Someone, who I regrettably wasn't able to pinpoint, once said, "The stupidest question is the question that has not been asked." Although I feel like select questions I pose on a variety of topics fall into the "stupid" category (An actual example, as recalled by my parents: Do you think we'll see the Loch Ness Monster when we're in Ireland?), the truth is that if you don't know something, asking is the only way you'll learn.
This is something I've learned well throughout my years caring for senior horses. Some of the questions I've asked my veterinarians, trainers, and trusted friends were prequeled with "OK, this might sound dumb, but..." while others have been more complicated:
"Will this treatment work?" Of course, we all know that veterinarian's can rarely ever say for certain if a specific therapeutic modality will effectively treat a certain condition. But that doesn't stop owners or managers--myself included--from asking. In this scenario, I asked this of a veterinarian who'd just prescribed an equine protozoal myeloencephalitis treatment for an affected Thoroughbred in his mid-20s. He was a farm favorite and everyone was devastated by the diagnosis. Of course, our veterinarians told us there was no guarantee. Unfortunately, this horse's disease proved too severe, and he was euthanized as his quality of life deteriorated.
"How can we keep this from happening again?" After dealing with a series of unrelated chokes at the same farm, my coworkers and I asked our veterinarian what, if anything, we were doing wrong, and what we could do to prevent chokes in the future. She told us that, no, we weren't doing anything wrong. All our horses had 24/7 access to water, ate good-quality hay, and consumed either a pelleted performance horse concentrate or a senior feed, depending on their specific needs. The root cause of our problems? The average age of our herd. Because the majority of our horses were seniors, some with additional health problems, we were already at risk for dealing with more chokes, she told us. She recommended that we continue our regular dental check-ups, consider making senior soup for horses with known dental problems, and placing some large smooth rocks in grain bins for notoriously fast eaters. Once our supervisor implemented the latter two protocol, we did not have another episode of choke while I worked at that farm.
"Can we take him out for light hacks?" My parents and I posed this question to our veterinarian about our then 25-year-old Appaloosa gelding, Taz, who wasn't taking to retirement very well. He seemed depressed when he wasn't doing anything but lounging, and the veterinarian agreed that trying light exercise was a good idea. Once he got back to work, Taz's normal attitude returned and he seemed--and still seems--much happier. Who knows what would have happened if we hadn't asked?
"Do you think it's worth coming out to take a look?" I asked this question of my veterinarian here in Kentucky when 16-year-old Dorado just didn't feel right. He wasn't necessarily lame and his mentation was still normal, however something felt wrong when I sat on him one day. After posing the question, my veterinarian came out to see Dorado the next day. Sure enough, lameness and swelling in one limb had progressed by that morning, and the veterinarian diagnosed Dorado with cellulitis. Because we caught and treated it early, he recovered quickly and without incidence.
On Thursday, TheHorse.com will be hosting a webinar presented by Dianne McFarlane, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, ABVP, who will share some tips and tricks on how to best manage and care for your golden oldies. Better, she and Cynthia MacKenzie, DVM, will be on-hand during the event to answer your questions on caring for old horses. If you've got a question you've wanted to pose, this is a great opportunity to present it to two very knowledgeable veterinarians who are happy to help. I plan on submitting a few questions I've been itching to ask, and I hope you will too. Remember, the only way to learn is to ask!
What is something important you learned by simply asking a question? Share your experiences below, and don't forget to pose your questions to our webinar panelists when you register!
I hope you'll join us on Thursday night! It's going to be a great event.