It happens about once a month. Someone at the barn will call me over to look at their horse and ask if I think they should call their veterinarian. The answer is “yes.” The answer will almost always be yes, even if it’s just a minor issue. Here’s why.

I’ve worked for EQUUS for 25 years now. I’ve been a writer or editor for 23 of those (the first two years I did a lot of administrative work, remember sending faxes?) I’ve read more about equine health topics than most horse owners ever will. It’s literally been my job to learn. But I’m not a veterinarian. I don’t have the answers, I just have the email addresses and phone numbers of people who have the answers. And the more I Iisten to the experts and learn, the more I realize I don’t know. So I’m very cautious, reluctant even, to offer anything that could be construed as a diagnosis.

On a very basic level, I’m protecting myself: I don’t want to be feel responsible if I tell you not to call the veterinarian and then your horse takes a turn for the worse. But I’m also protecting your horse. In the earliest days of EQUUS, one of the marketing tactics used to sell subscriptions was a guarantee that we’d save you the cost of a veterinary call the first year. But let’s be clear: You save that cost when you feel confident and informed enough to handle a minor issue on your own. Not when you are in doubt and ask me what you should do.

It’s a fine line to walk—after all, I spend all day gathering and sharing information with horse owners and then when friends need information, I’m reluctant to offer my opinion? It’s confusing and frustrating for them at first, I’m sure. But they’ll soon learn that I’m quick to offer my opinion on the non-veterinary topics. I will tell you exactly how you should clean a stall, explain how you can ride past a tree branch without having it slam into the face of the rider behind you and correct you if you clip cross ties directly to a bit. But don’t ask me if you should call the veterinarian. Unless you just want me to say “yes.”

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