Fight High Horse-Care Costs

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Last month, we warned readers about possible price gouging from some veterinarians administering the West Nile vaccine. We’ve also heard of a vet selling ivermectin paste for $25 when it may be purchased almost anywhere for $10. In addition, there are products that are technically over-the-counter items but are purposely sold only through veterinarians. Mostly, it’s a marketing ploy based on the belief that stuff from your vet is “more effective” than what you buy in a tack store. Usually, however, the only thing that’s “more” is the cost.

These stories aren’t limited to veterinarians, of course. Farriers can be tempted to suggest four shoes when two would do or push a particular hoof supplement without evaluating the horse’s diet. Trainers and boarding-stable owners can try similar tactics. It’s not easy trying to make a living in the horse business, but that doesn’t make any of these practices right.

On top of all this, we’re hammered with advertising that often barely explains what a product does let alone how it works. Those glossy, full-color ads with horses pretty enough to decorate a kid’s bedroom and endorsements from prominent trainers, riders, owners — even backyard, recreational riders that remind us of ourselves — can cause us to pull out our credit card without a blink.

There is a simple remedy, however: consumer education.

If your farrier wants you to use the hoof supplement he’s selling, the informed horse owner knows to evaluate that product for essential fatty acids, as well as biotin, and how to determine if the horse’s base diet actually lacks anything.

When your friend tells you how thrilled she is with her pricey new detangler, you quickly counter by telling her Canter Silk is a well-priced effective product — a Horse Journal Best Buy — and offer to buy her lunch with the money you’ve saved.

When it comes to professional services, you know how to discuss your options, including cost. Perhaps your veterinarian wants you to rent his laser-therapy device to treat your horse’s ankle strain, but your budget is also feeling the strain. You also know ice, an anti-inflammatory, wrapping and the “tincture of time” are as likely to work on this injury — and that lasers may worsen acute inflammation.

Above all, no smart consumer will hesitate to get a second opinion when the diagnosis or treatment program isn’t crystal clear, and no professional worth keeping will object. Good ones, especially in difficult cases such as the story of Sneakers on page 15, will appreciate your effort. Trust your professional, but keep your eyes open.

We love our horses. For most of us, they’re part of our family and deserve equal treatment. At the same time, there’s no reason to throw our money away.

’Til Next Month,

-Cynthia Foley