Selecting an Equine Veterinarian

Select the right veterinarian for you and your horse, with these expert guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
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Select the right veterinarian for you and your horse, with these expert guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Photo Heidi Nyland Melocco

Photo Heidi Nyland Melocco

When it comes to keeping your horse healthy and happy, one of the most important partners is your equine veterinarian. Selecting a vet is a personal choice, much like choosing your family physician or dentist.

Your goal as a horse owner is to find a veterinarian who meets the needs of both you and your horse. Expertise, hours of service, fees, and friendliness are just a few of the factors you'll consider as you make this important decision.

And because your veterinarian will maintain a medical history of your horse, you should choose someone with whom you can build a long-term relationship.

Step 1: Identify Area Vets
The first step is to identify the equine veterinarians in your area. Friends who own horses, riding clubs, your boarding facility, or your trainer are all excellent resources. Ask them what they like about their vet, but keep in mind their ideal choice may not be yours.

If you?ve just moved to a new area, certainly the Yellow Pages can be a starting point. You can also ask for recommendations at your local tack or feed stores. Professional groups for equine veterinarians, such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners, can also help you identify the vets in your area who specialize in the care of horses.

Thing to look for, such as expertise, experience, fees, location, and convenience can seem obvious, but such things as friendliness and communication are just as important.

You want to be comfortable talking about your horse's care with the veterinarian you choose. Communication is the key to your horse receiving the treatment he needs. Choose a vet who?s responsive and answers your questions in terminology you understand.

Step 2: Meet the Vet
Once you?ve identified the equine veterinarians in your community, meet them before making a selection. Schedule an appointment with your potential veterinarian at his or her clinic. Meeting a vet in person is always the best way to make a fully informed decision.

Here are several key questions to ask your potential veterinarian.

  • What services are offered?
  • What are normal office hours, and how are emergencies handled during and after office hours?
  • If it's a group practice, can you request a specific veterinarian, and if so, how much lead time is needed to make an appointment?
  • To which clinic or hospital does the veterinarian refer clients when specialized care is needed that isn?t offered at his or her practice?
  • What methods of payment are acceptable?
  • Is immediate payment expected on the day of visit, or will you be billed?

Step 3: Consider Professional Development
Another important consideration is whether the veterinarian is a member of a professional veterinary association, and continually pursues professional development, hands-on training, and the latest advances in equine medicine. Nearly all veterinarians whose practices focus on the horse attend continuing-education meetings.

In most states, veterinarians are required to receive continuing education in order to retain their license to practice veterinary medicine. While this benefit to the vet may be obvious, the benefit to you, as a horse owner, is even greater. A vet with a commitment to lifelong learning will know about the newest treatment options.

Ask your potential veterinarian how he or she stays up-to-date on the latest advancements in equine medicine.

Words to the Wise
Your veterinarian should be your first resource for your horse's health. But you can also get information from experts by visiting the AAEP?s horse-owner website.

One final piece of advice: Don?t wait until an emergency occurs before you select a veterinarian. Two a.m. on a Sunday morning is not the time to introduce yourself to a new vet.

All veterinarians are unique individuals, just like all horses. Take the time to choose the right one for you and your horse.

Courtesy of the American Association of Equine Practitioners