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Local veterinary hospital begins equine services

HARVEY (AP) — Watching a horse limp when it trots can be distressing, for the horse and its owner. However, it’s not as if the owner can just hop in the car and easily transport the large animal to the local veterinarian.

It also might freak out the dogs and cats waiting in the lobby.

What’s better is if a specially trained vet instead comes to the horse.

Bayshore Veterinary Hospital, located at 2361 U.S. 41 South in Harvey, has opened Bayshore Equine Veterinary Services, which now is making horse calls, as it were.

Dr. Lara Stephens-Brown is making those visits.

“It started in the middle of June, so we are about two months in,” Stephens-Brown told The Mining Journal , “and prior to that, the equine services in the Upper Peninsula were far and few between. So, it’s nice to have another option.

“And it was getting to the point where people were coming in from out of state, like in Wisconsin, to provide services.”

Stephens-Brown grew up in the area. According to her biography at bayshorevethospital.com, she grew up on a hobby farm in Skandia with horses, goats and a “few too many chickens.”

She attended Michigan State University and rode on the MSU dressage team while pursuing an animal science/biochemistry degree. Stephens-Brown is a 2018 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine where she focused on equine and small animal medicine.

She also just completed a yearlong equine medical and surgical internship at Ocean State Equine Associates in Rhode Island where she got a lot of unique and relevant experience.

“I learned from all the doctors there, got a lot of hands-on experience, got to do some really complicated surgical procedures, some complicated medical cases, and got to do a lot of lameness exams, which is kind of how I got all the practice doing X-ray, ultrasound, joint injections,” Stephens-Brown said.

She likely will have plenty of cases in the U.P.

“There’s tons of horses in the U.P. actually, especially in the central part,” Stephens-Brown said.

She noted there are quite a few horses in Harvey, as well as Skandia, Sands and near Rapid River.

Having grown up on a horse farm in Skandia, Stephens-Brown undoubtedly is familiar with the region.

“It’s really nice to be home,” Stephens-Brown said.

But she knew how few horse veterinarians there were in the area.

This is where Bayshore can help.

“The goal is to provide pretty much a broad spectrum of service ranging from primary care, vaccines, dentistry, sick exams, emergency calls,” Stephens-Brown said, “so I’m on call pretty much 24/7.”

She treats dogs and cats at Bayshore, but goes on the road to treat the horses.

A road trip requires a different approach.

“Here it’s nice because you stay put,” Stephens-Brown said of the stationary vet hospital. “You know where things are. You have a system. You have technicians and a support staff.

“On the road, it’s kind of ‘we do it all,’ so we’re the mobile hospital, so what we have is only what we can fit in the truck.”

Stephens-Brown stressed she and her staff needs to know where items are placed in the truck so she can run intravenous fluids, for instance, on a farm. In this scenario, she can have a different setup and find the highest point to take advantage of gravity.

However, that’s why Stephens-Brown enjoys this type of practice.

“It’s a challenge,” she said, “and every situation and every farm is different.”

Dentistry and lameness workups are her favorite forms of treatment, she said. In fact, she pointed out that in the horse world, the term “lameness exam” is used a lot.

Stephens-Brown uses various medical instruments when examining a horse. There’s still the bedside manner, or in her case, “stall-side” manner. At one recent visit to a Marquette County farm, she made sure to give the horse being examined a friendly pat.

Stephens-Brown still had to diagnose the animal, so she watched the horse trot around the perimeter of a barn.

What really made a difference, though, was her use of a digital X-ray machine. The horse’s foot was placed on a wood block, with the image shown on a screen. With this machine, Stephens-Brown could take an X-ray from a different angle immediately.

Stephens-Brown suspected the horse was suffering from navicular disease, with the suggested treatment shoeing – using shoes with pads.

Navicular disease, Stephens-Brown said, is a catch-all term for heel pain caused by inflammation and degeneration of the navicular bone and the associated tendons/ligaments in the hoof.

At another recent visit, this time to a Chocolay Township therapeutic riding and horse stable, Stephens-Brown examined several horses with different ailments.

One horse had a suspected scratch on the eye, which can be painful, as any human who’s experienced such an injury can attest.

“Horses are very allergic this time of year, so we’ve been a lot of horses with swollen eyes,” Stephens-Brown said. “So, it’s important to make sure that it’s not a scratch on there.”

The horse’s owner, Julie Mahan, expressed concern over the animal while Stephens-Brown examined her, wondering why the condition had reoccurred.

“I rode him out in the arena, and it was pretty dusty,” said Mahan, who believed that might have irritated the eye.

So, she let the horse take it easy before Stephens-Brown’s visit.

It turned out it was an eye scratch, which had disappeared. Stephens-Brown made that discovery after putting a dye in the animal’s eye, which would have created a green splotch in the presence of a scratch. That didn’t happen.

Another horse at the stable came in from the field with a swollen hock and was lame, she said.

As part of her exam on that animal, Stephens-Brown performed an ultrasound. The horse also was to rest in a stall for a month, and was to be slowly brought back into work after its tendon injury. She said the horse was to undergo physical therapy and cold therapy, and receive topical anti-inflammatories.

Dr. Tim Hunt, owner of Bayshore Veterinary Hospital, said staff has known “Dr. Lara” since she was a kid growing up in Skandia with horses, and always knew she wanted to be a vet.

“Watching her go through veterinary school and then do an extra year as an intern at a very busy horse practice out east really cemented her knowledge as an equine vet,” Hunt said in an email. “Since she comes from Skandia, she knows all about our winters, so we know that won’t scare her off. We are thrilled to have added her to our practice and be able to fill a huge void in the area for a horse vet. She’s a pleasure to work with.”