Don't Be a Bystander

Horses are an integral part of our lives. Because they work for us, teach us, entertain us, and promote our physical and emotional health, we, as horse owners, are continually searching for up-to-date information on how to provide the best care for our horses. We buy books, read articles, and surf the Internet looking for ways to improve our barns, choose the right trailer, feed the healthiest diet, and provide the best health care. Simply put, we are continually striving to be better horse caretakers.

Due to the popularity of the Internet and the huge number of books and magazine articles, most horse owners are on "information overload" when it comes to determining the best plan of action for their horses' health. The problem is that much of this information is not based on research or science, but rather on opinion. Some is misleading, and some is incorrect.

So where does the horse owner turn for accurate information? On matters pertaining to health, the logical answer is your equine veterinarian. A well-informed owner working in partnership with an experienced equine veterinarian provides the best health care experience for the horse. Nothing can replace the established owner-horse-veterinarian relationship, whether you're dealing with an emergency situation or planning a preventive health program.

Judging the quality of horse health information can be confusing, and that is where having a trusting relationship with an equine veterinarian pays off. The veterinarian can help you separate the scientifically fact-based information from the anecdotal opinion. When you read articles with opposing recommendations on a specific medical treatment or feed program, discuss them with your veterinarian. Tell him or her the source of the information, the author's name, and if the information referenced a scientific study. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether the approach is right for your horse, or if your horse's signs add up to the diagnosis of the condition discussed. They can also refer you to other articles or web sites for additional information.

Finding new, innovative ways of enhancing the relationship between the horse owner and his/her veterinarian is one of the major goals of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). The AAEP is a professional organization of over 7,000 equine veterinarians dedicated to improving the health and welfare of the horse. The association knows the key to a healthy horse is an informed owner. Therefore, the AAEP has established a web site for horse owners,, that is a tremendous resource for those seeking to expand their horse health knowledge. Through articles, interactive question-and-answer features, up-to-date horse health news, and much more, the AAEP is continually striving to provide the horse owner with accurate, scientifically based information provided by equine veterinarians, nutritionists, and researchers. The AAEP also provides a one-day horse owner seminar at its annual convention each year (see page at right).

There are many other resources and countless organizations that work hard to honestly and objectively educate horse owners. The AAEP is aligned with a number of them and refer to them as Educational Partners. We are very proud of the fact that The Horse magazine is the most recent addition to our lineup of educational partners that make owner education a top priority. They share the AAEP's mission of working to protect the health and welfare of the horse and go to great lengths to ensure the integrity of their message.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion on how best to handle medical conditions affecting a horse, but that opinion must be based on fact. As a horse owner, it is your responsibility to become knowledgeable about the best ways to care for your horse. Relying on factual information from reliable sources and developing a good working relationship with an experienced equine veterinarian is the best way to accomplish that task. Your horse will thank you for it.

About the Author

Tom Lenz, DVM, Dipl. ACT

Tom Lenz, DVM, Dipl. ACT, is chairman of the Unwanted Horse Coalition, an organization dedicated to reducing the number of unwanted horses and to improving their welfare through education and the efforts of organizations committed to the health, safety, and responsible care and disposition of these horses. Lenz was the 49th president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and he has served on the American Horse Council's Animal Welfare Committee and the Research Committee of the American Quarter Horse Association.

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