Wednesday, December 5, 2018

playing the field: equine service industry

As most of you know, Charlie is my first horse.

I've been obsessed with horses from a very young age, finally coerced my parents into letting me take lessons once I was around 10ish, began helping out at my lesson barn unofficially soon after that, then officially drew a paycheck the moment I was eligible for a workers permit under Maryland state law.

Since then, I've never looked back. I've been a paid employee at three farms, and have had trade agreements with another 2-3 over the years (generally: working shifts in exchange for free saddle time or lessons at an agreed upon rate).

pictures today of random buildings. this is one of the ruins at Fair Hill, recently fenced in presumably bc of deteriorating stability
This has granted me a LOT of varied experiences in the horse world when it comes to the care and management of horses. It helps that I generally tend to be curious and process-oriented, so I've always asked a lot of questions about the hows whats and whys of horse care.

Still tho, there are aspects of horse care and management that just aren't very visible to non-owners. Lots of things I never really had to think about, considering someone else always made the decisions while I carried out orders.

Leasing Isabel was my first chance to peer behind the curtain. With her, I learned more about managing a horse's changeable nutritional needs. Had to stay on top of her farrier schedule. Learned more about making decisions on small things like blanketing and body work.

meanwhile, here's maybe a more familiar backdrop: the ancient hay barn outside charlie's stable
Even so, there was still a whole 'nother world waiting for me to finally, as a fully fledged adult in my 30s, step into the role of OWNER.

Charlie, for his part, has been very thorough in his supervision of my education lol. He has made it his business to ensure I attain at least some small degree of hands-on experience with as many aspects of horse care as possible.

Little things like wraps and bandages. Wound care. Routine vaccinations. Lameness evals and nerve blocks. All things hoof management - routine or otherwise. Antibiotics. Colic treatment. Joint injections. Actual surgery. Ya know. The works haha.

My transition into DECISION MAKER was gentle enough, luckily, as Charlie's first boarding barn was very organized and hands-on when it came to routine care. For instance, they coordinated all the regular shots and vaccinations and maintained the farrier schedule. I could ask for changes as needed, or confirm preferences and what have you, but they kept records and ensured everything that needed to happen actually, ya know, happened.

oh snap, the barn is gone!! kinda bittersweet to see it go.... 
Charlie's barn now is ..... decidedly less centralized haha. There's nobody there keeping a record of when my horse's last fecal was done. Reminding me to put my horse on the list for the farrier. Or prodding me to schedule fall shots.

Which is fine, right? Like. At the end of the day, he's my horse and I accept full responsibility for the administration of his care. But ya know. I still feel kinda new to this and don't have a full grasp on everything yet. Which explains why Charlie was one of the last horses in the barn to get his fall shots this year haha (in my defense, there was one other straggler who got in on our appt too, so we weren't the actual last!).

In any case, last spring there was a list hanging on the board in the barn for horses to sign up for spring shots, so I just added Charlie. Never mind that it was with a vet we had never used before (this area is absolutely rich in high quality vets, throw a rock in any direction and you'll hit half a dozen reputable practices!). So for the fall shots, I scheduled the same practice. Easy peasy!

It got me thinking tho.

the amish did a super fast job of laying a new concrete pad and framing up the replacement barn
I did the math, and Charlie's seen vets from no fewer than four practices since he moved to this new barn (not counting the vets used by the last barn).

There's the vet who did his PPE, whom I've continued to use for joint injections.

Then another vet who is extremely popular at my barn and thus happens to be on the premises at least weekly, if not more often. That makes it super easy to hop on to someone's existing appt to split the farm call fee, for instance. So she's handled a lot of Charlie's little dents and dings, and has been my go-to for restocking medications.

Then another another vet who is also extremely popular at my barn haha, whom I called for Charlie's latest round of "What the ever loving fuck is wrong with his splint tho??"

And finally, this vet (also extremely popular at my barn lol, what can I say but that it's a big barn with a lot of opinions!), who has been handling Charlie's routine shots etc.

ain't it purdy?!? 
I can honestly say, after all the above, that if someone were to ask "Who is your vet?" I.... wouldn't really have an answer.

I'm not sure that's super normal in the horse world, or if it's more just kinda my own personal modus operandi.

For instance, I've had a similar approach with trainers. For most of my riding life through college, I rode in structured lesson programs. Trainers called the shots, that's just how it went. I loved my trainer in college and was 100% cool with my riding life following her direction.

Fast forward to the Isabel days tho, and things started shifting. There weren't any trainers at Isabel's barn, but I was still taking lessons at another h/j barn at the same time. When I decided to try pursuing lessons with Isabel, my first idea was to bring that h/j coach out to Isabel's farm. A couple barn mates were down too, but negotiations stalled and eventually fizzled.

Realistically, it made sense. That trainer had a bustling program at her own barn, and it wasn't super worth her while to take the time to travel. Esp not at the prices we were looking to pay.

ta da!! fresh new barn! really jazzes up the place, dontcha think?
From there tho, the gears in my head really started turning and (thanks in no small part to the inspiration derived from this blogging community, wherein riders like JenJ nonchalantly hauled out to weekly lessons like nbd) I ultimately decided to invest in my truck and trailer.

Thus began my fairly independent foray into fitting trainers into *my* riding program, vs the other way around. Over the years I've ridden with many different trainers, and eventually settled on a grouping that seems to work well for me.

Throughout this, tho, I never really felt like I was "cheating" on a trainer. Or like I was going behind anybody's back, or anything like that.

Rather, I've worked with the trainers who seem to mesh well with me and my horse. And aside from the standing weekly lesson with Trainer P, I generally just schedule each trainer when the circumstances are right.

it looks even better when it's full of hay haha
This arrangement isn't super unusual, I don't think. Tho it does mean that many decisions that might often go to a trainer for a final say (like which shows to attend, or when to move up) are instead made mostly at my own discretion.

If we're being honest, probably the only professionals in the equine services industry that I haven't jumped around with are farriers. Mostly bc I tend to see their relationship with the horses as a little bit unique: a good farrier theoretically has a longer term plan or direction for the horse's hooves. If the plan is working, I would rather not mess with it haha!

Plus maybe it's just me but some farriers seem to have.... a little more of an ego than the typical vet. So I feel like they're maybe less likely to come out for an unscheduled appt to reset a lost shoe if you're not already paying them on the regular.

Generally, tho, aside from farriers, I've kinda spread the love with the practitioners who care for Charlie. Like, I try to be friendly and organized, and I pay my bills in full on time. So... I can't really see any reason why any of these pros would be bothered by the knowledge that they're "not the only one" or whatever.

Still, tho, I'm curious about how common this actually is haha. Like maybe it's so easy to use so many different pros at my convenience bc Maryland has such a dense population of world class professionals? So maybe in a different area there would be less choice and therefore less likelihood to use so many different vets or trainers or saddle fitters or body workers, etc etc etc?

cha cha cha changes, yo!
Do you have a "One & Only" when it comes to your horse's vet work? Or do you play the field, using different vets for different purposes? Or maybe you were forced to have to look around a bit after needing to fire a vet? Or maybe you board at a farm that has a standard vet practice that everybody uses?

Do you feel like there are advantages / disadvantages to using always the same professionals for your horse's care, vs switching around a bit?

And same line of questioning for training too - do you ride primarily with one coach? Or with many? Has this depended on your boarding situation?

Do you see variety in instruction as being very different from variety in other aspects of care like vet work? As in, you'd ride with multiple trainers but only ever trust your vet work to the one practice? Or vice versa?

Would you consider yourself as being more "part of a program" vs more independent? Why? And what advantages / disadvantages do you see in your situation when it comes to optimizing the management and administration of your horse's care?

This relatively new horse owner is curious to hear your perspective!


  1. I'm definitely independent. Haha. I tend to use one ver practice, and try to just use one vet in the practice where possible. There's a local lamness specialist I would use for anything beyond the scope of my regular vet. Beyond that, I do use a cheaper "barn vet" when boarding at a different barn. I am pretty stringent when choosing a vet for treatment and diagnosis purposes, but giving shots is super easy and I'm less worried about who does those. I've had bad experiences with vets in the past that have made me very careful with who I pick and trust. As for trainers, I only train with someone who understands thoroughbreds/hot horses and French style dressage. That narrows down the field considerably. Then I tend to try to find one who can take me to my upper level goals. I'm not as picky with Bast, as I'm still putting a foundation on him. Still I wanted someone able to help me build that foundation with an eye to the future.

    1. Oh, and I'm my own farrier. Helps when "emergency calls" (both my boys are barefoot, meaning emergencies are mostly just chips needing filed down) are needed, but means I'm often just mad at myself when the boys go too long between trims. Lol!

  2. Im in an area with about five active equine vets. Ive had the same vet for 30+ years and he has done all my horses. He is the most well-established of the local vets, albeit a bit gruff around the edges.

    I have heard that the local vets are not prone to making emergency colic calls on holidays or weekends for non clients. For that reason, and because my vet is a workaholic, I stick to my one and only.

    As for farriers, Im very loyal and have had the same, with resounding success for 13 years.

    As for trainers, I have my main squeeze coach for 16 years and dabble with a few others from time to time to achieve other goals. It keeps things fun and interesting, but I never compromise on the basics my coach has given me. Over time, I have become more independent and now need more of a watcher for immediate feedback then an actual trainer.

    Really good questions re the vets. Figure out what happens in an emergency, for insurance sakes.

  3. Right now, our barn uses two different vets primarily - one local vet, who covers most everything (from routine shots to reproductive care to emergencies), and one vet who does all of our lameness evals/injections/look at really weird/obscure problems.

    Our usual farrier is married to my trainer (convenient!), but of course they both go to FL in winter, so we have another farrier who's a friend of his to take care of the school horses, as well as another year-round farrier that many of our boarders use.

    For vet and farrier, I've chosen to stick with the barn's choices because I work full time at the barn, so I've seen them all work firsthand and held horses for them and gotten to know them that way. But if the barn switched, I'd probably switch, too - mostly because I know they wouldn't switch without good reason and as an employee I kinda have the inside scoop ;)

    Training-wise, I don't jump around and don't plan to - I found my trainer because I was a working student for her before I became a full-time employee, and the longer I'm with her, the more I learn about her philosophy, and the more I love it. She's completely changed me as a rider, and I know she's more than capable of helping me accomplish my goals (and then some!), so I find myself not really ever wanting to ride with anyone else.

  4. I tend to pick one professional and stick with them until something necessitates a change - like a barn move or change in training needs. I have, however, been using the same vet practice since I got Dino 8 years ago (and now I work for them!) Having seen the other side of the veterinary coin, I'm of the opinion that it's very, very important to use ONE practice for everything if at all possible, and allow that practice to refer you to a larger clinic if the need arises. Sticking with one vet or practice allows them to really get to know you and your horse, know what's normal for them, keep accurate medical records, and provide a guarantee that they'll be there in case of emergency. It can sometimes be hard for 'vet hopping' horse owners to get someone out in an emergency situation if they don't already have an established relationship with a vet that is providing regular, routine care. Our practice usually won't take emergency calls from non-clients, for example. Sticking with one vet also gives your horse a cohesive medical history, which makes it easier for a vet to see long-term patterns in care or problems. But as far as trainers go... I'm of the same opinion as you. Use whoever fills the need!

  5. This is really interesting!

    In my area it is common that other vets won't come to you for emergency calls if you don't use them for every day stuff as well. There's also not a ton of options for good vets despite there really being a decent equine population. My regular vet does shots and emergencies for me as well as small lameness things (like when I know it's likely an abscess). She is not the barn vet - the barn vet is regularly scheduled and comes out and does everyone else but I schedule and get my boys done separately. She was with me before I came to this barn and really trusts my instincts with Stampede's issues which has been a life saver several times. We have a lameness specialist who did my PPE on Maestro (and P back in the 90's!) and was part of helping diagnose Stampede's back issues years ago who I have out if it's something bigger. Sadly he's older and I'm going to be very upset when he retires!

    As far as lessons we can't really bring anyone outside in (I got the okay for a dressage trainer at one point but then she didn't pay the ring fee so...) and I don't have a trailer so no real options there. Given what I do I don't think they would be happy if I was trailering to another trainer anyways. It's just not done.

    As far as farrier it depends on the horse. When Phoenix was having foot soreness issues every couple months and the farrier didn't want to try anything new besides pads and kept telling me Stampede had sore hocks despite my regular reminders that he has a back issue I got fed up and found a new farrier to come in despite the fact that is not done at my barn. Best thing I did, P got different shoes and was quite happy. That said I now use that same farrier to do Maestro at the barn because he has pretty average feet.

    Unrelated but I noticed I don't show up on your blog list anymore, wondering if I messed something up on my site?

    1. Ooh snaps thanks for pointing that out - I’ll fuss around with the widget to see if it’s on my end and will let you know if that doesn’t fix it! Blogger loves acting like it can’t recognize feeds sometimes....

  6. My barn has different vets for different purposes. The best sport horse vet in the area (besides Rood and Riddle) is just a bit too far away from us at the new location to be our "oh shit someone's colicking" vet. So we use the sport horse vet for lameness exams, pre-purchase, annual shots, Coggins, etc, basically anything that can be scheduled. But then we have a more local vet that we call for emergencies.

  7. Professionals are really thin on the ground here. We have a vet practice that we use. You can request a specific vet but that may not always work out. I like to keep the same vet but I know that my horses' full record is available to whoever comes out. I also have learned to be the 'manager' of their care and make decisions.

    I have one regular coach (Shanea) and attend clinics off and on.
    My farrier will one day retire and I will be crying. He's so good and we have a good working relationship. I find that they are often not willing to listen even to vets (I fired one over that).

  8. It just so happens that the barn's regular vet is also the closest vet and is also equipped to handle the weirdness that crops up, so... one vet for us. Ditto with the farrier. :)

    I feel ya on the learning all the exciting things that one must do for one's own horse that one didn't have to do for lesson programs. I had a little bit of a sneak peek from working summer camps for my long-time instructor - which generally involved barn chores starting first thing in the morning and the occasional making sure children didn't die, since she knew I wasn't a kid person - but man, it is a different world even from that to have your own. (Although my BOs totally were laughing at me the first year. "I need to buy dewormer? SURE! Baby horse needs special grain? This is so exciting!" lol) One of the things that helps me keep track of what's due when is Horse Notes - - if you're interested; the app's kind of... weird... but the website is great. :)

  9. I tend to stick with people with whom I've got a relationship. I dislike having to find new farriers and the like because I want everything to be easily googleable and it's just not. Not yet. I am trying a new trimmer to see if they have a different approach for Gwyn's feet, but I'm only with current farrier because my previous farrier up and never called me back after cancelling everyone after his dad died. I suspect it was his way of whittling down clients since he was overextended, but it was still poor form, imo.

    I stick with one vet practice because they offer a package deal if you buy their wellness plan. Pay for everything up front and you get spring and fall shots plus a float at a discount and they discount farm calls for emergencies. I haven't needed to use the emergency discount but I appreciate that it's there.

    I have the same approach with trainers. I don't have the budget at the moment to do regular lessons so I've curated a list of trainers who teach different things in the area and set up lessons as needed.

  10. This is a good question and I don’t know if I have a straight answer right now! For vets I have been using the main big vet practice in the area bc it’s super convenient. I trailer over there for all vet calls that aren’t emergency related so I can save on farm call fees bc they’re only 10+ish minutes away. Though recently two of the vets I saw the most when I was there just left (both moved away for family reasons) and now I’m thinking I might switch to a different vet that I know really well bc the camp I work at uses her. But I also know two other vets in the area that if I needed a different opinion I could call them up. I don’t use them regularly bc one is very difficult to get bc she’s insanely busy (she’s my mom’s vet so I have an “in” with her if I need it) and the other one is trying to slow down and eventually retire. So basically I have my main vet but have relationships with others just in case.
    As for trainers I have my main one that I took weeklyish lessons from but sadly she has retired so now I’m looking around for someone else. But I’m a member of my local Horsemasters club (pony club for adults) and we have monthly meetings with various trainers in the area and I always ride in those when I can. I really like the insight or a different way to correct my riding and it was fun to come back to my regular lesson with my regular trainer and discuss what I learned and liked and didn’t like about the clinic. It was super helpful to have someone to come back to as a sounding board and discuss new insights with (though were usually a different way of saying the same thing my trainer was saying hahaha). I really liked that setup and even with finding a new trainer I’ll probably still schedule a lesson or two with retired trainer (when the weather is good!) and use someone else as my main person, but will be able to have insightful discussions with retired trainer bc I really value her opinion!

  11. When I lived up in Delaware i had the same farrier the whole time from the time when I got Remus (OMG I miss Vance so much). Vets I used the barn one then got screwed over with a 900 dollar bill for a wound on Remus's neck. It was gnarly but not 900 bucks gnarly. I felt screwed and then went with a local vet who I knew from boarding with her. She ended up taking Maternity leave so i finally ended up with my regular vet the last few years (Emily's husband no less) I figured let's just keep stuff in family.

    Down here the options are not as numerous. The vet I have is the only equine vet in this general area, tho the Tenn Equine Hospital is near enough for emergencies. Also the farrier is the local farrier. He is nice and polite and on time and since I am not riding all is fine. I just wonder how well Remus is doing compared to with Vance (hot shoes clips) to basic tapping shoes on (this guy). We shall see...

    And I still have to find someone to teach me and Remus :) Still looking! Ha....

    Good topic!

  12. I have used the same vet practice since I was a kid. Normnally I have the same vet, but recently there are a few new ladies there and I have had them out also and really like them. This is all through the same clinic though, and they talk and share ideas and history etc. I would have a hard time going to a new vet now.

    I have the same relationship with my farrier. Same one for almost 20 years! Aside from when I lived elsewhere that is.

  13. Knowing you come from a H/J background like me I know we've talked a lot about Trainers (especially with my recent vacating from one) so I won't answer that one haha but all my life I used the same vet until I moved then I used Ins T's preferred vet, that lady was fired and though the prices feel kinda high to me (then again I got the friends and family discount from essentially my lifetime vet up north) I have decided to stick with the vet practice and not the vet that was fired (plus you know the whole possible conflict of interest with her being friendly and gabby with Ins T) luckily Dante's current vet is also the vet who did his PPE because the other vet was out on materinity leave when I was going to buy, so at this point he knows Dante pretty well.

    Growing up we had 3 farriers and the first was mostly ok, the second one was awful! Chris, the third one was perfect and I still miss him and I wish he'd move to San Diego like he said he and his wife were going to do so he can come trim my horse!!! Since moving down here Dante had 2 farriers, one up at the baby farm because it was far, and his current one. Patrick his current farrier is pretty good though, absolutely no complaints and very fair pricing not to mention knowledgeable.

    I can absolutely see why you would hop on the various vets though! Farm calls are expensive and if you can get certain things like a quick look, quick diagnosis and shots for cheaper why not. I do think that Tracy's product - the horse binder (or just some of the pages in it) are very helpful if you need a way at home to keep it all organized - there are digital ones too which I'm sure are fab (I just do better with physical paper for some reason).

  14. I wish we had that variety to choose from up here. If nothing else it might bring the costs down some if there was competition. Stupid vets.

  15. I'm the same about vets (I have many, for different things) and farriers (one, and loyal). For the vets I've just developed preferences over time, using certain ones for some things, and certain others for other things. They all have their strengths.

    For trainers I am extremely picky. I only ride with people that I feel like I can trust, and that understand my horse. It's taken a lot of careful work to get him where he is mentally, and it's still very easy to mess with his brain if you don't understand how he ticks. I feel like it's my job to know that about him, and protect it accordingly. I have a dressage trainer I work with a lot who has known us for years, and my old h/j trainer that I love but moved away who I've ridden with a few times since I've had Henry. But my main trainer, she's earned that spot because I know her so well and I trust her implicitly. She understands me, she understands my horse, and I know she's always got our goals and our best interest in mind. Granted, I don't get to see her that often since she's 2 hours away, and it always requires hauling out, and we're both busy. Still though, I text her all the time and she always knows what's going on with us. I wouldn't consider myself to be "in a program" in the sense that I normally hear that phrase used, especially from the h/j people. I don't get enough lessons or even see her often enough for that to be the case, and she hasn't sat on my horse in 2 years. But I am pretty dedicated to her, and I fully believe that my relationship with her is why we've managed to get as far as we have. She's given us stability and consistency, and helped manage and cultivate the growth over time. I think that's super important, at least for me. Plus she's just a really good human being, and the kind of person I want in my life as a friend. We are deeply entrenched in each other's circle of friends at this point.

    That said, I will ride with other people sometimes, IF I'm familiar with their teaching style and their approach, and I feel like it will be beneficial. Having other eyes and opinions can still be really helpful, and my main trainer is totally ok with that too.

  16. Coming from the medical professional side, doctor/vet hopping drives me insane. It’s so much better for all involved to stick with one group or one provider so they can track things over time. That being said, I think having a lameness specialist is important and very different than the vet who gives vaccines or comes over for the general dings, abscess, snotty nose stuff. Of course in practice I don’t even have a vet. Dusty does my shots and coggins every year but I did establish with a lameness specialist for H’Appy and will use her if I ever need to again. Hoping I don’t but you know horses.

    Farriers im quick to fire if they don’t show up, do crap work or won’t listen to me. I’ve had close to a dozen since moving to SC 5 years ago. Hooves are too important to mess with. My current carrier has been a breath of fresh air and I hope to never leave his care. Ever. I adore him and he has turned H’Appy around.

    Trainers. Well, I don’t have one at the moment and am looking around. I think trainers may be different but I’m speculating. I can see “growing out of” a trainer who may be good for where you are now but not good in the future. Or wanting a different perspective on something. My opinion on that is withheld until I get there

  17. For vets, I use a big practice. So, I have a primary vet there, but for emergencies, I get whoever is on call. This works out well, except when Batty had his New Bolton trip and bad bedside manners basically told me I could let him die on the driveway or send him to the vet clinic where she could keep an eye on him or New Bolton. I decided New Bolton, but who the hell tells prefaces any options with "die on the driveway"????? Then, she would NOT provide my primary vet with updates. When we couldn't get him loaded to go to New Bolton, my mom called her cell to see if ace would hurt (honestly, not getting him on was going to leave him dead) and she basically flipped out and asked what the hell we expected her to do about it and she didn't care if we drugged him because she had no idea if he'd make it... (she also left lots of blood on my driveway from tubing which can happen but all over vets do say they try and wash it up)

    Anyway, I blacklist vets if they suck. Thankfully, crazy lady is no longer employed at said clinic. But, everyone there knows who I'm talking about without ever mentioning names. Lol. I'm OK with misdiagnoses OR treatments that don't work if we're trying to fix stuff without doing all the tests. But be honest when you're wrong or something doesn't work. My regular vet is. But don't be crazy or suck as a person.

    As for farriers, I have a special needs horse (brain) and a special needs horse (foot). My current farrier is the best. He is NEVER allowed to retire. He also provides much needed moral support. He was the first person who told me I was doing the right thing when I was debating putting my mare down. No one else would do that. He also has a lot of belief in me as a horse person. I need that.

  18. This is actually super interesting to me, bc as a leaser I never had to book exams, call the farrier, etc. It was all just done. Now that I have owned horses for a few years, I was kinda thrown off the deep end into having to piece things together – like finding a hay supplier, vet, farrier, etc. It worked out ok tho and after experimenting a bit with different people in all the different professions, I seem to have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

    In terms of where I am located, professionals are hard to come by. There isn’t a ton of vets, farriers, or even clinicians unless they come up from other areas of the province. So, you kinda have to time things with these people’s schedules to make it onto their list and ensure your horse is seen/cared for/ educated. I’m independent not because I choose to be, but because it’s just the way it is here. We have a pretty good horse community, so I’ll get a text or something mid-October saying “Hey Cathryn, the performance chiro is coming up in the next two weeks, did you want a spot?” Or “Hey I’m planning a clinic with X, we have Y amount of spots open, you want in?” It’s hard too, bc if you say “no thanks” once or twice, it kinda bumps you off the list. I’ve been smart tho and have gotten people’s direct information – I have in fact messaged the chiro a few times to see when she’s planning her trips up so I can correlate time off work to get Annie and appointment. It is the same with the vets - a few come up to our area 1-2x a year and it's up to us to pay attention to the emails and info that goes out saying "Dr X will be in the area on these dates, call to book your appointment".

    Because I board privately, and my horses are the only ones there, I have free rein to do whatever I want. In the same breath tho, if I want lessons I have to trailer out. I don’t mind it tho, because one of the horse clubs in the next town organizes most clinics and has a schedule out at the beginning of every year. I just keep an eye on it, and when the books open for the clinic, I message whoever is in charge and get my name on the list.

    I think the hardest thing was finding a hay supplier. Being new to horses, I wasn’t on anyone’s “client list”. It made it really hard to get the better quality hay, esp because most people were on that farms list. I bought what hay I could from them, and ended up having to haul out to get other decent quality hay. There were years I was short and would have to make trips 3-4+ hours away to get extra hay from random people who had left-overs. Now tho? I’m firmly on the one farm’s list and we have a good working relationship where I am a consistent consumer and they bend over backwards to help me where they can – like storing my round bales at their farm (for a price!). It was hard tho, having to run around for three years like a chicken with my head cut off until I was able to weasel my way into a secure spot.

  19. I guess for me, it depends. I've had to switch vet clinics and farriers depending on the locations of boarding stables. Most won't travel outside a certain radius or if they do, you pay even more for the barn call. I am super lucky that the vet I use now is great. I get one of two ladies and have known them for years. The main one is great with my mini and was on her knees tubing him when he colicked (he was ok). I've had the same farrier for years as well and I quite like him so I'm in no rush to change.

    Coaches have been trickier. I find they are a bit more possessive of their students and working with different ones isn't always accepted! My favourite coach retired and we are still friends and she legit gets jealous if I take lessons elsewhere. We laugh about it now, but I think she is still a teeny bit jealous.

  20. I am lucky to be in a fairly vibrant horse community (Woodside) with lots of knowledgeable service providers. I manage my own horse, and have a regular team of professionals (same coach for both dressage and jumping; vet; chiropractor; body worker; vet; saddle fitter). Most of them I've used for the past several years, since not long after I got Cupid though I've had the same farrier for about 10 years starting with my previous horse.

  21. Good vets in my area are rare, which means they have tons of clients and are hard to schedule with. We have one vet practice that comes out for shots and a couple of the boarders use for more intensive stuff, but most boarders go to another vet (that you have to haul to) for anything non-routine. I opted to take P to Tryon (2 hours away) because they’re the best. If they’re good enough for my trainers UL event horses, they can certainly treat P.

    Farriers I definitely don’t hop around. The farrier that does our barn lives far away, so if he can’t come out to tack a shoe back on, I’ll usually ask a farrier couple down the road who know P from the barn we used to be at (and who trained current farrier).

    For trainers I’m just going to stick with B. I’ve tried others, done clinics, etc, and nothing and no one has gotten through to us as a pair like he has. He’s the first trainer who didn’t overface one or both of us, he doesn’t belittle me, but pushes us juuuuust far enough to build confidence. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was pretty skeptical about working with him at first, but am really glad it worked out.

  22. I'm a one-and-only type of gal. My reason is that I like to be really close to my vet. I need to have some sort of relationship with them, so I can call them or text them with quick questions. It might save them a trip and valuable time if I can just talk to them beforehand. And since I'm a boarding barn owner, I need to be able to speak with my vet candidly about boarders and their horses so I can better help them. And honestly, if they know you really well, it's easier to get drugs faster. I've even stopped by my vet's home and picked up medicine when she's not around. It's incredibly valuable to have a trusting, close relationship with your vet.

  23. I'm in an area with a plethora of equine vets to choose from, including 2 clinics that do full surgeries. My barn tends to use one of those clinics or a mobile-only vet. It depends on what I need done as to which vet I would choose, though over my 20+ years in the area I've used most of the local vets at one time or another.
    For farrier - I stick to my regular guy(s). It's two farriers work together a few days a week, and always at my barn. I've had other farriers tack on a shoe a couple of times when Phantom has lost one and hasn't hidden it, but they never seem to get it right and it usually falls off again.
    I'm pretty independant with everything horse-related, which likely goes back to my teenage years. I started riding at 11, and did the normal barnrat thing of doing stalls and chores for lessons and rides. When I was 14 we moved across the country to a small town where there wasn't much of a horse scene. I boarded with a lady who did the Morgan circuit and rode saddleseat. I only took a couple of lessons through 4H through that 3 year period, so I read whatever I could (I anxiously awaited my Practical Horseman every month) so that I could make some progression. After that when I moved to the city and was in a regular lesson program, I still kind of did my own thing. I haven't been in a regular program in about 15 years, mostly due to finances. I'm happy to let some things be scheduled by the barn (vaccinations or farrier), but I always try to be there to hold my horses and know what's going on, and I have no problem talking to the professionals and making my own decisions.

  24. hmmmmm I have always stuck with one trainer typically because I have been in barns that is run by a trainer. I have looked at barns where things are a bit more hands off that way, but with my schedule, it makes me a bit uneasy when things go awry and the horse needs more care.

    I went through four farriers in NJ (three with May), but that those decisions were driven by my trainer there... Since moving to KY, I have used the same farrier, even after moving barns.

    As for vets, I am all of the place with vets. I really liked the practice I worked with back in NJ. When I first moved to KY, I used the barn vet, but he was expensive and a sole practitioner. Since then, I use my current barn's vet for vaccines (just more cost effective and easier to schedule), and I use another practice for lameness evals and emergencies.

    That said, I like having multiple vet relationships because it means that you are pretty much guaranteed to have someone familiar with your horse come out for an emergency.

  25. I'm pretty independent with choosing care as I board at a private facility. However, that being said, my options in this area are very limited so far as care goes.

    I use one vet practice because that's all that is available nearby in my area. I wish I had some specialists more local, but if I need one, I have to travel.

    I do all of my own trimming and hoof care shy of tacking on a shoe. If I need them shod, a good farrier friend does it utilizing my trim job.

    Trainer. Well, I've been absent one of those nearby for ages. I finally have one though! We had our first lesson recently and I think she's going to be a beautiful fit for what I want to do.

  26. In Vegas it's difficult - there are only 5 vets and 2 practices here, so you are limited. The one vet I've chosen I'm sticking with for as long as possible since I really like and appreciate how he thinks outside of the box. There are only so many farriers here too, as well as trainers. As you know I ride with 2 different trainers. I like having two different perspectives.

    In Texas tho there were more options, I certainly used that. I had my main farrier, but if I were to ever run into a horse that needed anything special there was another one I could call who was really good with horses with messed up feet. I used 2 different vets as well(like one was amazing at detecting lameness), and there were a lot of trainers in that area so it would be easy to ride with more than one. Well, western trainers at least. I don't remember if there were a lot of English ones in that area lol. But I am pretty picky about trainers I work with. It's a little easier at the moment since I'm riding horses that aren't mine, but of course I still need trainers that work well with my learning style, so I'm still picky haha.

  27. I have used my one vet for, geez, going on eighteen years. The only reason I changed is because I moved too far north for the vet I used as a kid and he was getting ready to retire anyway haha. I do use a different vet for chiro work, as that is more his specialty, but I like having my one main vet who knows me, knows my horses, and is always there for me no matter what. I trust him and he trusts me (for example, he taught me to do IV injections on my old mare Snappy, which isn't something he does with other clients save for one other who is a nurse anyway). This is probably because I have owned a horse since I was thirteen, so I have counted on developing a solid relationship with my vet. It is the same with farriers, as when I moved my old farrier didn't come up this far, so I changed and totally lucked out into the best farrier ever. I have told both my vet and farrier they are never allowed to retire hahahaha.

    1. I should also add that I live in the middle of nowhere in rural Maine, so I don't have a huge choice to begin with. My vet drives an hour to me and my farrier is 40 minutes away.

  28. I stick to the vet that is closest to the barn (maybe a five miles away) and the farrier that the barn owner schedules just for convenience. As for trainers, the last trainer I had moved to Florida, but recently moved back within an hour of me, so maybe there are lessons in Avalon's future.


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