Friday, Apr. 19, 2024

Veterinary Corner: Taking A Team Approach To Equine Health

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The Veterinary Corner series, brought to you by Merck Animal Health, features insights from leading
veterinarians on some of the most pressing health issues affecting horses today.


By Philip van Harreveld, DVM, MS, DACVS-LA, Merck Animal Health

Gone are the days when you had a farrier and a veterinarian and that’s it. Nowadays you may call on a
number of providers like massage therapists, dentists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, saddle fitters and
even animal communicators. That’s a lot to manage. Get help by assembling a core team to track your
horse’s overall health and give you insight to make confident decisions about basic care and ancillary
services.

To use a construction analogy, people cannot have seven different contractors doing maintenance on
the same property. A general contractor is needed to manage them all. In the same way, your core
equine health team is a collective of individual contractors. The group must be coordinated so that it
openly communicates and cooperates. Everyone must work together and play their parts.

Your Role: Communication Hub
As the horse owner, you’re the lead. You orchestrate communication among everyone on the team.
When it comes to sharing information with your veterinarian, be aware that not every veterinarian is
comfortable with every type of available care. Regardless of how your veterinarian feels about the
ancillary services your horse is receiving, make your veterinarian aware to ensure they can maintain an
accurate view of your horse’s overall health.

Image courtesy of Merck Animal Health


Veterinarian’s Role: Lead Health Advisor
Your veterinarian should be the key decision maker in your horse’s health program. Why? Because
veterinarians have been educated to both understand all aspects of care and how to tailor that care to
individual horses. In addition, your veterinarian will keep a complete medical record that can be
accessed at any time throughout your horse’s life.

To keep your horse’s health status current, your horse should receive a thorough physical examination
at least once a year. Coordinating a physical exam (more than just vaccinations!) allows the veterinarian
to discover any problems as early as possible, plus hear from you and your trainer about how your horse
is doing. It’s a simple and important once-a-year communication touch point.

Trainer’s Role: Every-Day Aficionado
Second only to veterinarians on the ladder of equine care, your trainer will be most aware of any early
health issues or changes in your horse. Sometimes trainers may even notice issues you don’t. Trainers
are often the ones who coordinate ancillary care and are present when it’s being administered. Your
trainer may also be your representative during veterinary visits if you can’t be at the barn. In short, your
trainer is a partner who can provide valuable health updates to your horse’s veterinary team.

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Farrier’s Role: More Than Trimming And Shoeing
Farriers are essential care providers. Maintaining communication between your farrier and veterinarian
is key. The advent of digital radiology and the ease of image sharing via the cloud have allowed farriers
to be more educated and involved in understanding ongoing orthopedic concerns of horses’ feet.
Farriers can only assess a foot from the outside. That’s why asking your veterinarian to take and share
yearly baseline x-rays of your horse’s front feet can be extremely beneficial in helping your farrier find
early “hidden” concerns.

Horse’s Role: The Center Of It All
Ensuring your horse receives the best care is ultimately what matters. This shared goal drives the team’s decision-making process, regardless of individual opinions or preferences. With everyone communicating thoroughly to do what’s best for the horse, the whole team wins—especially your horse.

About The Author
Dr. van Harreveld is a senior equine professional services veterinarian with Merck Animal Health. He has
a strong interest in equine surgery and has completed extensive education in the area. Before joining
Merck Animal Health, Dr. van Harreveld founded the Vermont Large Animal Clinic, an equine field
service and referral hospital, that he operated in the Burlington, Vermont, area for over 20 years.


Copyright © 2023 Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA and its affiliates. All rights reserved.


This content was paid for and provided by Merck Animal Health. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle of the Horse.

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