For us as horse owners, few situations are scarier than having a veterinary emergency on your hands and no one available to examine or assist with your horse. It can also be challenging when you’re looking for routine procedures from having your horse’s teeth floated to routine exams and the nearest equine veterinarian is hours away or your local vet is booked weeks out due to high demand.
A recent article shared by theHorse.com, The Dwindling Supply of Equine Veterinarians by Lucile Vigouroux dove deeper into this industry crisis and revealed the following stats from leading experts in the equine medical field.
The consensus from a 2021 survey by Amy Grice, VMD, MBA, founder of Amy Grice Veterinary Business Consulting, based in Virginia City, Montana, is that equestrians nationwide are understandably worried by the growing difficulty in obtaining consistent veterinary care when they need it most. It’s a fact: The supply of equine veterinarians is declining.
“Keeping veterinarians in equine practice is perhaps the most significant issue ever faced by the profession,” said Carol Clark, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, a partner at Peterson Smith Equine Hospital, in Ocala, Florida, during the 2022 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention, in San Antonio, Texas. This shortage of practitioners is not caused by a single problem but, rather, an accumulation of barriers to entry for veterinary graduates, exponentially growing student debt, unfavorable working hours and conditions, and demand surpassing supply over the past two years.
Only five out of 100 students graduating from veterinary schools in 2023 will choose to become horse doctors. By 2028, only two or three of them will be left in the equine profession. “The pandemic has reduced the veterinary workforce (due to depressed economic times, causing the equine industry to contract) and, yet, there is a greatly increased need for our services,” says AAEP immediate past president Emma Read, DVM, MVSc, Dipl. ACVS, associate dean for professional programs and a clinical professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Columbus. “More newly graduated veterinarians are choosing small animal practice than ever before. Only 4.5% of graduating students are pursuing an equine internship, with another slim 1.3% bypassing this stepping stone and entering equine practice directly, totaling just 5.8% of an entire graduating class. And to make matters much worse, half of them will leave equine practice altogether within the first five years.”
The statistics are alarming, and it's a situation that affects horse owners like us profoundly. The shortage of equine veterinarians has the potential to impact the health and well-being of our beloved horses, from routine care to emergency situations.
So, what can you do to empower yourself as a horse owner in these challenging times?
Horse Owner Education and Empowerment in Natural Horse Health
One crucial step you can take is to educate yourself about your horses' health and well-being. Working with an experienced Horse Health Coach can be a valuable resource in this endeavor. These professionals are well-versed in natural horse health practices and can guide you in maintaining your horses' optimal health through nutrition, exercise, and preventive care.
While a horse health coach and natural care practices are not a replacement for a licensed medical professional, they can serve as a risk management and risk reduction strategy. By understanding your horses' needs and early signs of health issues, you can take proactive steps to prevent problems before they become emergencies.
Emergency First Aid Care for Horses
Another essential aspect of horse ownership in the face of a veterinarian shortage is being prepared for emergencies. Attending a clinic that teaches the basics of emergency first aid care for horses is a wise investment in your horses' safety and well-being. These clinics can teach you how to recognize and respond to common equine emergencies, such as colic, wounds, and lameness.
Equipping yourself with this knowledge can make a significant difference in the outcome of an emergency situation. It allows you to administer immediate care while waiting for a veterinarian to arrive, potentially saving precious time and ensuring your horse receives the best possible care.
In conclusion, the declining number of equine veterinarians is a crisis that every horse owner should be aware of and concerned about. The shortage of equine veterinarians poses a significant challenge to ensuring the health and well-being of our beloved horses. To mitigate the risks associated with this shortage, it's essential to take proactive steps.
Empowering yourself through horse owner education, working with a horse health coach, and learning the basics of emergency first aid care for horses can make a world of difference. While these measures don't replace the need for professional veterinary care, they provide you with the tools and knowledge to be a more informed and capable horse owner, especially in times when veterinary assistance may be scarce.
Remember, the health and happiness of your horses depend on your dedication and preparedness as a responsible horse owner. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and cherish every moment with your equine companions.