Horses Are Expensive

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A dear friend of mine, who happens to live on the other side of the country from me, sent an e-mail that her mare was sluggish, twisting her neck, not wanting to pick up the right lead. Friends of hers in the area suggested a chiropractor, masseuse, or a body worker to see what was wrong — all potentially less expensive than a veterinarian.

My friend wisely told me, ”All those other practitioners can do a great deal, and I have had excellent experiences with a chiropractor, but I’m not going to spend a bunch of money before my vet comes out. It could be any number of things and having a vet I truly trust, while it may cost a bit more to check everything out, in my book, is money well spent.”

As it turned out the problem was the mare’s left hock. She’s going to get injections and time off, while staying on her joint nutraceuticals and MSM. She’ll be fine — all because she had a very wise owner who cared deeply about her horse.

The timing of this incident with this month’s issue brought me some concern. While I think the anti-inflammatory alternatives piece (p. 1) will help you choose the right product to help a horse who might be dealing with chronic pain or an acute injury, I’m concerned that it might also cause some folks to reach for devil’s claw for a horse who’s ”not right,” to see if it helps just so they don’t have to ”pay for the vet.”

While you may decide not to opt for some expensive diagnostic tool, there’s no valid excuse for not at least getting your veterinarian’s opinion about what you’re dealing with. He or she may not be able to give you an exact diagnosis without further tests, but chances are they can give you advice on whether the problem is potentially serious or not. I inwardly giggle when someone tells me, ”I know as much as that vet does.” Sure you do — your vet went through four years of graduate school and now constant continued-education training just so he or she could hang a license on the wall.

As a farrier’s wife, I can’t count the number of times I answered the phone only to hear, ”How much does it cost'” I know money matters — that’s part of what Horse Journal is based upon — but it shouldn’t always be your first concern. There’s a huge difference between looking for the cheapest person on a list and a recommendation from someone you trust.

I can also tell you the frustration of having people think it’s OK to call the farrier twice a year and expect him to trim the horse for the same amount of money that’s charged to folks who do their horses every six or eight weeks. And, I just love the ones who think they can trim their own horses after reading a book or taking a six-week course. If Dr. Kellon’s article on mechanical laminitis (p. 10) doesn’t drive home the point of the risks of bad farrier care, I guess nothing will.

Here’s the bottom line: Part of owning a horse is being responsible for providing the very best care you can. And that may mean you have to make other sacrifices, like giving up vacations. If you can’t provide your horse with proper care, you shouldn’t own a horse.