintenance like yearly shots. Be sure to buy any live virus vaccines from your vet, however, as that is the only way you will be guaranteed to get a live virus! If you do give your own shots and you show around the Country, you need to ask your vet what shots are necessary in different parts of the Country. Different areas have different disease problems.
Because your veterinarian is the most important equine professional you will interact with, you need to have a good rapport with him/her and have total trust in him. If you are currently looking for a veterinarian, get a recommendation from area horsemen. You will have to meet with the vet personally to find out if you feel like you can have a good working relationship with him. If possible, choose a vet who is professionally experienced with the riding discipline that you participate in. The bottom line is you must select a veterinarian with your horse’s best interests and well being in mind.
To learn about Palm Partnership Training™ resources, please visit www.lynnpalm.com or call 1-800-503-2824