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The equine veterinarian : past, present and prospects of a profession

By J.B.A. Loomans


The equine veterinarian has regained its position in the veterinary profession. Equine veterinarians work in equine practices as well as in mixed practices. In general, it can be said that the backbone of equine work is formed by a relatively small amount of activities for which only a limited number of skills is necessary. There is a rather large discrepancy between the perception by the equine vet of his or her activities and reality. There seem to be hardly any skills that can be claimed as a prerogative for the equine specialist, still, the number of practices where equine specialists work increases. Although the supply of equine care has improved considerably in both quantitative and qualitative terms, this does not mean that market demand is completely met. A survey among top equine sportsmen highlighted ineffective or lacking communication between providers of equine healthcare and insufficient knowledge on the specific treatment of sport horses by the equine veterinarians as main complaints. An analysis of court cases filed against equine practitioners showed that frequent failures include insufficient availability of adequate care in certain defined situations, incompleteness of diagnostic procedures and insufficient information of the client. Technical failures did occur, but account only for a minority of the incidents. State of the art clinics are readily available in the western world, however, a critical economic analysis shows that better equipped practices are no guarantee for economic success and many economically interesting skills can be performed without the availability of hospital conditions. Practising equine veterinary medicine in the Netherlands in agreement with the code of good veterinary practice as agreed upon by the veterinary profession and thereby using only authorised equine veterinary medicinal products is impossible. In most cases equine vets have to recur to the so-called “cascade” or to the list of so-called “essential substances”, which are allowed for the treatment of horses despite being not officially registered, is needed to legitimise the use of medication. In some cases illegitimate use of drugs is the only way out. Seventy-eight percent of the equine vets perceive their work as their hobby, despite the fact that they have long working weeks and admit that they have trouble to balance work and private life. Working with horses poses a serious health risk in terms of accidents and the development of more chronic ailments. Sixty-seven percent of all diseases and injuries amongst equine practitioners are related to work with musculoskeletal problems as most frequent. Driven by a strong motivation, the equine vet appreciates his or her job, is aware of the risks involved and takes them more or less for granted. However, albeit a strong drive based on love for the horse and affection for equestrian activities is an excellent starting point, it is not enough. Economic viability, appreciation of the work by the public and social esteem are important factors for maintaining motivation at long-term. There are several ways for the profession to take action in order to achieve these goals, some of which are discussed in this thesis

Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2008
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