Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

Improve your knowledge of vet methods

Ideal for all horse owners, this new course can teach you key skills in just four sessions

Horse vet courses are being run across the country
Horse vet courses are being run across the country
Checking temperatures, heart rates and respiration are ways of assessing if a horse is in good health
The course explains common conformation faults, which ones can be dealt with and those to be avoided
Students are taught how to tell a horse's age by examining its teeth
Correct injection procedures are explained by the vets
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

For anyone who has ever stood looking at a wound wondering whether it needs stitching, whether that poultice is correctly applied or even if you are injecting your horse properly: there is hope.

A new veterinary course has been launched, aimed at providing additional veterinary knowledge for horse owners.

Designed and delivered by three veterinary surgeons and bona fide horse lovers, the part-time course is both practical and hands-on.

Ratoath-based vet Jacqui Yeomans, her husband Colm O'Brien and Sue O'Doherty last year initially came up with the idea of running a veterinary course for horse owners.

"As vets ourselves, we felt there was a niche there," said Jacqui. "Some owners would love to have been vets, while others would just like to have that extra knowledge.

"The course is by no means a substitute for calling in your own vet but it will give owners the confidence to recognise what needs to be done before the vet arrives."

The trio pose some simple questions to horse owners:

  • Do you always need to call the vet for help when your horse has a problem?
  • Can you recognise subtle first signs of illness or lameness?
  • Do you find it hard to interpret the vet's cert when buying or selling?
  • Can you 'age' a horse by his or her teeth?
  • Do you struggle to administer injections or medications?
  • Are you confident you can use all the items in your veterinary kit?

If the answer to any of those is yes, then perhaps the course could be for you.

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It is ideal for single horse owners, livery yard managers, assistant trainers, head lads, stud managers, veterinary nurses or anyone in the horse industry who is keen to improve their knowledge, skills and ability.

It is available in either a four-evening or two-day format, depending on demand and the venue.

The programme is divided into four sessions. Each starts with a Powerpoint presentation that includes photographs, videos, and group discussion.

Next, the attendees are divided into three smaller groups for a practical workshop with the vet's own horses.

"We rotate the groups so that everyone on the course has a hands-on chance to learn," said Jacqui. "It also makes it fun and easier to learn."

In the first session, delegates learn how to deal with common injuries, wounds and wound management.

"We teach them how to differentiate between what's serious and what's not, how to tell the difference and what to do before the vet arrives," she said.

"Sometimes the owner could greatly improve the chances of a speedy recovery by what he or she does.

"For instance, if an owner gets the vet out immediately for a joint injury, before the horse goes lame, the earlier treatment could mean a much faster recovery.

"We also cover what to do in the case of a nail in the foot, whether to take it out or leave it in, and whether a wound needs to be stitched or not.

"One of the common things we find is that some owners want to stitch everything, even though it could be better to leave the wound open in some circumstances.


"In the case of a nail in the foot, the vet will want to know where the nail went in, how far and what angle. In some cases, if the nail is already fully in, it might be better to leave it until the vet arrives so he can X-ray it and determine if there has been damage to the navicular bursa or pedal bone.

"We also cover the dangers of a wound that affects the digital flexor tendon sheath, which we can show the horse owners when we come to the anatomy of the horse later in the session."

This session also covers bandaging, tourniquets, splinting and poulticing, which is similar to a tutorial the three vets were given at vet college.

"I have seen some tails quite badly necrosed [decay of body tissue] after a tail bandage was left on overnight, particularly one that has been wet and shrunk," Jacqui said.

"We cover how to bandage, the technique and correct tension."

Photographs of all types of injuries have been compiled by the three vets from 13 years of practice and these are shown as part of the injuries session.

The second session covers vetting a horse for purchase, conformation and common conditions seen at vettings.

"This can help when you are going to look at a horse to buy it," said Jacqui. "It will also help to understand what the vet says on the vet cert so you can make up your own mind on the day. It's an extra edge for the potential buyer."

Videos and photographs of common conditions such as lameness, sarcoids, wobblers, stringhalt and wind problems are also shown in the class.


This session will also explain what aspects of conformation can be forgiven and what should be avoided.

Session three is 'case history' time. Course delegates will be asked for their opinion on what could be ailing some hypothetical horses. The cases could include a horse with colic, laminitis or an elderly or sick pony.

"People tend to ask lots of questions during this session, which generates debate and is an interactive way of learning," said Jacqui.

The second part of this session is a practical workshop on how to determine a horse's age from its teeth.

Finally, session four covers how to recognise the sick horse, how to take temperature, look at and interpret the colour of gums, take heart rates, pulse and respiratory rates, and to determine if your horse is dehydrated.

It also covers injections, handling syringes and needles, and what to do when waiting for a vet in an emergency.

"We won't subject our horses to be injected multiple times," laughed Jacqui. "But we will have a simulation exercise for injecting that is the same as injecting into muscle."

Courses have already been confirmed for counties Meath, Wicklow and Wexford, and additional courses are being planned for other regions in the coming months.

A special discount is now available to anyone who books online. The full course normally costs €200 but a place can be secured for €150 by booking at

For more information on the course, go to the website or contact Jacqui Yeomans on 087 681 1094 or Sue O'Doherty on 087 245 9572.

Irish Independent