When Thrifty Really Isn`t

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The economy is improving, but it's certainly not roaring back. And even if it were, you?d still want to watch your money carefully. However, sometimes not spending can end up costing you dearly.

Eleanor Kellon

One of the most costly mistakes is failing to get a solid diagnosis before treating a horse. This happens often with EPM. A common excuse is that EPM diagnostics aren?t 100% accurate, but that's true of any diagnostic to some extent.

With EPM, an inexpensive negative blood test can save you over $1,000/month treating a disease the horse doesn't have. If it is positive, advances in testing and interpretation of testing for spinal-fluid samples have greatly increased the accuracy of spinal taps, making them less of an expensive gamble. Remember, the wrong treatment is always money completely wasted.

Lameness is another area where skipping diagnostics makes no sense. Always insist on nerve blocks, even when you, or even your vet, think you're sure of what the problem is. Abnormal findings on radiographs don't necessarily correlate with pain. There are also many causes of pain that don't show up on a radiograph. Radiographs should only be done after the painful area has been localized by correct nerve blocks. Countless horses have injections, shoeing changes and other therapies that don't work because the problem was never diagnosed.

Speaking of lameness, a common cause is trying to cut corners on farrier visits. The horse's considerable weight is balanced on a very small surface area. The system works amazingly well if you think about it, but it won?t for long if you skimp on foot care. Save here by pulling shoes when the horse isn?t being worked, or using boots instead of shoes, but don't stretch out the trim interval. Hoof or joint problems caused by neglect are expensive. they're also 100% preventable.

Feeding your horse well at the best price can be like negotiating a mine field. Never compromise on quality of hay. Hay is the base of your horse's nutritional pyramid. You can't make up for the calories, protein and minerals missing from poor hay even if you feed maximum amounts of a supplemented grain or ?balancer.? The horse's respiratory health will also be at risk.

It makes sense that higher-quality bagged feeds would cost more, but price isn?t always a reliable guide to quality. The costs of advertising, sponsorships, flashy bags and web sites are passed on to the consumer.

Take some time to investigate the quality of feeds produced by local mills. Look at the feed. Ask questions. A strong selling point is their freshness. Your feed probably will never be more than a week or two old. Another option is mixing whole ingredients yourself as described in our make-your-own-feed article (see March 2010). It takes effort, but it's less expensive and you know the quality of each ingredient in it.

Times are tough. We just have to be careful to spend wisely so that we don't inadvertently make things worse ? and Horse Journal is here to help you with just that.