Being an Equine Vet during lockdown
“Strange times” is something that was repeated to me as I went from emergency call to emergency call in the last few weeks. Since the government enforced the lockdown, the equine veterinary community has been working based on guidelines that were made up by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in collaboration with British Veterinary Association. These guidelines were adjusted recently so we are in apposition of providing more than just emergency care so that we can ensure horse welfare is upheld.
Rather than focus on what I’ve been missing from normal life or normal work, I have chosen to talk about the positives that have come along in the last few weeks.
1. Emergency Medicine – I have seen more horses with colic in the last month than I would often see in a year. Not because there are more cases of colic about but rather that the cases are normally shared between all the vets in the practice. I am now obsessed with staring at grass and how green/rich it is as it will impact the phone calls the following day. Lots of horses were turned out more as a result of the lockdown and the differing situations horse owners and yard owners faced. Add in that turnout through the horrendous wet winter we have just endured means that horses’ hindguts have been given a bit of a challenge recently. A few points of advice:
a. Be aware of grass growth and limit turnout accordingly.
b. Use probiotics or gut balancers to support your horse’s digestive health during these transition times. There are some excellent products out there and if you are brave enough to venture to a supermarket, Biolive yoghurt is very effective too.
c. Monitor droppings – if they are going soft and green then that’s too much grass!
2. Paperwork – I must admit that I have not been a huge fan of the paperwork side of my role but I have taken great pleasure in putting time into getting certain key areas behind the scenes even more sorted than they were previously.
3. Teamwork – even though we haven’t been together, the whole team at LEV has stayed in contact with a combination of WhatsApp and Zoom meetings. The team remote pub quiz was great – even though I lost at the final hurdle when having to impersonate something called TikTok! I still have no idea what it is!!
So, what positives can horse owners take from this time? I look at this as a period of time when time is exactly what we have and all the things that were swept under the carpet or quietly ignored can now be addressed. All the exercises that your physio has been repeatedly advising that you didn’t have time to do. The in-hand exercises that your vet said would help your horses core strength and self-carriage. The time you knew you should have spent on your dressage doing the basics well – square halts, straightness, etc…
Putting time into all these things now will undoubtedly bring about improvements for the future for when the competitions start back up. Because they will, and then you will go back to telling your vet, physio and coach that you don’t have the time!
Best wishes and stay safe.
Peter “Spike” Milligan BVetMed(Hons) MRCVS
Lambourn Equine Vets