I used to be the kind of horse owner who called the vet at the slightest sign of discomfort in my horses. If I didn't, I felt negligent.
Once, when we first moved to Spokane, my older horse, Red, got stuck in a hole. He was lying there very still with his feet in the air, and I thought he was dead, but when I rode the 4-wheeler out to him his eyes were open and blinking.
I called the vet.
Vets are usually great human beings--the best. I don't know if I've ever met one I didn't like a lot. Some of them even became personal friends. And this one was no different. He and his assisant came out and helped me get Red turned around so that he could get his feet under him. Then, we all stood around and chatted as we observed him to make sure he was 100%.
I felt great. (Though it was something I could have done myself.)
But there were other times vets couldn't help me, or they made mistakes which made matters much worse. I've never held it against them personally, but it has given me a mighty deal of skepticsm when it comes to large animal veterinary care. Some of these vets just don't have enough practical experience, or they deny practicality and rely too heavily on "Science".
So, now to why I'm bringing this subject up:
I went out Friday to find my old horse, Red, lame on the back left leg. He's a 29 year old Quarter Horse.
I put him into a 12x12 stall and inspected him top down and couldn't find any swelling, heat, or punctures. I pressure tested the hoof as well as I could without hoof testers. I couldn't find anything.
Next, I thought let's see how much pain he's in. I introduced Banamine at 1/4 dose. He starts to put it down after a couple hours. I introduce another 1/4 dose. He walks on it like it's A-OK.
I put in a call to my farrier who, it turns out, is traveling. We talk. He's willing to come by as soon as his plane lands, but I've already had him scheduled for Tuesday. I say, let's put it off to Tuesday.
My thinking: if I can keep him out of pain and confined and there's no swelling or puncture, I'm doing as much for him as anyone else could.
Saturday: Banamine wears off. Red is on three legs. I halter him, walk him. He limps. Hmmmm....not good. Banamine at 1/2 dose. Red is standing on it and walking again.
Sunday: Same exact thing as Saturday, but now Red looks worse. Or, am I imagining? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Maybe there's a hairline fracture. Maybe Red is going to have to be put down.
Monday: I go out to feed this morning and Red is using his injured leg without Banamine. He's walking with a limp, but he's not afraid to put pressure on it. He pivots more comfortably. I give him 1/8 dose of Banamine...and wait.
Tomorrow is the day my farrier comes. My thinking now: If it's something that's fixable, either I can do it or my farrier (if it's an abscess). If it's a fracture, and therefore, for a 29 year old horse, unfixable, then the vet will be my last recourse. If he doesn't get better each day we'll call in the vet.
I'm lucky I have a lot of Banamine and Bute on hand because I have a good relationship with my vet who does trust my judgement and who, thank goodness, gives it to me as I think is appropriate.
Personally, I don't think Bute or Banamine should be by prescription only. If you're an irresponsible horse owner, there are a thousand ways you can abuse a horse--buying $40.00 tubes of Banamine is usually not one of them.
Do you know what Banamine is? It's Motrin for horses. We let humans buy themselves Motrin--why in the heck then do we have to have prescription to give our horses Motrin?!?!? It's a scam. A tube of Motrin (I mean Banamine) can cost you up to $40.00 from your vet--$20.00 on the internet (but you need a prescription, which you will NOT get because the vet wants to sell you the $40.00 tube). It's a scam! It's a scam! It's a scam! (Sorry, I had to vent.)
To sum it all up--my personal philosophy is that horse sense is often better than Science. There are things the vets are good at and there are areas where they are limited and either you (the one who sees the horse everyday) or a farrier with a lifetime of equine experience is better able to diagnose and treat.
I've lost two horses and they were both under vet care from the moment of injury or illness. In those two cases it wasn't the vet's fault. In one case they didn't have the proper equipment to diagnose--WSU was better equipped. In the other case, there was just nothing to be done. If I had to do over again, I'd call them out again in those two cases.
My horse, Cowboy, as you all know, was misdiagnosed and almost had to be put down because of Vet error. He was also treated from the moment of injury--and daily after that--until my third opinion. That is another story in itself if you haven't read it already on my blog. And that's probably the point at which I became a major skeptic, and the reason why for injuries that appear to be in the hoof, I call the farrier. Although his broken P-3 (coffin bone) presented itself as a broken leg.
As for today and Red's injury--I'm optimistic after seeing him this morning. If he can move on it better today without Banamine, that's a good sign. Although, he's not out of the woods yet, and things could change and the vet be out here, with his portable X-ray machine, very soon. But if it comes to that, things aren't looking very good for us.