Common Knowledge?

In another life, I would have been a veterinarian. Ever since I was a horse-crazy little girl, I wanted to be a vet. It was a dream I kept through middle school, through high school and into my college years.

It wasn’t until my second year in college, the year I first took the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), that I began to doubt my intended career path. That was when I finally admitted that, while I was an average science student, it was not my forte. Veterinary school, I realized, would be more difficult because of it. While I was ready to tackle the book work, there was another reason for my doubts.

From the time I was old enough to get a part-time job, I worked in vet clinics. I cleaned kennels, walked dogs, assisted the vet techs and did whatever else they would let me do. By that second year of college, I had seen a lot – enough to know that the veterinary profession isn’t all cute kitties and playful puppies and frolicking foals. The majority of a vet’s day is spent tending to sick and hurt animals, which can be downright depressing. My soft-hearted nature, which drew me to care for animals in the first place, wasn’t complemented by the steely constitution it takes to weather the emotional demands of being a veterinarian.

Instead, I became a writer, and then an editor.

My interest in veterinary medicine has never gone away. I’m the horse owner who, when my gelding cracked his skull and crushed his sinuses, asked the vet if I could put on a glove and feel the injuries, too. I’ve dealt with bone bruises, pseudomonas infections, pedal osteitis, corneal ulcers, chronic chokers, low ringbone, bone chips, fused hocks, the inevitable cases of colic, and too many cuts and scrapes to count. 

 So, it’s no surprise that the articles I enjoy writing and editing the most are health-related. My career has allowed me to interview some of the top veterinarians in the country about some of the most cutting-edge technologies out there. 

Yet, every year, I find myself writing or editing articles on hoof care, or basic nutrition or how to prepare for a vet visit. Sometimes, I’ll have a friend or reader ask me why I put such basic articles in the magazine. After all, doesn’t everybody already know that stuff? Years ago, I might have answered, “Yes.”

What I have found is that there are many things I regard as common knowledge that just aren’t. For example, I have a friend who has been breeding horses for 40 years. She’s not a backyard breeder – her horses are well-bred and sought after. I would have expected her to know that if you are going to move a mare prior to foaling, it should be at least 30 days out. That gives the mare time to develop antibodies specific to the local environment so that she can transfer that immunity to her foal via the colostrum. The fact is, she didn’t know.

I have another friend whose neighbor has horses. Until recently, the neighbor’s horses were kept in tiny stalls and fed grain only – no hay. While he did eventually start feeding small amounts of hay to each horse, and there are several, it was too little, too late. My friend watched in helpless agony as one of the horses laid down and died from a colic that the owner had let go for 24 hours without once calling a vet. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking: No one I know would treat horses like that. And while I will agree that most Western performance horses are well-fed and maintained, we cannot assume that everyone knows what we know. That broodmare you sold last month – are you sure the new owner knows the proper vaccination schedule for a bred mare? That yearling prospect you sold last year – are you sure the new owner knows how to feed a growing colt? That solid starter horse you sold to the first-time horse owner to learn how to show – are you sure the new owner knows how to take care of a senior horse’s teeth and diet?

We cannot assume that what we know is common knowledge when it comes to the health and wellbeing of our equine friends. That is why you might see articles in Quarter Horse News about foaling, or mare care or dentistry for aging horses (you can read that one on page 90 in this issue).

No, I didn’t become a veterinarian, but what I’ve come to realize is that, as a writer and editor, I can still contribute to horse health on a broader scale. I can help educate and inform horse owners everywhere about the latest technological advances in veterinary medicine and the rock-solid basics of horse care.

To that end, I leave you with this, the Health and Nutrition issue of Quarter Horse News. Happy reading!