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Trainers/clients: Horse sick/injured while owner away? Your policies

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  • Trainers/clients: Horse sick/injured while owner away? Your policies


    I'm working on a piece about what policies trainers should have in place when a client's horse is sick/injured and the owner is not reachable--maybe on a flight to Europe or otherwise disengaged.

    Decisions must be made immediately in this case. Trainers, what do you have in writing when this "what if" occurs? How far do your rights go to make decisions?

    Clients, has this happened to you? As with many scenarios, this could get ugly if not properly handled.

    I appreciate your experiences, thoughts. I think it's a relevant topic and look forward to writing about it.
    Stephanie Stephens

  • #2
    It's in my contract that my BO will call the vet if she can't get in contact with me.

    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


    • #3
      As a trainer please make sure I have your horse's current insurance information. Set a $ limit on emergency care should the situation not be covered by insurance. Have a credit card on file with the vet clinic if their policy is to not begin working on a horse without payment info. If you have a horse knowledgeable friend or relative that you want as your horse's emergency contact.


      • #4
        I have my clients sign a limited power of attorney that provides that if I cannot reach the owner I am permitted to make the relevant decisions. But in these days of cell phones everywhere, I have had only one time I couldn't reach the owner - and it was because she was on a live aboard SCUBA dive boat trip and was underwater most of the day.

        Of course, we also put on the power of attorney any limitations they might have, like up to x amount for treatment or not a candidate for colic surgery, etc.

        I also require that they have either a credit card with their vet or a line of credit at the vet. And of course, insurance information is in every horse's file and posted on their stall.
        Visit Sonesta Farms website at www.sonestafarms.com or our FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/sonestafarms. Also showing & breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.


        • #5
          And for heaven's sake tell the owner, even if the accident was minor and there was no "real" damage.....! the FORMER barn manager where I board did not tell me my horse "escaped" while she was removing his blanket.... he shredded it (thank GOD he didn't break his neck!) . She "didn't want to bother me on vacation", and left it to a friend to let me know. I was livid. He is still traumatized, and hard to blanket... and at 17 hands, that's not a good thing.

          ANd, BTW, she was doing it in the pasture with no halter. (!) He is known to be a bit spooky.... and I had only been in the barn for a month.
          SO glad she is gone from the barn.



          • #6
            As a HO (horse owner) and boarder/client, the buck stops with me. So I'm more anal about it that the trainers/BOs I have met.

            I have a letter written to my horse's vet explaining what I do and don't want done. It lists 3 other people and contact info for them. They have permission to make all medical decisions, including euthanasia. I also state that I remain responsible for the costs of any treatment. Last, I give the BO and/or trainer permission to seek emergency treatment from any DVM should mine not be available.

            A copy of that letter goes to the BO and trainers. Another copy lives in my trunk at the barn.

            The BO and I have talked about all this on the day I moved in. Of course the other "godparents" know my wishes, too, and that they are on-call for Horseling. BO and I have talked about which vets she will call if the usual one isn't around. I also make sure I have an account with the main practice set up if that's required. I don't want money or no phone contacts to get in the way if my horse is terminally sick or injured and suffering.

            If the horse is insured, I talk about that and post those rules/contact numbers as well.

            I haven't had to make use of one of these letters yet, but I have faith in them. Really, I have faith in the BO/trainer and the conversation we had about those 911 situations more than the document.
            Last edited by mvp; Jan. 31, 2012, 03:44 PM.
            The armchair saddler
            Politically Pro-Cat


            • #7
              Being in the Reserves, there are times when I canNOT be reached (on the parade field for a CoC ceremony, comes to mind). When I leave for my 2 weeks of Annual Training or other shorter TDY, I always tell(in person) BO/Trainer what I would like in regards to care if I cannot be reached. I also let them know if something is new about my horse (ie: he has a 2" scratch on right foreleg, ect., please be aware). Also, dates of when I'll be gone and traveling.

              The one time I didn't feel kosher with trainer making those decisions (we had differing opinions on what one should spend on certain injuries/illnesses), I had my very good friend, who is also a boarding barn owner, act as a proxy.

              Knock on wood, I've never had a call or the BO make a vet call on my horse's behalf!


              • #8
                We have a heroic measures form that is filled out for each boarder and horse. Outlines all options possible if owner can not be reached. the hardest part of the form is getting it through to our new boarders that the form is only if we can't reach them!!! Dont' worry, new boarder, this doesn't give me permission to just willy nilly euth your horse.....
                ...don't sh** where you eat...


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for these on-target responses. I'll contact you privately. Thanks in advance for that response, too. Happy riding!

                  Stephanie Stephens


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mvp View Post
                    As a HO (horse owner) and boarder/client, the buck stops with me.


                    I was going through a health crisis a few years back and I was having multiple surgeries/hospitalizations that were going to keep me out of the loop for extended periods of time. I took it upon myself to have the conversation with my barn owner and the vet to outline what to do. I put a $500 credit balance on file with the vets office and we all agreed on charges up to $1000. The vet was ok extending credit of $500 in the event something happened.

                    I gave the name and number of a horsey friend with similar care/husbandry ideas as mine who could act in my place in the event decisions needed to be made above/beyond the $1000 balance.

                    Everyone knew that should the old girl colic so severely that she would require transport to the clinic and/or surgery, they were to euthanise her.

                    Thankfully, we didn't need to do any of this and my $500 credit took care of teeth and vaccines for the next two years but I think it really helped to establish a trusting relationship between me, my BO and the vet. I knew we were all on the same page.


                    • #11
                      My trainer has my insurance information and I trust her implicitly to make the right decision. She also has my cell phone number and will always leave messages when needed, but she knows that if a decision is needed to made immediately and I'm not available she can make it!

                      My vet (same vet the barn uses) has my credit card on file, so all billing is taken care of through them for any vet care that comes up as well. Nothing is billed though the barn it all comes to me directly so I see exactly what is charged and why. (same with farrier).
                      Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!


                      • #12
                        My boy has never been sick or injured (knock on wood), but my BO/M knows to call me first, or the vet if its serious.

                        The barn I work at, however, the clients are very reliant on the trainer and she calls the shots on everything. So, I know to call the vet first in the case of colic or serious wound, then the trainer, and then the trainer calls the client. It has been this way for three years and the client is always very grateful that the situation was taken care of right away. If there is a smaller wound or minor swelling, I call the trainer first and she makes the decision to call the vet or not.
                        Proud mother to Matt, a 18 year-old TB gelding.



                        • #13
                          My boarding contracts include instructions that state I will make every attempt to contact the owner, If they are unreachable, the owner chooses a $$ limit and further instructions, heroic measures protocol, if a 2nd opinion is needed and by whom. Boarders must have an account with the vet clinic.

                          In the case of a very sick horse (owner lived out of town) I had written permission to euth if necessary.


                          • #14
                            My vet has my cc info on file. Every year when they do updates they check that they still have the right contact info, horse info, and billing info. They also ask for an update about the max amt pre-authorized to be spent on each horse, as well as thresholds of care for expected quality of life if/when they recover.

                            I've also made it painfully clear that I would always rather they err on the side of euth than not (NOT that I want any of my horses to go, but if they have to err on a side... I'd rather that side).

                            My BO knows to call the vet. It's a 5-vet practice with 24/7 emergency coverage. Never really considered what would happen if they can't come in a reasonable time because they are tied up. I would absolutely be okay with them calling another vet, but I don't feel comfortable giving a back-up vet my cc info to keep on file...

                            My BO also knows who my "backups" are to call for decisions if I can't be reached.

                            If I know I am going to be unreachable (like when we go out of town to the Adirondaks where there is no cell coverage and the landline doesn't have voice mail), I leave a signed note re-iterating my intentions to reimburse any providers for services rendered up to the limits on file and authorizing my BO to make end of life decisions. I suppose going forward I should include an "up to" amount if an outside provider renders care...


                            • #15
                              Did run into this when I was boarding, luckily I was only at church and hubby was home, he told her to call the vet, but by the time I got to the barn, about an hour later, she still HAD NOT called the vet, severe choke, had to be tubed to break it up. Luckily he was OK and put on some antibiotics. I was pissed, you had permission to call the vet and you didn't WHY???

                              One of the many reasons my guys are home. They do go to an other local barn for lay over when we go on vacation. They have every number I can think of, including vet, and one of my good friends actually boards there and we have the same opinions as to when to call the vet, so she is the emergency backup. But I also put on the emergency information that I would rather pay an un-needed vet call then have it get worse, so when in doubt call the vet please!
                              "They spend 11 months stuggling to live, and 25 years trying to die" my farrier

                              "They are dangerous on both ends and crafty in the middle"


                              • Original Poster

                                Thanks for these additional insights, everyone. Proof that if something can happen, it will.
                                Stephanie Stephens


                                • #17
                                  Good thread.

                                  One thing that is being omitted here is communication style. Some people are more, uh, determined, in their efforts to reach an owner than others. I think it's key to understand whether BOs and others are the kind of folks who will call all 4 of my numbers in an emergency, rather than call one, let it ring, not leave a message, and forget about it.

                                  The credit w/ the vet is a good practice. I have left a credit card # with the vet when I was on a long trip once.

                                  There are fewer and fewer times when people really can't be reached, and I expect boarding professionals to keep me in the loop about stuff, even minor stuff. I'm more bothered about stuff I don't hear about, then figure out later, than nearly anything I'm told when it happens.
                                  I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                                  I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


                                  • #18
                                    Speaking as a client- IIRC, my contract includes that farm management will make every effort to contact me before the vet if the injury/situation is not life-threatening. If they can't touch base with me and the situation in their judgment warrants vet attention, they can call the vet. If it's life-threatening, vet first, me second.

                                    Touch wood, we have not had to use this clause very much, but I'm glad to know it's there. If I'm remembering correctly, the one time that this was an issue, the barn manager called and texted. I wasn't able to pick up the phone, but I could answer the text quickly.
                                    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                                    Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
                                    Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


                                    • #19
                                      According to my training contract with my geldings trainer....they will make every attempt to contact me and then they will proceed with what we have verbally discussed and if it is something completely out there he will make the decision.

                                      We have had a lengthy discussion on what I would like done in the event of an emergency. I trust his judgement completely. If I didn't he wouldn't have my horse in his barn.
                                      RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
                                      May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
                                      RIP San Lena Peppy
                                      May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010


                                      • #20
                                        My boarding contract - it was signed 3 years ago, and quite frankly, I don't remember what it specifically said.

                                        I implicitly trust the BO, who is also the trainer. I know she is going to do everything possible (likely beyond what I would choose to do) but in the case of her unable to contact me (we travel out of the country a couple times a year for a week at a time) I'd rather her err on the side of overtreating. She's not going to let him suffer needlessly if there's no hope for meaningful recovery, but she's also not going to choose to euth rather than authorize sugery for an absent owner unless we've specifically told her that is the only choice for Dobbin. If I didn't trust her, I would be rethinking my boarding arrangements. Last place I was at, would not trust them to make good decisions. Thus one of the reasons they are my former barn.