Friday, October 29, 2010

Never judge a book by its cover...

 I am a bit proud of myself for having a moment of "openness" and allowing a different protocol to take place regarding my horse's dental care.  In past, I have been a strong proponent of using only veterinarians with specialty in equine dentistry to take care of my horses.  I was suspect of "lay" folk having enough training, experience and knowledge of the horse to do an adequate evaluation and work.  

Yesterday, I was introduced to a man whose passion is teeth.  He came recommended by my farrier, whom I trust,  so I decided to have the man come visit and work on my horses since I missed my annual spring dental work this year.  

So here comes this big teddy bear of a cowboy from Idaho who travels the western states working on any kind of large animal but mostly horses.  Quiet and unassuming, looking you square in the eye, and as relaxed as if he had all the time in the world to be right where he was.  

Here is what impressed me...his horsemanship.  Now granted, my horses are well-trained thanks to Tom Simmons...but; one can still distinguish good horsemanship by how the horse responds to the handler.  I stood back and watched how he caught, introduced himself to the horse, put on the full mouth speculum, and began an investigation of the mouth with all the cooperation of the horse one would want.  I was told by my farrier that this happens with all the horses he works.  Then, I realized that my original thinking may have been flawed because my veterinarian equine dentists insist the horse be given sedation.  That is well and fine in some cases but I see now, it is not necessary in every case.  The reason for sedation is for the horse to endure a procedure without a reaction that could cause injury to the vet or technician in the process.  Ok...we all want to be safe but it got me to thinking about veterinarians in general.  All of the vets I have used have been excellent in helping me with problems, but could I classify them horsemen or horsewomen?  No...I don't think they have many courses in school about horse handling...without restraint or the use of drugs.  The vets I have known are great scientists, diagnosticians, and they practice with medications.  

Do they know the horse like the horse is in nature?  Not many.  I watched this cowboy with his passion for teeth take each horse and perform a thorough exam with full cooperation and trust from the horse.  

Since my horses have had annual work for most of their lives, there was nothing for the cowboy to do except give me a good report that they are fine to eat their way through winter.  Good!  I asked to be put on the list for spring.  

Now I know that yesterday's exam did not require any work, but I don't doubt that if anything were needed, it could be achieved without sedation.  I was reminded of a story Tom Simmons told me of being at a kurring where approved horses were branded.  He was handling a Dutch Harness Horse; who, when it came time for branding with a hot iron, stood perfectly still and allowed the obviously painful procedure simply by having trust in the handler.  So I deduce that a horse, if conveyed by a leader that "all is well" will endure pain or discomfort simply on trust. 

I call this equine dentist a "cowboy" because that's what he looks like.  He is so much more.  The horses see him as a leader and a friend; and, go along with him and he with them. easy yet so hard for most of us.  

So I guess the moral of my story is not to judge a person by how he may look.  Anyone can dress the part and even talk the part.  But the horse isn't fooled and doesn't lie.  The horse knows who to follow willingly.