To optimize your horse’s health, you and your veterinarian need to work together. Good teamwork requires good communication. Here, I’ll give you 9 communication tips.
1. Be clear and direct. Good communication requires trust. You and your veterinarian must be able to speak directly to one another, ask questions, and get answers. Your vet should take each of your questions seriously; in turn, you should feel that you can ask for and receive explanations about any terms, products, and/or treatments that you don’t understand.
2. Keep complete records. Record all details concerning your horse’s history in one notebook. Record his foaling date; vaccination and farrier records; any illnesses, injuries, and treatments; feed and supplements; typical water consumption; exercise routine; turnout schedule; and normal vital signs. Such accurate information will help your vet in diagnosing and treating your horse.
3. Provide first-aid. Keep a first-aid kit in the barn and another one in your trailer. Ask your veterinarian what items you should keep in your kit. If you aren’t sure how to use the items, ask your vet to show you.
4. Make an appointment. You may believe you know what your horse’s problem is, but you can’t be certain. Don’t ask your vet to make a diagnosis or suggest a course of treatment via the phone; she really does need to see your horse first. The more information you can provide in your initial phone call to your veterinarian, the better.
5. Make separate appointments. If your vet is seeing one horse, and you have other horses you’d like her to examine, call and schedule an appointment for each. Don’t ask your vet to “work in” the rest of your resident equines.
6. Be ready when your vet arrives. Be prepared, whether it’s a routine call scheduled six months in advance or an emergency. Have your horse easily accessible, wearing a halter. If possible, keep his coat dry, clean his stall, and leave on all available lights for maximum visibility.
7. Be understanding. If your veterinarian is late, avoid thinking, I scheduled this appointment six months ago; she knew she was supposed to be here at 10! Instead, tell yourself that your vet has a lot of clients, and she can’t help being late to regular appointments if someone has an emergency. Today, you’re the client who has to wait; next time, you might be the client with the emergency.
8. Be curious. Don’t be shy about asking questions. If you don’t know what a word means, or you don’t understand exactly what your veterinarian is saying about a condition or a treatment, ask, then listen closely to the explanation. Some vets are better “explainers” than others, but very few vets are both brilliant explainers and mind readers.
9. Provide follow-up treatment. Know what you should do after your veterinarian leaves; if the directions are complicated, write them down. For example, make sure you know when you’re supposed to give your horse medication, check his temperature, and hand-walk him. If you follow through on your vet’s instructions, you’ll become a vet’s favorite: the compliant client.
Jessica Jahiel, PhD, is an internationally recognized clinician and lecturer, and an award-winning author of books on horses, riding and training. Her e-mail newsletter is a popular worldwide resource.