September 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm
Yesterday, a good friend and our veterinarian for many years, died from cancer. He was one of the finest individuals I’ve ever had the honor of knowing, personally or professionally. Many times he’s been the calming voice at the end of the phone with a working plan. He stood between us and disaster countless times, I want to honor him in the way he lived his life – making life better for others.
I want this post in his memory to aid anyone in assessing what a vet should be, and for that I’m hoping others will respond with the qualities they enjoy in their veterinarians, or things they wish they could find in a vet. Nothing would make Dr. B happier than to know he helped other horse-lovers, even now, in memory. It was his chosen path in life to help most those who loved horses.
What criteria made Dr. B a great vet?
He could see by a horse’s movement if/where the lameness was, the degree of damage, and decide how to treat it. He was famous for this – to the point people drove hundreds of miles for his assessment. NC State University called for consults on difficult cases. If you don’t know where you are going, don’t be surprised when you don’t get there – the same is true for diagnosis – without the proper diagnosis you cannot treat the horse with results. Dr. B was a ‘wizard’ at this. Most of us that knew him, knew that his ability to diagnose was a rare gift that bordered on the mystical. He had a sixth sense with horses.
My horses get all vaccinations, teeth floated, lameness check, full physical, sheath cleaned, etc, done in two visits, spring and fall. Both are intelligent enough to know they are going to get stuck. But Dr. B was so quick, I barely saw the movement, and the shots were done. Not once did he have to sedate my horses for injury treatment or floating. And both horses knew and were very calm with him. (I’ve seen vets that Carmagirl would try to get away from and it is not pretty.) It was essentially due to his gentle way with horses. The last time we were there and he had to work on her when she was hurt, he reached up and patted her and said, “This is such a nice mare, she never holds a grudge.” (Oh but she does, just never against him.) Having a vet like this encourages me that she will be good for the next vet, she was taught by experience that kindness can be found with a vet.
What brought me to Dr. B in the first place was the unresponsiveness of another vet. That vet had mucked up so badly that by the time Carmagirl saw Dr. B, he said it was the worst swelling he’d ever seen on a horse’s tendon. It was not bowed, but it took nine months to heal. Dr. B returned calls within minutes of an emergency call, and always saw her within hours, which is critical to tendon injury. In the years since, he’s been on the phone from conferences, between emergencies, fishing trips, and vacations, whenever I’ve needed him. Both horses have had the dedication of a fine professional who made their well-being a priority. You’ll never know how essential this is until you’re in trouble, and that’s the worst time to discover that your vet is just not there.
Nose to tail exams every time he saw my horses. He never missed anything.
When I bought Mischief, he was bred and trained at a facility that used Dr. B as their vet, too. Nevertheless he found an issue with Mischief’s shoeing that had to be resolved before Dr. B would agree to approve him for sale. He risked angering a huge client, for a small one. I was never over-charged nor given anything that was superfluous. He was fair, honest, and straightforward even when he had bad news to give me; to him, giving bad news was the worst part of his job.
It was a blessing and an honor to have been one of the few clients he held held on to until the end; he’d battled this disease with tremendous courage for fifteen years. Not once did he let his personal circumstances overcome his professionalism, setting the gold standard for anyone else to follow.
His clinic was over an hour’s drive, 56 miles from home, and I passed more than a few vet clinics on the way. In all these years I’ve never thought to look for a more convenient vet because once I knew how great Dr. B was, my horses deserved the best even if that was at the end of a long drive. Over the years he taught me how to take the best care of my horses. I’m so old school – but you can teach an old dog new tricks if you have a good teacher.
Thank you for reading about a truly great vet. As you can see I was blessed. A good vet makes all the difference, Carmagirl would not be here today if it wasn’t for him. True story.
What do you like most about your vet?
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...November 19, 2014 at 7:42 amTBeventerTopics Started: 3Replies Posted: 22
Mapale, I love that you chose to honor and recognize your vet with this post.
I’ve been an equestrian for over 15 years and I am an adult amateur in my mid-20’s. I’ve worked with many vets but I’ve never been able to have much of a bond being in show barns for much of my horse ownership. The only vet I ever really got to know was one that a previous trainer was married to. He often traveled with us and once came out of his house in his pajamas to give my mare an injection.
My other experience I had was when my beloved gelding of 10 years passed away to cancer. I took him to San Luis Rey Equine Hospital in Bonsai, CA. For a week my horse was hooked up to IV’s and being fed oil trying to pass an impaction that was actually a very large tumor. This was the same place that Secretariat was once cared for as his halter and photos of him were in their office. Regardless, it was a beautiful place, the staff was very warm and comforting, and even the grooms were incredibly kind and caring to my sick horse. When I had to say goodbye I miraculously sucked it up and hoped he would come out of surgery tumor-free and held back tears. When they came to take him away, I kissed him goodbye and ran to their office where I started bawling. I looked out the office window to the kind vets taking my horse in for surgery which was his last walk into a barn. A couple weeks later, they sent me a card in the mail signed by all the vets with my horse’s tail in a beautiful braid with ribbons. Three years later, I still cry thinking about this sad day but I felt like their efforts made this painful process just a little bit more comforting.November 19, 2014 at 10:03 am
Thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry you lost your gelding. Cancer takes too many of our loved ones. It’s true that the tender mercies of others can help us get through the grief; I am grateful that there were professionals there to comfort you.
He must have been a wonderful horse to instill in you a love and wisdom for horses that you will have always. You honor him in your kindness to me.
I’ve never had a vet do shots in his pjs! Great story. It takes a special heart to be a vet – to come out at all hours and see many of us at our absolute worst – in fear or grief – and deal with us as well as our horses. The good ones aren’t rare, and that’s the good news.
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...November 20, 2014 at 11:01 amJoe-JoeTopics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205
I know what doesn’t make a great vet – having one show up 4 hours late (when I could not be there) and leave a message that my horse is lame. I knew he was lame – that is why I called the vet.
It is never the horse's faultNovember 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm
That’s what brought me to Dr. B in the beginning. The vet I had been using didn’t show up until the next day knowing that Carmagirl had a possible tendon injury – time is critical. Later, without looking even stopping by to examine her, took the barn manager’s advice that she was sound enough, okayed turnout on sand, and all of this without communicating the changes to me (she was being boarded at the time).
That’s why I changed vets and brought her home to take care of her myself. They almost ruined her. Stretched tendon sheath and stretched tendon. The sheath will never go back to its original shape – they left her permanently damaged. It doesn’t affect soundness, but fluid gathers there and I have to keep a close watch on it.
Sometimes a vet can be late because of an emergency with another horse, but if he isn’t able to make it at all he should tell you so you can call someone else, instead of having you wait there for hours with no help for your poor horse.
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...November 20, 2014 at 4:42 pmpheetsTopics Started: 5Replies Posted: 477
We refer to the one graduating first in class as “Doctour”. …..and the one that graduates last?
….Doctour ; )
Dare to be particular.
Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.
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