The Equine Practice Rounds – Barns, by Geoff Tucker, DVM

A farm I visited in NY

I am so lucky to get to go to barns all over this country that inspire you to dream big. While many are beyond our means, most are variations of the same theme. A pole barn with box stalls on each side of an aisle. Some farms only have a 3 sided shed and some places have more mud than dry spots.

The most memorable barn I have ever visited wasn’t a barn at all. The call came to me early in my career as a vet. The request was for routine vaccinations and a Coggins test and to look at a few things. I obtained her address but this was before GPS guidance so I wrote down the directions as best as I could. This usually involved things like, “Turn left at the Shell station on route 14 and go about 3 miles. We’re on the right side with our number on the mail box. The horses are in the barn in the back.” That is if I was lucky.

This horse owner’s directions were a little more challenging. “Head out of town about 5 miles and look for a break in the woods on the left hand side. Follow the trail back to the abandoned double wide mobile home. I’ll meet ‘cha there.” She added, “Bo’s really a good boy, but he don’t like vets.”

My thoughts of well-behaved horses in ideal surroundings quickly faded, but I had no idea what was to come.

Another view of the farm in the picture above

Marking the mileage, I headed east from the center of town and started looking at the 4 mile mark. Soon I saw thick tall pine forests on both sides of the road. Sure enough, there was a small path wide enough for 1 pickup truck to travel into the woods. I steered carefully into the darkness and wound my way back to a double wide home resting cock-eyed with one end buried in the woods invisible to my eyes.

The door of the home opened and the women said cheerily, “Howdy Doc!” I said hi and looked around for any evidence of a horse, a fence, and barn, or anything indicating I was at my final work spot. I noticed some fence wire attached to the mobile home heading off into the woods. I was confused and she saw my face. “He’s in here, Doc, in the kitchen.”

I climbed the steps up to the door and entered the living room. The floor tilted at an uncomfortable but manageable slope and I carefully walked through the living room. The floors were soft and I felt it would collapse under my weight, but the woman walked with a care free step ahead of me. The smell was a mix of horse manure and urine plus mold and rot. I entered the kitchen and there stood the blood bay Quarter Horse stallion. Briefly my imagination caught him saying, “Howdy partner! Can I rustle you up some grub?”

Another NY barn

The ceilings were low and the counter tops butted out into the space we were working in. His eyes grew large as he saw I wasn’t there for any good to him. Before long I was done with my duties and the owner turned the horse loose. He somehow turned around in the small space and exited through the back door and disappeared into the woods.

Today I sometimes hear owners apologize for their barns. “Mine don’t look like those fancy ones I see in your pictures, Doc.” I say to them, like I said to the owner that day in the kitchen/stall, “It doesn’t matter what the place looks like; I’m always grateful for you asking me to care for your horse.”

Doc T

The Equine Practice, Inc | Palm City, FL

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