I was standing near the arena gate with my daughter, Morgan, who was waiting her turn to show Kevin, our American Saddlebred gelding (although he was regularly accused of being an Arabian cross). I’d been hopeful that my large hat and sunglasses would conceal my identity, but my flamboyant horse was a dead giveaway, in case anyone was actually fooled by my outfit.
And So It Begins
A horse had been excused from the arena, and the owner poked at him and announced that he was probably “out” in his hips. Her trainer pointed at me, and Morgan sighed in frustration as the woman walked over to us. She was used to people approaching me, but it was the third time today, and it was wearing on her.
“If you could just look inside my horse’s mouth real quick?” said the woman. “We think he might have some sharp points, or he might need his hips put back in. The chiro from Yuma was out last week but didn’t get to my horse, and he knows treatments that vets don’t learn about. Also my friend’s horse had ulcers, so could I get a few tubes of Gastrogard from you?”
She thumped Kevin’s neck. “I had an Arabian-cross once.”
“Mom, can you double-check my girth? And I’m thirsty—can I have my water bottle, please?”
I sighed, tightened the girth, and handed over the water bottle, which was filled with Morgan’s favorite blue sports drink. I explained that I was not working today and that I wasn’t handing out prescription drugs for horses that weren’t my patients and told the woman to call Monday for an appointment.
Fun fact: This type of owner almost never calls to schedule an actual appointment with the vet, but you better believe they have the lay-tooth-floater and the internet-certified “back-popper” on speed dial.
I was muttering to myself when the loudspeaker blared, and my blue-lipped daughter tapped my arm anxiously.
Making an Escape
“Mom, we have to go! That was my number!”
I noticed Morgan’s blue mouth and quickly mimed wiping it off, which she did on the inside of her show coat. We headed toward the gate, water bottle tucked under my arm. Morgan trotted confidently into the arena, and I had just started videoing when the woman’s loud voice boomed into my ear again.
“So if you could just look at his teeth real quick then I’ll know if he needs floated and then we can schedule everything on Monday. I’ve got two other horses here that need checked, too. Berty is a little thin, but he gets two cups of senior grain twice a day, and the chiro has him on a mineral supplement. Dixie has sciatica, and the chiro usually fixes her right up, but it could also be her teeth. She’s an old barrel horse, but she’s a decent jumper, and the chiro said the sciatica was from running barrels, but as long as we didn’t run her anymore and just stuck to English, she’d be fine. But Chicken Little really seems like he has something going on, and my thought is teeth or hips, but you’re the vet, so …”
I was focused on filming and didn’t respond. Kevin knocked a rail down but completed the course, and Morgan was beaming when they exited the ring.
We walked Kevin back to the trailer and the woman followed, still talking.
“Course Berty used to knock rails down but then the dentist did a special neurological-something float, and he’s never done it since, and your horse looks like he needs that, too. You should call my dentist, most vets don’t know about it …”
I winked at my daughter. Then, turning my back to the woman, I poured some bright blue Gatorade into my hand and applied it to Kevin’s right hoof wall, then opened an app on my phone that turned my screen red, and slowly moved it back and forth over Kevin’s wet foot.
The woman’s mouth hung open.
“What are you doing to him?!”
“Oh, I would never recommend this to a client,” I said sternly. “It’s complete nonsense, and it hasn’t been researched or proven to do a thing. Some say that the iPhone 11 and 12 may have a Delta Nu red light spectrum that could improve performance, mental function and wellness. I’ve been trying it out on my own horses. The blue Gatorade on the hoof supposedly catalyzes the purple spectrum electrolyte bioactivation.”
Morgan was enthusiastic.
“Mom, today we could jump almost anything! It’s really helping Kevin!”
I gave her The Stare that mothers everywhere have perfected for when their kids are overdoing it, but the owner was studying her battered iPhone 8 glumly and hadn’t noticed. Morgan and I untacked Kevin and sponged him down, and when I looked up, the woman was gone.
When I’d snort-laughed for the fourth time in a row, Morgan looked at me.
“Mama, does the light really work?”
I sat next to her.
“The reason Kevin is doing better is because of the hard work you’ve put in! And I haven’t put Gatorade on his foot and waved my phone at it before today, I promise.”
“Did you do that because the lady was bothering us?”
“Yes, but I made it up and it seems to have backfired, because now you think that Gatorade and the iPhone 11 and 12 heals horses.”
My daughter smiled.
“Well, I guess we’ll find out next time I ride, won’t we?”
This installment of Dr. Diehl’s Vet Adventures about balancing vet life with mom life appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!