For Love of a Good Vet

If you have horses for any length of time you eventually realize that there are a couple of things that you NEED. The horse itself can be of any age, color, size, athletic ability or lack thereof. The tack you choose could be English, Western, Endurance, or bareback with a halter, for that matter. Still, regardless of breed or discipline these 3 things will be essential:

1) a good hay source
2)a good hoof care practitioner
3) A Good Vet

You may notice that I listed the Vet third, but capitalized it. That’s because while you may go literal years without needing a vet, as I have in the past, you can sling your horses hay and muddle through hoof care religiously but eventually, when the chips are down, we all need A Good Vet.

I’m now after another hay source, with the imminent closure of Lizzy’s, and after years of bad farriers I took my horses barefoot and not long after learned to trim them myself. But the Vet. Ah, the Good Vet. Here I reach the crux of it, and I must rhapsodize a little about my own favorite vet, Dr. Ellie Tortosa, DVM. She is in fact, the only vet I’ve seen the need to use since moving to this area 5 years ago, aside from one awful night a few years ago spent with a colicking boarder horse and unknown vet. Dr. Ellie’s practice is based over 30 miles away but was highly recommended by the trainer that owned our place before us and I was happy to sort of “inherit” Dr. Ellie when we moved in with our horses. That plus seeing her work with some rescue horses that I was helping a friend with around the same time cemented my desire to have this tough, hard working young vet on my side.

For the most part, my interactions with Dr. Ellie have been non emergent, basic horse maintenance: vaccines (did my own for years but would really rather not), dentals, and the like. Things got more exciting in January 2011 with the arrival of then-pregnant Desire, who needed her last shots and exam before her April due date. Desire told Dr. Ellie to go fly a kite about getting near her rear end and was overall an aloof and uptight patient, but all was accomplished and we forgave Desire because look, she was such a gorgeous momma:

1 month before Sheza’s birth, March 2011

 The night of April 14th, 2011, my intense mare watch–think cameras rigged in the stall and broadcasting in the house in case I couldn’t stare in person– lapsed for a couple of hours and of course, with my absence, it was foal time! We got home and rushed to check her around 9 pm and viola, there were FEET sticking out of her private bits! The rest of the night was me panicking, being soothed on the phone by Dr. Ellie, and my husband calmly helping to deliver a big, gorgeous, chrome-y chestnut filly, the now 14.2 hand ball of fire known as Sheza Blaznhaat Xpres:

Sheza, 2 days old

It was a pretty smooth birth but then Desire retained the placenta and faithful Dr. Ellie was out first thing in the morning to niftily remove it while I gagged in the corner. Everything was checked out and Dr. Ellie gave me the thumbs up on my lovely new red filly!

Sheza, 2 months old

Since then I’ve only needed Dr. Ellie out the standard once or twice a year at most, and really that’s how I prefer it. Sometimes our appointments are put off due to emergencies but that is the life of a busy country vet. Each visit with her is efficient and enjoyable, she is happy to be peppered with questions and I almost always learn something. I am one of her only clients with Arabians (others are mostly QH/paint types) and she always remarks on their good looks and upkeep, while harboring a particular affinity for dear little Blaze. Her work is always quiet and mindful of the horse, and she and I have both noticed how much friendlier and softer Desire is at each of Dr. Ellie’s visits.

Sheza, 2 years old

Vaccines were taken care of for the year this spring and I didn’t anticipate calling Dr. Ellie for a while. Then at the Mendocino Magic ride a few weeks ago new guy Scrappy began nodding his head while eating and an obliging ride vet checked his mouth and discovered points and hooks; meanwhile back at home Blaze was having a 2 day stomach upset of some sort while my husband called Dr. Ellie and every other vet in the area to see what he should do. Whatever it was resolved itself and Blaze was in fine fettle by the time I got home from the ride, but I wanted Dr. Ellie out as soon as possible to take care of Scrappy’s teeth and see if we could discover the origin of Blaze’s episode.

I know, I know, “pics or it didn’t happen.” Somehow I didn’t get a single photo of yesterday’s Vet Day, but my defense is, and it’s hilarious how close to true this is, a doped up Scrappy looks a lot like an un-doped up Scrappy!!  So anyway, Dr. Ellie arrived promptly at the agreed hour and had Scrappy doped up and in the speculum in no time. Right away she asked why Scrappy’s mouth was dyed red, and I, upon seeing the vivid hue to gums and tongue, prepared  to hyperventilate and drop dead if another horse had a random surprise problem. There was some sort of mushed up organic material in his mouth as well but, unable to distinguish what it was, we resolved to walk the pasture together after the dental. The rest went smoothly and we guided  a wobbly Scrappy back to his digs, where he continued to chill with a quiet eye and relaxed dangly boy bits, much as he would without the drugs! Dr. Ellie and I walked around until we found an orange-y barked pine tree down by the pond that clearly had fresh teeth marks in it. Okay then! Mystery solved, the bark isn’t toxic, but hopefully the tree eating will resolve with his newly tended teeth anyway. PHEW!

Next Blaze was diagnosed with “mild points” to his teeth but before doing a dental Dr. Ellie checked him all over and when listening to some portion of his guts–yep, forgot the proper term, but the one listened to up under their bellies near the groin–she froze and passed me the earbuds to listen to the stethoscope. I heard a soft swishing sound and she told me that Blaze had a bellyful of dirt/sand! No doubt the cause of his mild colic and if she had sedated him to do a dental, it quite likely would have caused another. She said No dental, recommended 2 weeks of Sand Clear and a maintenance dose for the rest of the gang just to be careful and went on her way to her next patients–and I was struck nearly breathless at the thought that, had she just blithely done the dental, I may well have had had a serious and potentially deadly sand colic episode with Blaze.

This face is very dear to me, and so I say again and again, Thank you Dr. Ellie Tortosa, for caring. You are truly a Good Vet.

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4 thoughts on “For Love of a Good Vet

  1. What a sweet tribute, sounds like a Great Vet. I am so glad the vet is so attentive to check for stuff rather than just diving right in. Mr. Blaze will enjoy his few weeks of psyllium. Do you regularly psyllium them? I do one week a month, but I just always have, not any specific scientific reason. Something to ask my vet next time!

    And the mama Desire and baby Sheeza 2 days old, oh my, the cuteness!

  2. I think I'd have had a conniption about bright red mouth before logic kicked in and said “look for something in the field”! Haha.

    I think I need to get me a redheaded horse one day, that photo of you two redheads is striking. People always joke when I ride Siena that we're the same in color. I bet when you and Sheza begin your career together you're gonna be a tough team to beat. That whole fiery fiesty redheaded thing and all 😉

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