I thought, many years ago, about being a vet. I ended up doing other things instead. But I'm well aware of how difficult it is to become a vet. There aren't that many schools, they're hard to get into, and the course of study is long and rigorous. And then there's the large animal/small animal problem - fewer and fewer veterinary students are deciding to go into large animals - the work is harder, the working conditions are less comfortable and the pay is less - not a good combination. So I'd think that anyone who ends up doing equine veterinary work would be someone with a natural affinity for horses.
We use a veterinary practice out of southern Wisconsin for our regular and emergency vet care for most of the horses at our barn - a few people use other vets. Our regular vet until recently was a wonderful woman called Dr. Ana. She was a horseperson herself, and her caring for horses really shone through. Although she was always very busy to the point of overwork, she never rushed or was impatient. She truly cared about the horses, and would always take the time to talk to them and reassure them. She got things done and didn't pussy-foot around, but she always took the gentlest route and always considered how the horse would think about things. Even our most nervous horses were more cooperative for her, and most of them seemed to genuinely feel comfortable in her presence - which is quite an achievement for someone who often came with needles in hand! She also took time to listen to what the people attached to the horses had to say - she was a good listener and was thoughtful.
We also use another vet, Dr. Alice, who works on her own, for our chiropractic and some endocrine and nutritional matters - I've found that most traditional vets don't seem to do very well when it comes to nutrition and knowledge about it - perhaps the veterinary curriculum doesn't do as good a job on these issues. (I've found this to be a problem with human doctors as well.) But Dr. Alice lives a long way away and doesn't do emergency visits. We also have access if we need it to several very good veterinary clinics, one of which is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin.
But Dr. Ana has left veterinary practice to work with her husband, who is (I believe) a (human) chiropractor. It's a loss for us - she knew all of our horses as individuals and had been providing their care for a number of years. And I liked her and always enjoyed talking with her about horses.
Although I've had good luck with the vets we've had show up on emergency calls from time to time over the years, I wasn't particularly happy with how Noble's vet visit went yesterday. The vet was a younger woman who I'd met before. She seemed harried, impatient and irritable. Noble isn't the best patient even when sedated - he tends to be extremely nervous for the vet and particularly worried with people he doesn't know - but she was easily frustrated and her first impulse when he was uncooperative was to use force - she started to twist his nose. This sort of thing tends to upset Noble even more - when I got him he was extremely head shy and he still isn't that comfortable having his ears touched - it was pretty clear that he'd been hit in the face or head and had had his ears used as a control device (I wish I could get my hands on the people who did that and twist their ears!). I told her to stop doing that and she wasn't pleased. I held his head for her and she got the job done, but he wasn't happy about it. She also wasn't very considerate of him - banging his teeth with the water syringe.
So I wasn't very happy with all that. I've dealt with lots of vets over the years, and technical competence is important, but that said I think most vets just aren't all that good on things like subtle lameness, alternative treatments and nutrition/supplementation. It's a lot like the health care system for people in that way. I blame some of that on the veterinary education system. But even if a vet is competent, it's also important that they take the time to carefully look at the horse and talk to the owner, and to consider the needs and feelings of the horse. They need to be able to get the job done, but the best vets are able to do it with minimal or no coercion and the horses trust them because they project calm and competence. And rushing is not good - horses tend to be unhappy with that. I think I'll try to get in touch with Dr. Ana and see whom she would recommend we use as our regular vet from her old practice, or if there is another vet she would recommend. We'll still likely get luck of the draw for emergencies, but at least we should have a regular vet the horses and people are comfortable with.
What do you think is important to have in your vet?