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Equine practitioners are veterinarians who specialize in the care of horses and other equids such as donkeys and kiangs. Most equine practitioners work primarily with horses, donkeys, and mules. Practitioners who work with zebras and their related wild relatives practice at zoos, wildlife parks, and conservation centers and usually are wildlife veterinarians who have chosen to specialize in equids, in contrast with being large animal vets who work with horses in particular.
The work of an equine practitioner can be quite variable, depending on the area in which he or she practices. Practitioners can care for working horses, race horses, pleasure horses, and horses utilized in competition. The care of horses can include routine examinations to confirm that animals are healthy, visits to diagnose and treat sick horses, care for pregnant horses, and surgery on horses who require surgical treatment.
Many equine practitioners travel to their patients whenever possible. They usually have vehicles which are equipped with some basic tools of the trade, and some may carry mobile X-ray machines, ultrasound units, and other diagnostic equipment. The practitioner can travel to give vaccinations, perform dewormings, float teeth, trim hooves, and engage in other routine equine care. Some practitioners also have clinics to which horses can be brought for treatment, and horses are usually brought in for surgery so that the practitioner has a sterile operating room with equipment such as a lift.
Some equine practitioners choose to specialize in particular areas of equine care. For example, an equine reproductive specialist focuses on caring for pregnant horses, supervising matings, and helping owners determine why their horses have difficulty getting pregnant. Reproductive specialists often work in areas where horses are bred for specialized tasks such as racing or competition. Equine specialists can also focus on care of a particular type of horse, such as sport horses or draft horses.
Hoof care is often left to farriers, specialists who have trained in shoeing of horses. When a horse has special needs or a hoof infection, an equine specialist may work with a farrier to develop a course of treatment. Hoof and lower leg care is critical for many horses and can sometimes be very challenging.
Equine practitioners who work with wild equids such as zebras have a more hands off approach with their clients, because they want to avoid traumatizing them. They help to manage the herds they work with and they conduct routine examinations, vaccinations, and similar tasks. When animals get sick, the equine specialist determines why and provides appropriate treatment.
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