Why I’m Not A Vet

This is going to be one of those non-traditional blog posts–at least for me. The truth is, I started The Naturally Healthy Horse because I enjoy writing about horse health, and I wanted to share information which I thought would be helpful to others. But occasionally, I feel it’s necessary to share a personal story, and this is one of those instances.

Two weeks ago, I had to face something I’ve been dreading for years–a medical emergency with Hershey. I love all my horses, but I can’t pretend I don’t have a favorite. After all, Hershey and I have been together for nearly 20 years. He’s the horse who helped me realize many of my barrel racing dreams (once upon a time), and he’s also the main reason I started this blog. I can count the really great horses I’ve had over my lifetime on three fingers, and he’s one of them.

It all started when I went out to feed that Friday morning and found Hershey laying near the barn while the mares were out grazing. My stomach immediately went sour. I knew something wasn’t right. But I tried to remain calm. I went ahead and prepared their feed and supplements just like every other morning. Maybe he’s just resting, I tried to convince myself, though I knew it wasn’t true.

He got to his feet and ambled into the barn, along with the three mares, but he wasn’t interested in his food. He continually looked at his left side, and my fears were confirmed: he was colicking. My mind began to race–what could have caused this? Hershey had never colicked before in his life. I went inside to call the vet, and got an appointment for later that morning. In the mean time, I used my colic acupressure points. But unlike other episodes of colic I’ve dealt with, they didn’t seem to be offering any relief.

Then, another problem presented itself. Hershey refused to load in the trailer. He’s never been particularly fond of getting in the trailer, but back when I hauled him to barrel races almost weekly, we developed a method where I would lunge him (at a walk) just in front of the open trailer door. After a few laps around, he would get in on his own. But he hadn’t been hauled anywhere in the last five years or so, and he would not even consider setting foot in the trailer on this particular morning.

So I called the vet back to see if he could come to my house instead. Only this time, I could not get a hold of him. I was panicking by now, thinking I wouldn’t be able to find anyone to come out, but then I found another local vet who was able to come.

Hershey’s vitals weren’t bad, but he did have limited gut sounds, so the vet decided to go ahead and tube him. But then another problem:  he couldn’t seem to get the tube to go down Hershey’s esophagus. I could hardly stand to watch him try over and over again to get the tube to go down, but finally, it did, and the vet was able to complete the procedure.

Before leaving, the vet mentioned it was possible that Hershey had choked and that was the reason the tube was so hard to get down. I realized this was probably the case and immediately felt horrible because it had most likely happened when I fed the previous evening. I may not have soaked his timothy pellets long enough. If he had been choking all through the night, the stress of both that and not being able to graze could have easily caused him to colic.

Thankfully, Hershey recovered that day. I checked on him at least once an hour, and by evening, all seemed to be going fine.

Fast forward to Sunday evening. When I went out to feed this time, I noticed the left side of Hershey’s neck was swollen and hard. He was also acting strangely, licking his lips, and a greenish substance was coming from his mouth. He appeared to be choking again.  The sick feeling in my stomach feeling returned.  The vet who’d treated him before didn’t work weekends, so I scrambled to find someone else who could come.

The good news is that by the time I was able to find a vet to come out, the choking had resolved on its own, but I was still very concerned about the swelling. The vet agreed it was worrisome and said she could come out that evening.

As it turned out (and as I suspected), this vet said the swelling was most likely caused from the injection the first vet had given. The needle had probably gotten outside the vein, allowing the medication to get into the muscle. I cringed, remembering the horrific pictures I’ve seen of horses who’d been given banamine in the muscle. Now I had two things to worry about–a choking reoccurrence AND an infection in his neck.

Fortunately, neither one has happened so far.  The swelling has gone down (he’s been on antibiotics), and I’m resting a little easier now. I have an appointment to have his teeth done next week, and I’m hoping that will further reduce his risk of choking again.

Aside from being a nightmare, this whole experience has reminded me of why I’m not a vet. Because at one time, that was really what I thought I wanted to be. But I learned as a teenager that being a vet isn’t all puppies and roses. My best friend’s dad was a vet (still is actually) and after helping out at his clinic a few times, I realized it wasn’t the job for me. There are just too many aspects I wouldn’t want to deal with.

Veterinarians have my utmost respect and admiration. What they do is difficult. I’m sure there are many rewarding moments, but there are many heart-wrenching ones as well. No, I don’t always agree with some of their views when it comes to certain things, and yes, sometimes they make mistakes (as appeared to have happened with Hershey), but many of them are excellent at dealing with emergency situations–and this tends to be one of the few times I call them anymore.

After the vet I used for many years passed away a couple years ago, I’ve struggled to find another vet I feel completely comfortable with. But I think after this last incident, I may have found one. She does farm calls, plus she’s friendly and has a gentle touch with horses. In fact, she’s the one who I’m having back out to do Hershey’s teeth.

I regret not saying thank you enough to my old vet. Because I was extremely grateful for the care he gave my horses over the years. I intend to be more vocal about my appreciation from now on though. My horses mean so much to me, and I want the people who treat them, especially during emergencies such as this one, to know how thankful I am for them.

If you have a good vet, remember to tell them thank you. Because most of us just aren’t cut out for that kind of work.





Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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11 Responses

  1. Pat Allen says:

    I’m sorry you and Hersey had so many close calls. They’re nerve wracking. Although I’m glad everything worked out and do appreciate you writing about your experiences.

    • Casie says:

      Thanks, Pat. Even though I don’t always like to write about things like this, I think it’s helpful (for both me and others).

  2. Eileen Coe says:

    I am so glad that Hershey is ok! There is something about an emergency with horses that is so gut wrenching! I love all animals, but seeing a horse down really does me in! I too thought I would love to be a vet. I worked for one when I lived in Colorado. We worked with large and small animals. It really was one of my most rewarding jobs. However, when it came time for me to go back to work after having a baby, I couldn’t do it again. I truly admire the veterinarian profession. It is a special calling. Thank you for sharing your experience with Hershey, Casie! <3

  3. Kathy says:

    It’s never too late to send a thank you note to someone you appreciate… and who doesn’t like getting an unexpected boost to their day?

  4. Kitty says:

    I wanted to be a vet too, until I realized all of the death and suffering I’d have to deal with. I’ve never handled death well, especially when it comes to defenseless, helpless animals. I truly don’t know how the good and caring vets handle it.

  5. Corina says:

    So relieved to read that your horse is ok. I to cant thank my vets enough at the moment. A couple of weeks ago two of my horses ate a small amount of a toxic plant and within less than 24 hours I had to make the gut wrenching decision to put my mare down and do what we could to save my little gelding. He was hospitalised for a few nights and has been on close watch since. We are still undergoing blood tests to monitor his liver function and fingers crossed tomorrow shows some improvement. I think ill be in for a few rough months as my boy is also treated as an IR horse so im expecting him to go lame and possible abscesses. There was a chance of stomach ulcers but touch wood he seems to be ok at the moment. Then to throw a spanner into the works my other gelding decided to show signs of mild colic over the weekend so Ive had to take him to the vet as well. Although we aren’t to sure what is causing his discomfort and the vet is leaning towards stomach ulcers its just a wait and see thing over the next few days. All the stress from loosing his soul mate my mare has more than likely triggered this issue. My vets have been fantastic in looking after my horses and are always on call if I have any questions or I am worried. Like you mentioned Vets do deal with the cute and fluffy but there is a lot of tragic out comes that they two have to deal with. Hope all goes well for your horse and he recovers quickly xx

    • Casie says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your mare, Corina. That sounds like a terrible situation to be in. Do you know which toxic plant they ate? So glad you have good vets to help you out.

  6. Celia Wetherill says:

    I am so glad Hershey pulled through this time. I have to deal with the same with Stormy except Stormy has no teeth left except the front incisors. It’s amazing though that he can still eat grass. He grinds it with his gums. He gets A & M equine senior feed, beet pulp and alfalfa pellets that are soaked usually into a wet sloppy mess, but at least he won’t choke, and I know he gets extra water that way as well. It’s more like a soup. He was 28 years young this year and still is going strong. We ride several time a week although it’s only in the pasture, but I still have to keep on my toes so to speak.

    • Casie says:

      Hershey got his teeth done yesterday and they were pretty bad even though I’d had them done about a year or so ago. He has a wave mouth. He will only get soupy pellets from now on though! Glad to hear Stormy is still doing well. 🙂

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