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Finding the Right Vet for Your Horse

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Maybe you recently purchased a new horse. Perhaps you just moved to a new area. Your long-time veterinarian just retired or sold her practice. After years of competition, you now want to breed your mare. There are many reasons you might be searching for a new veterinarian for your horse. Here are 3 major considerations to keep in mind as you search:

  • Determine if the veterinarian provides the services you need. The health care needs of a pleasure horse and a high performance horse can be different. Similarly, injuries plaguing race horses are often different from those affecting Western or English performance horses. A veterinarian that has expertise in lameness may not offer dentistry or reproduction services. Maybe you want someone who can provide holistic modalities such as acupuncture and chiropractic. As you are searching for a new veterinarian, discover what services potential veterinarians provide, and be sure they align with what you are looking for. 
  • Assess accessibility. No matter how talented a veterinarian is, if she is not available to you when you need her, she will not be able to effectively help your horse. Ask about availability, both for routine and emergency appointments. How far in advance do you need to schedule an appointment? Does it need to be several days or weeks in advance? Does she make calls at times you can be present? Is she comfortable with your trainer or farm manager acting as your surrogate? Who will see your horse in an emergency? Does she handle all of her own on-call or does she share it with fellow veterinarians in the same practice? Maybe she shares on-call duty with other practices in the area. Be certain that you are comfortable with the answers to these important questions.
  • Communication styles should match. Along with assessing the accessibility of your potential equine veterinarian, you should determine if your communication styles and preferences are in sync. Can you easily get your veterinarian on the phone if you need her? Do clients get her cell phone number or do you always have to reach out through a gate-keeper? Is all communication done via phone call or is texting or email common? Do you prefer to communicate with your veterinarian directly or would you rather she talk to your trainer instead? When you communicate with your veterinarian, does she clearly explain her findings, recommendations, and costs associated with her services? Does she answer your questions fully? Is she available for follow-up? Does she use social media to communicate with her clients? Communication is a critical part health care delivery. Make sure you can clearly and easily do so with your potential veterinarian. 

Other factors such as trust, professionalism, training, credentialing, and access to a referral network for hospitalization or specialized care, are also important considerations when finding a new veterinarian. Speak to trusted horsemen in your area for references. Your trainer, farrier, former veterinarian, manager at your favorite feed or tack store, or even fellow riders may have valuable recommendations. The American Association of Equine Practitioners offers the Get-a-DVM service to help connect you with member veterinarians in your area. 

Good luck as you take your next step with your horse’s health!

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