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Horse- Centered Apps

By Grant Miller, DVM, March 24, 2014

This past weekend I marveled at an App that my client showed me during our annual dental and vaccine visit.  It was called EQStable made by Zoetis Pharmaceuticals- have you seen it?  It is a free App available to Apple users (us 'Droid folks are out in the cold L).  The App allows you to organize all of your stable and horse information in a convenient, easily accessible on-the-go format.  The App provided templates calendars for health procedures such as vaccinations, deworming, dental work, and hoof care.

It also links up with your Outlook calendar on your computer and can send you reminders as to when various tasks need to be completed.  How many times have we all said, “My horse’s vaccines were just done,” only to later find that “just done” was actually over a year ago?  This App can keep us on track!  

Here's some of what the App can do:


  • Track My Ride allows the logging of saddle hours. Riders can name each route and specify the horse they rode and share with friends on Facebook. 
  • Calendar stores dates of competitions, horse health appointments, and events.
  • Horse Health features tips on deworming, vaccination, dentistry, and shoeing for a horse or herd.
  • GlobalVetLINK provides on-the-go access to digital health certificates (eCVIs), digital EIA (Coggins) certificates, and GoPass six-month passports.
  • Products lists photos and general information about each Zoetis product.
  • Settings lets horse owners tailor their social media share settings and which alerts they want to receive for appointments, events, and notifications.
  • Notifications allows horse owners to receive important information, updates, and promotions.
Information about the App can be found here.  It can be downloaded at the Apple App Store

That got me thinking- what other Apps are out there that may benefit the horse community?  This one is not exactly for horses- but the American Red Cross Pet First Aid App is available for all platforms and costs only 99¢.  It walks you through the basics of dog and cat first aid in a very clear and concise fashion.  You never know when it may come in handy!


It never hurts to have VetFinder by Apparent Media on your Android smartphone or tablet- it will display veterinarians on a map and is available in several languages.


Finally, for a little bit of fun, don’t forget about My Horse- a super-addicting game in which you can own, care for, train and compete a horse.  It is available for free on all platforms. 


HJ Readers- there are literally hundreds of horse apps out there.  Which ones have you tried?  We'd love to share you information!

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Equine VibraPlates- Shaking Up the Horse World!

By Grant Miller, DVM, March 17, 2014


Credit: photo

I have two clients who have now purchased an equine vibration platform. Have you seen these?

There are a few competing brands on the market, and they come in varying sizes. Most have dimensions to comfortably hold the average horse and are made out of either aluminum or steel.The aluminum plates can be lifted by one person rather easily (my assumption is that people want to lug them along to shows). 

They plug into a standard electrical socket and are relatively quiet when operated. They are rubber matted so that the horse doesn't lose his footing when he stands on them. These plates operate on the “curiosity kills the horse” assumption.  Every horse seems inherently wired to test his fate on whatever novel item is in the barn - and so most horses will stand on the approximately 8-inch high platform with a little coaxing and encouragement.  Of course, setting the plate against a wall or in a set of cross ties helps since it narrows escape trajectories!  

Once you have convinced your horse that the plate will not swallow him whole, now comes time to turn it on. 1 is a low intensity vibration and 10 makes your teeth rattle.  Amazingly enough- most horses seem to love it, for about 10 or 15 minutes max. Then my clients have reported that the horse gets antsy.  

Basically, the idea behind the shaking is that it gets the blood flowing, wakes up contracted muscles, and improves the range of motion in the joints. Some speculate that the vibrations can clear out lymphatic fluid too. Overall, I have to say that the research listed on the sites is somewhat . . . dubious. Bottom line, as we all know, is if the plates help horses to perform better, then they may be on to something.

Shake plates can be rented or purchased.  But if you purchase one, be prepared to be set back somewhere between $4,000 and $6,000 depending on the model and brand.

Currently, we are bit aware if any show circuits are prohibiting their use, which could provide a bit of a competitive edge in the face of increasingly stringent showtime pharmaceutical restrictions. So far, my clients have reported that the plates have held up well, despite being stomped on, jumped off of, folded up, moved, and in use for several hours. 

In the end, their longevity in the horse market will come down to whether or not they produce worthwhile results.  From the small number of horses that I have observed on them (about 25),  both horses and owners seem happy.  What are your experiences with them?  Can anyone offer some insight?

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Liberte Training is a Sight to See!

By Grant Miller, DVM, March 11, 2014

Credit: ben-radvanyi-cnw-group-the-royal-agricultural-winter-fair-press-release
Sylvia Zerbini, formerly of Cavalia, brought her "Liberte" act to the 2013 Royal Horse Show in Toronto. Ben Radvanyi (CNW Group/The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair


OK, time to take a break from the serious “burning issue” political posts and reflect on a recent experience.  A client of mine invited me to a fundraiser event that took place this past Saturday for a non-profit organization called The White Barn Project in Petaluma, CA.  I must say- I was not at all prepared for the amazing performance that I had the privilege of watching: Sylvia Zerbini’s 10 Horse Grand Liberte performance.  Many of you may be familiar with this amazing liberty trainer because of her recent tour with Cavalia.  Now, she tours independently around the country and made a special trip out to California from her home ranch in Florida to offer a clinic and to perform.  

The performance started with the emergence of a sole grey stallion.  As I came to learn, many of the horses in the troop are stallions, the rest are geldings.  They all shared uniform grey coat, except for one “newbie”- a black Arabian gelding.  He added a little bit of “pepper” to the performance- not only through his color contrast but also because he was a feisty little guy!  As the performance progressed, more and more horses joined the pack.  By the end, Sylvia was conducting a cantering brigade of 10 horses bathed in pastel lighting and orchestrated by uplifting inspirational music!  Among the more impressive moves included simultaneous 360 degree turns by all the horses, and a lovely display of affection as each of the horses crossed head over back to make an "equine daisy chain," as I call it. 


Admittedly, before this performance, I kind of thought that liberty work was for people who were too scared to ride.  But- after watching the performance and listening to her, I have come to appreciate that this type of work takes a lot of focus, physical activity, and courage.  I cringed a few times as horses cantered up to within inches of Sylvia, only to stop in the nick of time!  They stood on their hind legs with her standing immediately by, and in many instances she wedged herself between them as they stood in tandem for their signature bow.  Dangerous stuff, if you ask me! 


At the end of the hour long exhibition, Sylvia took the mic and spoke a bit about how she trains and some of what her philosophy is about liberty work.  She clearly showed signs of a physical workout.  As she also pointed out, commanding 10 loose horses at once is not only a physical challenge, but also a tremendous mental feat.  She had some salient comments regarding “less is more” when it comes to horse training and noted that there are no secrets behind what she is doing- the performance that we just watched doubled as her training session for the horses that day.


I caught up with another client yesterday who actually brought her horse and participated in two clinic lessons with Sylvia.  She felt that they were very worthwhile but that Sylvia makes it look far easier than it actually is.  Of course, trainers in all equine disciplines do this.  My client’s mare did manage to master a few liberty basics by the end of the session, but my client indicated that it would take continual work to really “make it happen.” 

How about you as the readers?  Has anyone tried some liberty work with their traditionally trained riding horses?  I would love to hear stories- whether they are ones of success, or ones of Murphy’s Law.


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Fairness to Pet Owners? Act

By Grant Miller, DVM, March 02, 2014

Walmart’s “Fairness to Pet Owners” Act has been Re-introduced... not sure whether to smile or frown.  Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-4th) reintroduced the Fairness to Pet Owners Act (H.R. 4023) on February 10, 2014.  You may recall that the EXACT same bill was introduced a few years back (H.R. 1406) only to be killed in committee.   This bill is sponsored by Walmart, which announced in 2011 that its pharmacies will not carry a full line of animal medications.  H.R. 4023 would impose new stipulations on veterinary prescriptions. The bill requires a veterinarian to:

1. Write a prescription whether or not he/she will dispense the medication to the client;  

2. Provide a written disclosure notifying clients that they may fill prescriptions at the veterinary clinic or at an off-site pharmacy; and

3. Verify a prescription electronically or by other means consistent with applicable State law.

Additionally, a veterinarian may not:

· Require the purchase of an animal drug for which the veterinarian has written a prescription;  

· Charge a client a fee for writing a prescription as part of (or in addition to) the fee for examination and evaluation of a pet; or,

· Require a client to sign, or supply a client with, a waiver or liability disclaimer should the prescription be inaccurately filled by an off-site pharmacy.

At first glance- this bill appears to be beneficial by allowing consumers to obtain their medications wherever they want.   But, is this really the best idea?  Retail pharmacists have no official training in dispensing animal medications- they only focus on human medications.  So, when they pull you aside to talk about the meds that your animal is receiving, they have no training behind their advice.  The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association conducted a survey among its veterinarian members in 2012 that found some disturbing trends with retail pharmacists.  Some of the most unsettling findings were that:

· 57% of the veterinarians taking the survey indicated that they have received a telephone call from a retail pharmacist who expressed concern with the prescription because the pharmacist did not understand anything about why the drug was being prescribed.

· It appears to be fairly common for retail pharmacists to change (most often lowering) the dosage of thyroid medications and Phenobarbital.

· Pharmacists have also changed a patient's insulin to a less expensive insulin, believing the two products are interchangeable when they are not. In several instances, this has led to serious health concerns for the patient.

· A retail pharmacist recommended that a client treat her arthritic dog with a high dosage of Tylenol to manage the animal's discomfort and pain. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and can cause irreversible liver damage in dogs; there are no safe dosages for cats.

· About 10-15 patients have had to be euthanized as a result of improper actions by a retail pharmacist.

To make matters worse, some animal owners (ok… lots of animal owners) obtain their medications online.   But, the United States Food and Drug Administration warns of the dangers of doing so.   This is because on countless occasions, drugs from the internet pharmacies are adulterated, contaminated or expired.  Check out FDAs website on pet pharmacies- not exactly rosey.

 So- now the $64,000 question:  Readers- how do you feel about this subject?  Should medications be provided by veterinarians to clients in order to ensure that all questions are answered, the medication is correct, and the animal receives the right medications?  Or, is it best to let owners fend for them self in a “buyer-beware” market and hope that animals do not suffer in the process?  Your thoughts would be much appreciated!

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A Shortage of Horse Veterinarians? Really?

By Grant Miller, DVM, February 24, 2014


Dr. Grant Miller examines a horse's leg.


Over the past decade, the subject of fewer veterinarians has been a hot debate among the profession.  We have heard stories of entire regions in the country being void of veterinarians, and our federal government answering with the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, which provides loan debt subsidy to veterinarians who practice in declared underserved areas.  But then on the other hand, economic and workforce studies conducted by professional veterinary associations are telling us that we are experiencing an epidemic oversupply of veterinarians in the United States. 

For instance, the 2013 American Veterinary Medical Association Workforce Study estimated that the US has around 91,000 working veterinarians.  It concluded: “It appears that at the national level there is current excess capacity [of veterinarians] to provide direct animal care services.  In percentage terms, the level of excess capacity appeared to be largest for equine practices, followed by small animal practices, food production practices, and mixed animal practices. This excess capacity is projected to persist for the foreseeable future in the absence of reduced growth in the number of new veterinarians trained and/or efforts to expand the use of veterinary services.”

Furthermore, the Veterinary Pet Insurance Veterinary Economics Financial Health study of 2013 shows that veterinarians are struggling financially with a median starting salary of just $50,606 per year, in the face of an average student loan debt load of $162,113.  Makes me wonder about supply and demand… 

Finally,  when you add in the fact that two new veterinary schools are opening in Arizona and Tennessee and that we now consider students from certain foreign schools to be eligible to practice in the USA, one just has to wonder… are we really short on veterinarians? Are people finding it difficult to locate a veterinarian close enough to help with their animals?

So, I ask you, my readers, does your community have access to veterinarians?  Keep in mind, I am not asking if you like them or if they charge fees that you prefer, I am just interested in hearing if there is anybody who can’t find a veterinarian within reasonable driving distance?  Speak up if you are among them.

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