How To Be Your Vet's Star Client!

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How To Be Your Vet's Star Client
by: Lisa Ross Williams
Let’s face it – if you have horses, you’ll require the services of a veterinarian, whether it be for an emergency like colic or an injury, or simply to have blood drawn to determine if your horse is metabolically challenged.

 With the shortage of large animal veterinarians, it’s not always easy to get a good vet out when you need him. Building a sound relationship goes a long way toward providing peace of mind, and often gets a quicker response from the vet. Your job is to be a responsible, educated horse guardian, and respect the vet’s expertise and time.


Here are six ways to be a savvy client:

1. Know a true emergency from an urgent or minor issue. If you cry wolf too many times, your vet will not trust your judgment. Remember, he is prioritizing his day’s work around the needs of all his clients.

 2. Instill proper manners in your horse using natural horsemanship. Having a conflict during an examination or procedure is counterproductive, puts the vet at risk, and creates stress for your horse. When our horse Riley had a colic issue, our own vet was able to conduct a rectal examination on him without sedation – very beneficial, because in some instances sedation can be detrimental.

 Hint: Always be straightforward with your horse. If it’s going to hurt, tell him. This builds trust.

 3. Be prepared with relevant information when you call the vet. What questions your vet asks you will depend on the situation. For instance, if it’s a colic, he will probably ask you how long it has been going on. Have there been any bowel movements? If so, what do they look like? Is the horse lying down or rolling? If it’s an injury, is there blood spurting out, or is there a foreign object imbedded in the wound?

 You should also know what the vital signs are, such as pulse, respiration, capillary refill, and temperature. Be sure you know how to take these readings before a crisis arises.

 4. Understand that veterinarians are not all-seeing. They count on you to give them essential information about your horse. They know the species, but only you know your horse’s normal actions, behavior, and personality.

 5. Put together a first aid kit and know where to find it. It should include:

* Bandage materials, including gauze and roll cotton, pressure wraps such as stretch bandage material, white adhesive and duct tape, and quilt-type cloth wraps

            * Equipment such as a stethoscope, thermometer, scissors, and forceps

            *Saline solution and/or diluted herbal calendula solution for wound cleansing

            * Disposable diapers to be used for hoof wraps

            * Electrolyte paste

            *Complementary therapy products such as Bach Rescue Remedy and basic homeopathic remedies such as Aconitum, Arnica, Nux vomica
              and Phosphorus

            * Numerous bags of frozen peas when cold therapy is needed

            * Fly masks in case of an eye injury, to protect from light and insects

 6. Follow a holistic approach but don’t discount conventional methods during an emergency. Sometimes a fast-acting pain killer or tubing with mineral oil is called for. You can always support your horse’s treatment with alternative therapies after the crisis is over, or even before the vet arrives.

Taking your horse’s vital signs


In adult horses, a normal, at-rest pulse is around 35 to 42 beats per minute. It’s slightly faster in youngsters and 70 to 90 beats in newborn foals. Take the pulse either between the jaw bones or on the inside back of the knee, and count the beats per minute (or per half minute and double it, to save time).

Respiratory rate

This is taken by counting the number of breaths per minute. You can do this by watching the flank or nostrils. A normal rate is 12 to 25 breaths per minute.


Normal temperature, when taken rectally, is 99.5° to 100° Fahrenheit (37.5° to 37.8° Celsius) in adults and 99° to 102°F (37.2° to 38.9° C) in foals. Using either a bulb or digital thermometer, lubricate the tip (KY Jelly works well), raise the tail and gently insert the thermometer two to three inches into the rectum. Wait three minutes before reading. If using a bulb thermometer, it’s wise to tie a fishing line to the end with a small alligator clip or clothespin that clips to the tail hair. Horses have been known to suck a whole thermometer in, which is an emergency in itself.

Capillary refill

Gum color and capillary refill show the state of circulation. Push on the horse’s gum and release; the color should return to normal in two seconds. Gum color should be light pink; a bluish tinge indicates oxygen deficiency and is cause for concern. If your finger impression stays longer than three seconds, this could indicate shock.

Gut sounds   

It’s imperative to read these when dealing with colic. Using a stethoscope, listen to both sides along the entire gut. You want to hear a low rumbling sound. If there is gas buildup, it will sound like loud thunder and perhaps a pinging sound over the cecum area. No sound indicates possible impaction and is a danger sign.

 We all hope we’ll never need the services of a vet for a crisis, but the odds are we will. Take the time to become informed and develop a good relationship with the vet. Your horse’s life may depend on it.

 About the author:

Lisa Ross-Williams is a natural horse care consultant and host of the If Your Horse Could Talk webcast available at She has completed the Basic Veterinary Homeopathy course through the British Institute of Homeopathy, holds a degree in Environmental Plant Science, and is an Equine Iridology Technician. Lisa is the Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of Natural Horse Magazine and the author of the award winning book, Down-To-Earth Natural Horse Care available at

Some Interesting Info on Bees!

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Well, what we originally thought was just a swarm of scout bees looking for a new hive location turned out to be a full active group of bees with a queen.  They were in a large empty plant pot by Kenny’s shop and we were told by the first bee keeper we contacted that they would probably leave within 2 days.  When they didn’t we called another keeper who came out.


They had already built 5 large cones and Cliff, the Bee Wrangler explained that the queen (who was probably already turned into Africanized) was laying 3000 eggs per day.  He was able to take around 250,000 bees with him.  He plans to introduce them to a new hive on his property.  He will have to kill the queen and replace her with a European queen. 


When he moved the pot, this man was covered in black and he moved the cones and starting scooping handfuls of bees into a box for transport.  There were about 5000 bees left over and he told us not to go near them as they were probably Africanized and would be aggressive.  Thankfully, they were gone the next day.  It was a good thing we did not wait any longer or it would have been a huge hive.


Cliff said he is getting about 100 calls a week and 95% of these hives are Africanized which he must euthanize.  Thankfully, our hive was a majority of European bees so they will live a happy life on Cliff’s farm.


I plan on having Cliff write an article for Natural Horse Magazine next Spring as he is a wealth of information.


Bees are amazing and are in trouble so anything we can do to support them, is important.  Also, Natural Horse Magazine ran an awesome article on the Benefits of Bee Pollen by Stephanie Krahl in Vol 14, Issue 4.

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Tooth Troubles for Simon, The Donkey

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TITLE:  Tooth Troubles for Simon, the Donkey

 On April 5th, our donkey, Simon, marched up to me declaring he had some sort of an issue going on. He lifted his lip making it clear the problem was in his mouth. Kenny wasn’t home and without his assistance I wasn’t able to get a complete look inside of Simon’s mouth but did see a lot of hay and grass packed around his front teeth. Upon Kenny’s return, we haltered Simon and tried to flush his mouth with the hose as best we could. When I got a good look at the injury, I almost fell to my knees…

Simon had pulled his two right top incisors forward by a quarter of an inch and had a huge gash in his top gum, front and back. We immediately called our Certified Equine Dentist who was unfortunately out of state. He explained that in most cases he had seen and/ or researched, the teeth could not be saved and it was best to just pull them out. Although I have the utmost respect for his expertise, training, and experience, I was not willing to give up on saving those teeth! 

Although it would not be the end of the world, pulling them would make grazing much harder and Simon would require very frequent dental sessions to keep the lower incisors in balance. A horse’s teeth continue to erupt until they are between 20 and 25 years of age, depending on prior dental care. This extra tooth length is stored in deep pockets within the jaw and erupts to the point of occlusion. In other words, the tooth will erupt until it hits another surface, usually another tooth. Herein lies a problem; if a tooth is missing, damaged, or incorrectly worn, the opposing tooth will erupt too far (remember, there’s nothing to stop it) which interferes with proper chewing, affects wear and balance of all the other teeth, inhibits motion of the jaw and TMJ, and gets worse and worse.

We made an appointment with the local equine veterinarian and he came out the next morning. Simon was sedated and x-rays were taken. Although it was good news that the teeth and roots were in good shape, he did have a fracture in the underlying Maxilla bone. Dr. Nolte suggested wire be applied to help stabilize the two teeth in an attempt to save them. Normally, the wire would be placed between the teeth and anchored to a back molar. Unfortunately, Simon’s teeth were spaced too tightly together; Dr. Nolte could not fit the wire between the teeth. Instead, he had to cross over the gum to fit the braces. See photo #3. Simon’s prognosis was questionable.

A Holistic Approach to Healing

We were advised to only feed soaked hay pellets for the next eight weeks to try to cut down on the amount of feedstuff that could get stuck in the braces. However, since our equines have access to pasture and supplemental hay 24/7, feeding only soaked pellets was not really an option. Dr. Nolte also recommended we give oral antibiotics for 7 days. Although I did take them, we decided not to give them unless we saw any evidence of infection (which never happened). Simon was also given a tetanus booster (since we give tetanus boosters every 5-7 years and he was due anyway, we felt this was acceptable).

For the pain and inflammation, we started Simon on BTB Plus (a liquid devil’s claw solution) from Emerald Valley Equine. This product is something we always have on hand as it is very effective but lacks the side effects of a pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drug. We also bumped up his daily dose of vitamin C powder to help boost his immune system and help with the inflammation.

On the advice of Char Raby (author of the At Home with Homeopathy and Farm Materica Medica sections in this issue) and Jessica Lynn from Earth Song Ranch, we started Simon on a homeopathic regimen. This included Arnica (for trauma), Hypericum (for nerve damage), and Symphytum (for the bone fracture), all in 200c potency and given twice daily, alternating between remedies. We used this regimen for one week.

An In-between Checkup

On April 26th we had Dr. Nolte out for a checkup to get his opinion on Simon’s progress. He was pleasantly surprised and said, “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.”  I love when I hear this from a conventional vet!

Simon’s Braces Come Off

On May 17th, 6 weeks after the injury, Dr. Nolte came out to remove the braces. Simon was actually pretty cooperative and did not need to be sedated. Unfortunately, the wire had imbedded a bit into the gum, but that will heal pretty quickly. Dr Nolte said the teeth felt pretty stable, so that is a good sign. There is a concern of bone remodeling, so we will dose Simon with homeopathic Symphytum 30c once a day for a week.

Of course, I’m sure you are asking how Simon had injured himself like this. The best we can figure is he had his mouth on a corral panel, spooked and forgot to open his mouth.

At this point, we are very optimistic that his injury will heal completely, but only time will tell. Nonetheless, we are thankful for the holistic modalities that supported and assisted Simon in his healing.

About the author:

Lisa Ross-Williams is a natural horse care consultant and host of the If Your Horse Could Talk webcast available at She has completed the Basic Veterinary Homeopathy course through the British Institute of Homeopathy, holds a degree in Environmental Plant Science, and is an Equine Iridology Technician. Lisa is the Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of Natural Horse Magazine and the author of the award winning book, Down-To-Earth Natural Horse Care available at




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