Make a list of what veterinary services you need. Is it a routine visit: a wellness exam, annual dental care, vaccinations, or mortality insurance exam? Something a bit more urgent: perhaps health papers for travel to the weekend show in another state along with a Coggins test? Or is your horse newly, and acutely, lame or injured, or perhaps colicking, each of which could be an emergency and require a vet’s immediate attention? Next, get organized with a list of symptoms and signs, so that the vet can estimate the urgency of your horse’s problem, as well as the amount of time it will take to accomplish the work.
Assemble what the vet will need to get the job done: Go get your horse out of the pasture, and clean him up so that the vet can SEE your horse. Then clear a place in your barn, if possible, where your vet can examine your horse properly under good light. Clear away hazards—you don’t need your horse kicking over a bucket of paint while he’s being examined. Have the horse close to a source of warm water, if possible. If you think you will need restraint, find the chain or twitch that might make the job easier. Find the longe line and whip if the vet may need to see your horse at the walk and trot, and have a bridle or halter ready.
When and where did your horse first exhibit his symptoms, how long have they lasted, how severe are they? Has there been a change in severity? Take your horse’s temperature and pulse rate. Make notes of any questions or observations you might have about the condition.
If the visit is for routine vaccinations, what vaccinations or medications have previously caused a relatively severe reaction? Your vet can advise you on how to mitigate or eliminate any future problems.
If your horse is lame, when did the lameness start? How long has it lasted and how has the lameness progressed? Did it develop slowly, or did it “blow up overnight?” What have you done to treat it: poultices, ice, stall rest, light hand-walking, medications? Have these treatments helped? Make notes so you don’t forget relevant information. Is this the first time this horse has shown these symptoms? If not, when and how severe was the condition the last time?
If the visit is for health papers or an insurance exam, have the paperwork ready that the vet will need to fill out, along with the relevant dates, as well as any telephone numbers he may need, such as the number for your insurance company.
Be ready with payment. Don’t expect your vet to bill you, unless you have an established relationship with him and an arrangement in place for him to do so.
Write down your vet’s instructions about treatment schedules, his expectations for how long it will take for the condition to resolve itself, any possible complications that you should be on the lookout for, how often you should check on your horse after treatment (do you really have to go out to the barn at midnight to check on your colicking horse?), possible reactions to vaccinations and medications. What symptoms should make you call him again?
Remember that your vet’s time is valuable, so when he’s done what you asked him to do, send him on his way with thanks. Everyone else on the list will appreciate it, and so will your vet.