An Open Letter to the Horse Industry: Its Time to be Proactive not Reactive

“If a horse has to limp in order for us to determine if that horse has a problem, then we haven’t progressed very far in advancing veterinary medicine.” Almost three decades ago Edwin A. Churchill VMD planted a seed in my mind in the form of that suggestion. I wonder if Dr. Churchill knew the chain of events he would set into motion with such a simple statement. After practicing for nearly 27 years now, those words still echo in my mind and they still ring true. My internship with him in 1984 was one of the most enlightening experiences of my senior year in veterinary school. I had come to trust, admire, idolize and truly respect his genius as a practitioner, surgeon, diagnostician and genuine horseman.

The untold part of his suggestion was the seed of curiosity that he planted. From that day forward I found myself constantly wondering and asking the perpetually never ending question, WHY?

Today I look at horses every day; some to diagnose and recommend treatments, others to evaluate conformation, radiographs and physically examine to try and determine if a purchase should be made. I have established a tremendous reputation with many throughout the globe as being a “go to” veterinarian for the undetermined lameness or the last resort effort to fix one, or even the man that can “pull a rabbit out of a hat” at the final hour. Some of this based on facts most based on fiction and innuendo at least from my perspective. The truth is that ever since the moment those words came from Edwin Churchill, I have constantly desired and made it my own personal mission to discover what the problem could or will be before that horse limps, before that cannon bone breaks, before that Reiner hesitates before it stops, prior to the pleasure horse that wrings its tail, or before that jumper refuses to attempt that triple combination.

My course has been set to try and raise the bar to a height that hopefully allows us to be able to right the ship before the wrong course is taken or before the damage is done. The way that I approached Sports Medicine in the equine athlete has always been to BE PREVENTATIVE! I have found that this approach is more productive for the equine and yields much greater rewards and successes. Of course throughout an active career on race tracks across America I have had more than my share of patients that are injured but my ultimate goal is to constantly ask: What could I have done to prevent this from happening? My answer sometimes is: I’m not certain, but why did this happen and how will I try to circumvent this event in the future?

     In conclusion I will allow you to make the ultimate decision. Is it better to have an accomplished athlete that reaches the goals and achievements you desire or should you just throw caution to the wind and see how the dice roll or where the cards fall?

You be the judge.

Dr. Steven C. Allday, DVM