Every month I hear from at least a reader or two who are gravely disappointed that we won’t tell them exactly how much of what type of treatment or supplement to use for a specific horse. They’ll say that we simply cover topics too broadly to be useful. My response to these readers: Are you looking for treatment advice individual to your horse? If so, please, please call your veterinarian.

Practitioners have years of training and experience and can weigh treatment benefits with potential dangers.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/TheHorse.com

Similarly to humans, each equine patient is different. Their health, as well as ours, is the sum of our genetics, health history, environmental exposures and experiences, and a host of other influences. And just as a physician isn’t necessarily going to prescribe the same treatment for me as he would another 39-year-old female, he certainly isn’t going to do it sight unseen. It would put him in danger of violating the “do no harm” tenet. The patient’s health could diminish or worse could happen.

In the February issue (now available here) you’ll see the first of a two-part series on first-aid supplies and techniques. Our editorial board advised against running a list of prescription drugs to keep on hand because a lot can go wrong with these meds if given without a diagnosis and especially without an established veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). A classic example that comes to mind is clostridial myositis following intramuscular administration of Banamine (I’ve seen several of these painful cases of muscle infection caused by anaerobic clostridial bacteria). Similarly, using the wrong kind of medication—even an over-the-counter one!—can cause a corneal ulcer to deteriorate.

Practitioners have years of training and experience and can weigh treatment benefits with potential dangers, such as antibiotic resistance.

I’m fortunate enough to see the VCPR work as it should in my barn. The reality is you’ll be hard-pressed to find any horse owner or farm operator who doesn’t have a prescription drug or two left over from previous treatment courses or for use at their veterinarian’s instruction in case of emergency. The important distinction here is my barn friends and I are not do-it-yourself-ers; we consult our veterinarians for advice.

Recently my gelding developed a hematoma on his neck from a kick. I called his veterinarian with vital signs and texted her photos. She said it looked minor and advised me to cold-hose the swelling and administer an oral anti-inflammatory from an earlier visit, and to call with updates in the morning. He fared fine.

A more poignant example: Just a few days ago I held my friend’s older horse while she gave him a tranquilizer dose at the advice of her veterinarian. The gelding’s blindness had progressed to where he was frequently agitated, and she wanted nothing more than to calm him for a short time until the vet could come out to usher him to his final rest.

To me this is the ultimate example of how a valid VCPR helps us be the most responsible, ethical, loving horse owners we can be.

This Viewpoint appears in the February issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.