Ramah-Navajo Chapter hosts mobile vet clinic for horseowners

PINEHILL – Former Ramah-Navajo Rodeo Queen Hayeden DuBoise was competing in a barrel racing event during the 2020 Wild West Days in the city of Grants a couple months ago when she noticed her 16-year-old quarter horse, Wade, was having problems with his teeth.
“Wade wasn’t his snappy self,” DuBoise, 25, recalled Friday. “He didn’t want me pulling on him and when we ran to the first barrel he overshot it, telling me he didn’t want me to tug on his reigns. I knew then something was wrong.”
DuBoise took Wade and two other horses to a vet mobile clinic at the Pine Hill Rodeo Grounds Friday and the head veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Gonzales, confirmed what DuBoise suspected.
“Wade had a rostral hook, a dental abnormality,” Gonzales said. “We were able to correct that today.”

Horse care

Rostral and caudal hooks are dental abnormalities that can limit a horse’s performance, cause weight loss, lead to sinus infections and even result in the death of a horse. These abnormalities can be corrected with dental floating, the process of filing away sharp edges or hooks on a horse’s teeth to present a firm, flat surface for more efficient chewing.
That’s why veterinarians recommend horse owners to have professionals check their horses’ teeth once a year, Gonzales said.
“My horses, they compete,” DuBoise said. “For me, I want them to be comfortable. Wade is getting older and I want to make sure he is well taken care. We have been through everything together. We have been through junior rodeo. College rodeo.”
Wade is also the horse DuBoise rode when she was crowned Ramah-Navajo Rodeo Queen 2018-2019.
“He is my baby,” she said.
Gonzales and his team visited Pine Hill Friday and performed vet services to more than two dozen horses as part of an effort organized by the Ramah-Navajo Chapter in collaboration with Animal Protection of New Mexico.

Essential services

Ramah-Navajo Natural Resources Director Mike Henio said that a total of 29 horses were registered for the event, which offered free castrations, and discounted dental services and vaccinations.
Kimberly Maria and Darwin Chee, a couple from Pine Hill who took advantage of the clinic Friday, brought three of their horses for dental work and vaccinations.
“Every year we have been bringing our horses here for vaccinations,” Maria said. “I think we are very fortunate to have this clinic somewhere that is close to home, where we can bring our horses instead of taking them quite a long ways from home.”
Maria noted it’s a nearly 140-mile roundtrip drive from Pine Hill to the nearest vet clinic in either Grants or Gallup.
The couple’s children also ride horses and the oldest participate in rodeo events. Maria said the family is appreciative of the services and the chapter’s initiative to assist community.

Wild horses

Henio said the need for vet services in his community is so great another clinic is scheduled for the month of October. He added local authorities have been conducting outreach to educate community about the problems of releasing horses they can no longer feed or care for into the wild. That’s another reasons the vet mobile clinics provide essential services and horse castrations are free.
“Just like the rest of the Navajo Nation we have a problem with feral horses,” he said, adding Pine Hill has about 300-400 wild horses. This year, with a poor monsoon to very little rain, all the water holes or ponds have dried out and the wild horses are stressed out looking for water.
“The problem is increasing,” Henio said. “We get calls into the office all the time about horses coming in, especially now during the drought. We have people watering their livestock and sheep and we have wild horses coming in and utilizing the water. Right now, the best solution is to round them up and ship them off the reservation but we would have to find a buyer.”
Laura Bonar, chief program and policy officer for Animal Protection of New Mexico, said the organization has been collaborating with numerous communities across the state to provide free or low cost equine services particularly to underserved communities in rural areas. She noted initiatives to control wild horse populations are underway by various agencies and her organization supports horse castrations and the use of contraceptives.