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Ambulatory equine practitioners are realizing the benefits of carrying state-of-the-art equipment and technology.

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Busy ambulatory equine practitioners know that carrying the right equipment can save money and lives in the long run. And having state-of-the art equipment on board helps them expand their businesses—patients that would otherwise be referred to an equine clinic or hospital can often be diagnosed and treated on the farm.

We asked four mobile equine practitioners who practice in areas with high concentrations of horses  about the most important equipment or technological investments they’ve made in recent years.

Pacific Crest Equine Hospital

Exeter, Calif.

Helen Christian, DVM, practices in an area of the Central Valley populated by  3,000 to 4,000 horses. The hospital, which employs five equine practitioners, has expanded its ambulatory service. The newest truck is outfitted with all the technology a thriving and competitive equine practice might need, including digital X-ray and digital ultrasound.

Dr. Christian says this equipment is paramount to the business. Not only do these technologies provide on-the-spot diagnostics, they save time.

“We can make an immediate diagnosis without making a second trip to the client,” Christian explains. “We also burn images onto CDs for clients so they can share findings with their farriers or keep them for their own records.”

Other important equipment for Pacific Crest trucks includes laptops, printers and electronic credit card readers. “We can pull up client records right there and provide detailed invoicing at the time of service.”

Christian says the newest truck is outfitted with a thermography camera for diagnosing and managing lameness problems. “It’s useful in trying to locate a problem as well as managing a disease like chronic laminitis, where you are doing a lot of hoof restructuring such as wall resections.”

What Christian finds most useful about having thermography on board is its application for saddle fitting. “Using thermography, we can detect areas on a horse’s back where a saddle is causing problems.”

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For ambulatory practices catering to sport horse operations, this type of add-on service can be very lucrative. “Our clients really appreciate these technologies because they get feedback right away.”

Power floats for dental work are incredibly beneficial, she says. “We rarely use hand floats anymore. Overall, I think the newer technologies have made us very efficient.”

Sweet River Equine Clinic

Modesto, Calif.

Sweet River Equine Clinic in Northern California does a lot of repro work and specializes in sport horse musculoskeletal injury. While the practice is in an area with a high equine population, the three ambulatory Sweet River practitioners travel to outlying areas as well.

Robin Janeway, DVM, says the clinic’s newest investments for the ambulatory service have been invaluable. These include ultrasound, portable X-ray and power floats. 

“We do a lot of repro and musculoskeletal injury imaging, so the ultrasound equipment has had a good return on investment,” Dr. Janeway explains. “The ultrasound machine we have is high end, so in addition to repro imaging, we use it for things like tendon probes and bone marrow injection.”

One technology she wishes for is digital X-ray. “Of course we have portable X-ray, but we don’t have digital yet. Only a few clients at bigger barns have asked about it; I’m usually the one who brings it up.” She says it will probably be the next big investment the clinic makes.

Power floats, although not new technology, are worthwhile investments to many practitioners, especially those who don’t have great upper body strength. “Power floats are necessary,” Janeway says, adding that a specially designed sling to keep a sedated horse’s head up during a dental procedure is another must-have device.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Wellington, Fla.

Wellington is the horse capital of Florida. Carole Holland, DVM, heads Palm Beach Equine Clinic and stays competitive by offering alternative therapies alongside traditional medicine.

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When it comes to equipment on her truck, Dr. Holland says her clients expect the latest and greatest. She’s seen a big surge in client education thanks to the Internet. Instead of simply inquiring about specific equipment, clients demand, “Where is it?”

“When I first started, we didn’t even have Adequan!” says Holland, who has been in practice for 20 years. Indeed, technological advancements have made life easier for equine practitioners.

“Direct digital ultrasound and direct digital X-ray are marvels,” she says. “The ability to see images onscreen immediately and the recordability of the information are fantastic.”

In addition to digital X-ray and ultrasound, Holland carries a shock wave machine for treating lameness. All this equipment, she says, has been a worthwhile investment.

Two pieces of equipment that stand out on Holland’s truck are an acupuncture laser and an ultrasound therapy machine. “I use a laser for acupuncture on those horses that don’t like needles,” she explains. “I sometimes leave it with clients who have horses that need frequent treatment.”

The ultrasound therapy machine, which is used for treating muscle soreness, has become invaluable. “It really helps horses with soreness problems and is another piece of equipment I can leave with clients.”

While Holland is a big proponent of routine dental care in horses, she refers that work to specialists. When asked whether she thinks power equipment is important for equine dentists, she says it’s case by case. “It really depends on who is using the equipment.”

Sporthorse Veterinary Services

San Marcos, Calif.

“Half of my practice is dedicated to the foot, the other half is dedicated to traditional practice,” says Mark Silverman, DVM, MS, who heads the Southern California practice. With such a focus on equine podiatry, Dr. Silverman carries an array of traditional hoof-care equipment like hoof testers and knives.

But he says digital X-ray, ultrasound and a shock wave machine are critical to his business. “I couldn’t go out without them.”

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Two other pieces are vital as well: “I carry endoscopy equipment for scoping as well as power equipment for dental work,” Silverman says, adding that a head stand for dental work is just as important.

Thinking about making a technology investment for your ambulatory business over the coming months?

According to these equine practitioners, it’s money well-spent.

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