Responsible Horse Ownership 01 The Carolinas EquestrainYou owe it to your equine partner to do your due diligence in finding the correct team of EPs to work withLast month’s subject focused on maintaining a positive relationship with those who help care for your horses’ health. But no matter how hard you work to develop and keep a good relationship with your vet, farrier, or other professionals, sometimes it just doesn’t work out and you find yourself in need of someone new. Or sometimes – as is my worst fear – someone who you and your horse absolutely adore decides to retire or move out of town. Possibly you are the one moving to a new area, or are a brand new horse owner. Regardless of the reason, oftentimes horse owners find themselves in the position of having to find someone new, and following are some tips for helping to make that transition as seamless as possible.

As with last month the term “Equine Professional”, or “EP”, will be used as an all-encompassing term to include veterinarians, farriers, equine dentists, alternative therapists, saddle fitters, etc. This month will focus on finding those in the health care industry, while next month’s blog will focus on helping you find an EP that helps you achieve your riding/training goals, and July will be for those of us who must board our horses instead of keeping them at home.  

Ask your current EP

If you currently have an EP that you like & have a good relationship with, the best way to find a replacement is to ask him/her for a referral. Oftentimes when an EP is retiring or moving out of area, they already have someone in the wings that they are recommending to their existing clients. They may possibly even have an apprentice who will be taking over the practice/business. Even if it is you who are moving out of area, your existing EP may know someone close to your new location. EP’s often complete their education in states other than their current residence, and meet people through continuing educational events. Even if he/she can’t recommend an exact replacement, they may trust someone in the area who can point you in the right direction (i.e. your vet may not know another vet in a neighboring state, but may be friends with a respected trainer in that area who can give you names of qualified veterinarians).

Perhaps its not that you need a replacement for your current EP, but are looking to bring another “team member” on to help care for your horse. Say your vet recommends that after doing joint injections it would help alleviate your horse’s back soreness to receive a massage; or your farrier notices that perhaps your saddle isn’t fitting properly and suggests having a professional saddle fitter check it. If you aren’t already using one of these EPs the best way to find one is to ask the person making the suggestion who he/she would recommend – if you are already happy with the work they do then chances are you would be happy with the person they refer. In addition, this person is most likely someone they already have a close working relationship with, which will only benefit your horse.

Ask friends/respected horsemen in the area

Lets say your current EP cannot recommend a replacement, whether it be local or out of area, or does not know of an additional EP to add to your health care team. The next best bet would be to ask *respected* friends or horsemen in the area in which you are looking. Preferably these horsemen would be familiar with you, your horse, and your program. And you should be happy with their program – if you don’t like the way your friend’s horse’s feet look, or if he’s always complaining about his farrier, then you certainly don’t want to ask him for a farrier referral! Also if you competitively show hunters on the “A” circuit, try to find another hunter trainer/rider to ask, not a cutting horse trainer. While good horse care is similar regardless of the breed/discipline, there can be differences in shoeing and overall health issues, and its just better off starting with an EP familiar with your particular breed/discipline.

Tack & Feed Store Referrals/Association & Horse Council Referrals

If you are new to horses, or new to an area and just don’t know anyone local, another great reference is ask at your local feed or tack store. This is going to be a less specific approach, as the workers may not be familiar with your exact needs, and everyone has an opinion as to what constitutes “correct” horse care. But this will certainly generate some names for you to investigate, even if it’s just well known local horsemen who could point you towards a good EP.

Another resource is to contact the local Horse Council, and/or any associations in the area. This could include breed or discipline specific groups, local saddle clubs, or local 4-H/Pony Clubs. Again there are as many opinions on what constitutes a “qualified, knowledgeable professional”, but often these organizations can point you in the right direction and help narrow your search.

EP Association Referrals

Not all EP’s are required to be “certified” by an association. Although veterinarians are required to be members of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), and many farriers join various associations and acquire certifications. But just because an EP is a member of an organization or holds a number of certifications does not mean he/she is a qualified practitioner – after all, even the last vet in a graduating class still can practice medicine. However a quick Google search can help direct you to the larger associations, and generally they offer some sort of resource for finding an EP in your area. Again this may not land you the perfect name, but it will give you an idea of people to contact as you narrow your search.

Responsible Horse Ownership 03 The Carolinas EquestrainFacebook groups specific to the area you live in/are moving to can be a useful way of generating a list of potential EPsOnline Referrals

I am definitely not a fan of doing many things online, but the Internet can be a valuable resource and a good place to start if some of the above suggestions don’t pan out, or as another way of locating the ideal EP for your horse. Even something as simple as Googling “veterinarians around Camden, SC” can give you a list of names, websites, and even good/bad feedback on a particular EP. Facebook is another good resource – there are as many equine specific groups as there are horse owners, but oftentimes certain areas of the country have active forums you can search. CAUTION: just because you post on “Charlotte Area Equestrians” asking for farrier referrals doesn’t mean you’ll get good advice! What it will generate is a list of names referred to you by complete strangers, and it is then up to you to do your due diligence and research the EPs yourself – just because a specific EP is recommended by 7 out of 10 people doesn’t mean they are qualified, they may just be cheap!

Questions to ask:

Whether you have an EP who is able to recommend a replacement or additional team member, or you have a list of possibilities that you have to weed through, your next step will be contacting the potential EP to make sure that he/she will be a perfect match. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is the EP currently taking on new clients in your area?
  • Is he/she familiar with your breed/discipline?
  • What type of training/certifications does he/she have?
  • Does he/she participate regularly in continuing education? If so, what kind?
  • Ask for references from current clients.
  • What type of payment does he/she accept? Does he/she offer delayed paying/billing options?

Arrange a meeting

Once you have narrowed down your search, its best to arrange a meeting prior to when you actually need work done. This is very important for veterinarians, dentists, and farriers; less so for additional EPs such as saddle fitters, massage therapists, chiropractors etc. (but still a good idea). Ideally you want to be sure you are happy with the EP’s expertise and equine “bedside manner” before committing to an ongoing relationship. The best way to do this is to ask if you can come by one of their scheduled appointments at another farm – preferably a larger barn where you can observe them on more than one horse. If you do this be extremely respectful to both the EP and their client(s) – remember the EP is there to work on existing clients and must maintain focus. But if you have scheduled a visit ahead of time, cleared it with the farm owner, and are careful to stay out of the way and only ask questions when the EP is able to address his/her attention to you, this is a wonderful way to get a good idea as to whether the EP will be a good fit.

Another option, especially with a veterinarian, is to schedule a general “wellness exam” for your horse. This may include some general work such as having a Coggins pulled and/or annual vaccines. Or it may be as simple as paying for a farm call just to have your vet out to meet you and your horse(s). This is extremely helpful if you only use your veterinarian infrequently (such as for annual Coggins/vaccines) but want to be sure you have someone on call in case of emergency.

Responsible Horse Ownership 02 The Carolinas EquestrainSimple Google searches not only help you find EPs but can point you to their website as well as give you valuable insight into what their practice may entail Don’t develop a bad reputation yourself

So most EPs don’t actually have a physical “list” of bad people in the horse industry (although I do!), but they do remember names and talk amongst other professionals. And it’s not just other EPs that they won’t recommend – often its bad horse owners as well. Clients who refuse to pay for services or enter “witness protection” when its billing time; clients who repeatedly refuse to do what EPs recommend for the good of the horse; clients who switch back and forth from one EP to another until they find the one who agrees with their own “diagnosis”. Make sure that you don’t become “black listed” by participating in any of these practices. When you are searching out a new EP be upfront with why you are looking for someone new, even if it has to do with a disagreement or “bad blood” between you and a previous EP. When using someone new be clear with your expectations, and if scheduling an initial “meet & greet” with your horse be sure to let the EP know if you are happy with the new relationship.  If you feel its not what you are looking for be sure they are aware that you won’t be continuing to use them and why – EPs are much happier with owners who are honest and upfront, then when they are lied to or deceived.

Learning from Experience

A few years ago I had the opportunity to put my advice into practice! After thirteen years at Whitehaven Plantation in Bishopville, SC, I was given the opportunity to move 2 ½ hours away to Race2Ring in Hickory, NC to run their rescue/rehab program. I had developed a wonderful team of equine professionals in SC, and I knew I would need an equally strong team up in NC. Fortunately I had developed strong relationships with my farrier, massage therapist, and saddle fitter, so they all agreed to travel to the new farm for visits. I had equally good relationships with my vet and dentist, however unless living on the border vets are generally only licensed for the state they do the majority of their work in, and NC does not allow equine dentists to work within the borders (unless they are licensed vets). Unfortunately the EPs I had to replace were unfamiliar with anyone in my area, however I had a good friend and fellow Arabian trainer who lived just 45 minutes from my new farm. Although he focused on “main ring” horses (saddle seat, western pleasure, halter), and I am a “sport horse” trainer (dressage, jumping), he was able to recommend an exceptional vet practice that had ample experience treating all types of performance horses in a variety of breeds and disciplines. I was quite happy with the two main vets who came to our farm, and was able to get referrals on other EPs- including an emergency farrier as my regular guy lived farther away. By having a strong relationship with my EPs in SC, and by asking a well-respected trainer in the area I was moving to, I was able to make my move to the new farm seamless and easier on all our horses.

Contact Trisha at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.