A few days back, we read a post written by a horsewoman equating her experience in parenting children to horses. The concept is a good one. The question she posed was, how do I know when to call the vet. New horse owners are a lot like new parents. They see something that doesn’t look right and grab the smart phone to look up the illness or disease. Often the result is a web page saying the problem is fatal or at best extremely serious. They quickly call the vet and three hours later and a few dollars lighter, the horse is fine and there’s not even any medicine to give it.
The question on when to call the vet can be tricky. Just like a new parent, if you don’t call and the child dies, it’s your fault. By the same token, running to the pediatrician every time the child sneezes gets you labeled as a worry wart mom. Usually a little experience and pretty soon you hit that middle ground and everything goes fine.
Horses are like kids, there’s no way to always know when you need to have the vet come out. It helps a lot to have a good vet who genuinely cares and doesn’t mind answering an occasional question by telephone. Still the right answer as to when the vet is needed is a moving target that is sometimes hard to hit. Just this week we had a horse kick and end up with his leg stuck in the fence. If the situation hadn’t looked so bad when we first found him, a picture would have been worth a thousand words. He had a lot of blood on him and was quite unhappy with his leg hung up about four feet off the ground. Still don’t know how he got there, but as any experienced horseman will tell you; horses can get into some pretty unusual situations.
Did we call the vet out? No. Why not? Well. the first step we take is to sort out the problem and see how serious it is. We don’t normally call 911 when a child falls off a bicycle so we don’t call the vet until the situation is under control and the seriousness evaluated. In this case, removal of the horse from the fence was the first priority and then looking him over to see how bad things really were. Just like the child on the bicycle, the blood can look a lot worse than it really is sometimes. Fortunately, for us the large areas of blood came from several small places where he kept poking himself against the fence and it looked worse than it really was.
When you question whether to call the vet, use your best judgment based on what you know and don’t look back. Will you always make the right choice, probably not. Could you make a mistake and your horse die? Sure. Is this likely to be the case, probably not if you are using common sense and trying to do the right thing. If you are a new horse owner or thinking about becoming one, try to find one or two people who own several horses that you can call with questions. Like a new mom who calls a few friends or her own mother for advice, having someone knowledgable to ask once in a while can give you some peace of mind.
The bottom line is do the best you can. If it appears to be more than you are qualified to handle, get some help and assistance. If you call the vet out and he laughs and smiles, learn from the experience. We assure you that the decision as to when to call the vet is best answered in hindsight every time you have to make the decision.