Friday 9 March 2012

On Vet Checks and Armeggedon..

I know I keep on saying things along the lines of "the weirdest and most annoying part of being involved with horses has to be XXXX"  (insert weird and annoying thing here).

But then I come up with something else that I say is even weirder.  And more annoying.  Seriously.. I am serious here.  The VET CHECK has to be high on that list.

Maybe I am wrong (again), but I don't think it has always been so. It is my understanding that back in the day, a vet came, saw, critiqued... then reported back to you on the suitablity of the horse in a way that actually gave you some foggy clue on whether or not it was likely to drop dead on Wednesday.

Times, they are a changin.  Being Canadian, I will of course blame this on you crazy, lawsuit happy Americans.  Because that's what we do.

Somewhere this seemingly clear cut process has morphed into a "150 things that are wrong with this horse now... or could potentially some day be wrong with this horse between now and Armeggedon - just sayin"  process.

So, what you are telling me Doc, is that I might have a hell of a 2012 show season, but no promises beyond that?

It is easy to blame this all on the vets - those assholes.  They take all of our money, then give us some foggy rundown on their findings...   Things like "horse toes out", which, if you are a blind horse owner, is very useful to find out all for the low, low price of $500.  Or, "horse shows navicular changes consistent with age and training level"... which means - what?  That horses of this age and training level are out kicking ass, or likely to be boxed, frozen and sent to France?

For the love of aliens, Doc... what the hell are you trying to tell me.  Yes, no or maybe so?  Timmy fell into the well?  Use your words, Shy Ronnie!  People in the back can't hear you!

To illustrate this point - let's look at an excerpt stolen from a veterinary website:

These exams are tailored to each prospective buyer's requests and may include a full physical exam of the horse, medical history, performance exam and flexion tests. Digital radiography, ultrasonography and endoscopy are offered as imaging modalities. Radiographs are routinely taken as part of the pre-purchase exam. A full set of x-rays provides valuable information by which to base the purchase decision, a baseline for that particular horse and a basis for later proving that insignificant x-ray changes in the horse have been unchanged over a period of time

Note that what this description DOESN'T say is...

After the completion of the maxing out of your Visa or Mastercard process, we will wrap all this shit up with a bow, and tell you whether or not to BUY THIS HORSE.

Nope.  Because they know full well that they can inspect every orifice, flex, bend photograph... and horses are STILL a crapshoot.  Forget the x-raying-scopy thingy and the probing-scopy thingies.  What we really want is the latest in futurescopy.  Here is a model that I really would like my vet to invest in. 

Ha!  I knew that horse was going to show signs of osteoarthritis by age 24.  Biiiinnn-GO!  Damn I am good!

Becaust THAT is in essence, what we really want to know.  

C'mon Curmudgeon.  If they are going to take our money and do all that shit... the least they could do is give us a "pass / fail".  It is total bullshit that they give us a laundry list of clinical signs of who-knows-what significance and then leave us on our own...

Yah, yah, I know I have felt that way too.  

But on the other hand - we all know someone who has gotten that very laundry list after vetting an incredibly priced Selle Francais they have had their eye on... Yah, the report had some strange words on it like "ringbone" and "navicular" and "close to dead" and "run Suzie, RUN" - but really, who could pass up a price like that!  And so, they rationalized away all of this poo-poo fluff (oooh, that is so sweet. Roarer! The vet thinks he is like a little lion!), bought the horse, then spent the next 10 years trying to rehab A Trois Pattes, bad mouthing Vet Jones all the way for giving them such bad advice during the vet check.  

Or the one that said nothing bad at all - but then the horse went dead lame...

Let's fix up that statement again.  Make it even a bit more like what the average horse buyer wants to see..

After the completion of the maxing out of your Visa or Mastercard process, we will wrap all this shit up with a bow, and tell you whether or not to BUY THIS HORSE.

Then - if the horse does go lame sometime in the next 15 years, we will come to your farm free of charge, and bust our asses trying to fix whatever strange and unpredictable ailment that has cropped up. You are right, it was probably some neurological defect that we failed to notice that made Stormy run through that barbed wire fence.  Our bad.  The stitches are on us.  And, yah, good point, we should have known little Emily would change her mind and decide that "pleasure trail horse" is mind-numbingly dull, and that the TEVIS cup is really where it's at, and evaluated the horse accordingly.  What were we thinking!  

It is sounding pretty sweet now, eh?

But then... has anyone ever NOT met a "Buyer #2" who negotiated a red hot deal with a shellshocked seller - because "Buyer #1" fled the scene after a grueling and intensive vet check with one vet... (cough, is this ringing a BELL with anyone, cough) ... only to come up clean as a whip second time around with a less anal inspector who's laundry list was only 2 pages long?  And the horse went on to stay sound for the next 20 years?

Bottom line is... like absolutely everything else in the horse world - you pays yer money, and ya takes yer chances.  Who knows.  But I still think there is more value in a cryptic laundry list than nothing at all.  So even though my financial situation was not the greatest, I perservered... 


  1. So true. We vet checked a 14yr Arab and were told that due to the fact he was cow hocked he would break down if he was jumped. We still bought him but babied him when it came to jumping. He went on to compete up to beginner novice eventing and working 1st level. Never saw a problem in his hocks. He was retired due to a tendon injury. I only vet checked the 3yr old we bought because of the money I was spending. Horses are a gamble and always will be.

  2. It's an impossible situation. Best you can do is have the horse's health checked--breathing, heart, etc--to see if he's alive and hope he's not carrying any contagious diseases, and then see if all four legs work. After that, it's sheer luck.

    I adopted two horses here, just from photos on the internet. Fortunately they are both sound--not necessarily of mind--and fun. Then again, I've never had aspirations to make the Olympics, so all the rest doesn't matter.

  3. I have never vet checked (knocks on all of the wood in Louisiana)... Nope not a single horse. I've had two different bowed tendons (both accidents only one my fault when I was twelve), otherwise we bought a pricey gelding and I had him flexed AFTER purchase LOL... And KNOCK on wood other than the bows no regular lameness longer than a few weeks :)

  4. I have pretty much given up on vet checks except for breeding soundness (and that due to a lovely mare with all qualifications except a cervix!). I can only remember getting a firm answer once, and that was a resounding "NO, the horse won't last the summer as a Pony Club mount." Watched the same horse compete quite soundly at the USPC National Rally 3 years later.

  5. guess i'm lucky to have a vet that speaks her mind. was just looking for a nice, mature trail horse as my second horse. two vet checks on two horses, both times vet told me to walk away and don't look back. both horses later went fully lame just where she saw indications of problems.