First-Time Breeder - At Wits End

I’m looking for some solace after a bout of uncomfortable few weeks with a new vet, and I’m not sure how to proceed. It’s 1 A.M. and I’m just reeling over what to do.

I’m breeding my now retired mare after a recent injury for the first time. With family who are long-time breeders I felt equipped/prepared and aligned myself with our equine clinic. I worked extra hours and saved, still aware it may take my first time mare more than one time, and luck isn’t always on our side. Sowhile a financial endeavor for me assumed the risks involved. However, very early on experienced some bad luck, that now after-the-fact am learning may have been preventable from friends.

Mare is checked & culture taken on Monday several weeks ago. Vet, a different vet than my primary vet but same clinic, says to come back tuesday to be checked again. I do this, and vet requests mare stay at clinic to be continually monitored while we wait for culture results. Thursday results come back that mare has an infection. Vet treats w/ antibiotics but keeps horse over weekend. Checks follicles again on Monday and says we need to tell stallion owner that morning to collect and immediately ship door to door so she can breed Tuesday morning. I have heard shipping horror stories, but assumed door to door was the way this was normally done. Grimmaced, at placing that type of order (inwardly) but was excited and followed directions. This is done. Arrives tuesday morning. Mare is bred. I take her home after 7 days in the clinic, follicle/check every day from Tues-Monday. When I pick mare up I have a $2800 bill and am told I must pay bill before I leave.

Now, I was expecting my bill to be about half of this, and I also saw that while horse was there her injury had been lasered daily. Vet had asked me if I wanted this done, and I said no upon dropping her off the week prior. I put down half, and agree to make the rest in installments. (Clinic is local, and I’m a long-time client though never having used this particular vet)

14 days later I return mare, no pregnancy. Disappointed, not angry at anyone.

Vet says to bring her in the next monday for a culture and recheck. At this point I know that I won’t have an additional $2k in my account the next week for the next series in addition to paying the second half of the bill. I email vet and say, before I bring in look I can pay $900 05/10 and the remaining on 05/20, can I make payments for the next series. I get an ok.

Vet asks if I can bring horse in Monday 11am, I ask if I can drop off earlier, since I go in office, but am told no there is no space for mare. So, I pay a friend to take mare in. Once there, vet takes culture and says she wants to check again Tuesday and to leave the mare a the clinic. I take feed to clinic after I get off work and receive a long text from vet that under no circumstance should I ever drop feed after business hours but she would allow it this once. (I found it a little odd, maybe the tone a little angry given the circumstance, and upon arrival at the clinic at 7 there were other vets and techs that I knew who were happy to show me where to drop off my feed)

Today, Tuesday, vet calls to tell me that I will need to pay my entire balance (at this point $1300) and that which was about to be done an additional estimate of $1500 before I pick my mare up from the clinic she assumes on Friday after breeding. She wants to do a lavage today before the culture results come back , because while she thinks there’s an infection she would be ready to collect and breed if the infection wasnt there.

It’s at this point my family friends are starting to send inputs that under no circumstance should I have bred horse to begin with before a negative culture came back, why is she telling me to do a lavage before a negative culture, why is mare even staying at the clinic since I’m in-town, and why did she request I wait to take the culture this week and not the week prior. And that the $400 I owed for the first set of antibiotics was much more than what their vet is charging. Essentially inferring that I was in the hands of a not-experienced vet.

This afternoon, I did answer and say no do not take the lavage, I didn’t want to do any other services until I had a negative culture. And would be picking her up Wednesday, paying off whatever I owed.

It’s a tough situation, I never want to run a bill that I cannot pay. Have I and others from my barn made prompt payments on our bills for years? Yes. Have I been told by my main vet at this clinic to pick up antibiotics from the drop-box or a horse after hours for years? Yes. I’ve actually only dealt with the main office about a bill, never the vet directly.

I’m so frustrated. Now, that I’m being told the reputation of this vet and the procedures she’s done wouldn’t have aligned with what other vets were doing, in addition to how the billing was arranged, I’m unsure of whether this vet was using a common practice or that my family/friends were right to leave. Particularly, since before I brought her in this time for the second try, had a conversation with the vet. I would have just waited this cycle out, paid my bill. Not started the new series.

*There was also an addition of drugs given to mare every time she was checked which added a large amount to my bill. Initially I wasn’t concerned, I 1000% want the vets safe. But, having been at some of these with my mare who stood well in the shoot, and never seeing this occur with my family’s mares, now am curious if this is normal too. I have several people in my ear saying I’ve been taken advantage of and am trying to differentiate what’s normal and not so normal.

Is there a practice manager or senior vet you could talk to? Such a radical change in billing and treatments suggest something is NQR. It sounds like treatment is being carried out without your consent (laser) which, alone, is a no-no. The reputation of the practice should be of concern to the management and they need to know.

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Who owns the vet practice? Has it changed hands recently, such as did the owner retire and sell to a company that is now managing it? The reason I ask is that in this situation the employees can be put under a lot of pressure to meet revenue goals.

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I am a practicing veterinarian. I also used to stand my stallion to the public and maintained a small herd of broodmares so by definition a breeder [now retired]. In the state I practice, veterinarians are required to provide an estimate for services PRIOR to performing those services and receive (& maintain on file) a signature or written acknowledgment of verbal permission from the owner or authorized agent in order to proceed. I think the majority of states have something similar in their regs for veterinary practice. As a breeder, my first question - was your mare a maiden? Depending on your answer, there’s a few discrepancies I would question from what you’ve posted. I have a colleague who is a board-certified theriogenologist who I would refer to when I had any kind of question/issue regarding breeding…and never, ever was charged those types of prices even when I did leave stallion or mares in his care (even if I adjust for the recent inflation) for a few days (collections for shipping, repeat breeding of my mares until ovulation, etc).

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Thanks for the responses. I’m unaware of any changes in practices or ownership. And while it’s been in my ear that it could potentially be a method of trying to reach revenue goals by this vet, I just don’t know. The laser issue was wild to me, but at the point of being handed my bill didn’t know what to say. It must have been done, so I couldn’t ‘not’ pay it and figured it was then a sunk cost. I’ve just never questioned or had any issues with my primary vet at this clinic. (It really only changed due to her prior lessor calling this vet when she was injured, so I kept the mare with the new vet rather than requesting the breeding be done by my primary.) I’ve been told I should write a formal complaint, but I also don’t want to ruin a relationship with this clinic.

Again, this is a maiden mare. I’m irritated at myself for not being more educated on what services were normal. (For example, I had to call family to request what a lavage was.) However, I’ve witness family farm taking in mares to be checked for two decades. (I’m 30 by the way.)

It was an uncomfortable conversation yesterday when I said I did not want her to proceed with the lavage. We (my family and I) decided to pull the mare from the clinic and ship her home so that their local vet can continue the process later this month.

This is my own temper coming through now, but I was also frustrated. After being told a different billing method after I brought the horse, and being told I couldn’t pick up the horse until bill was paid in full, of course I needed to come get my horse before more services were done that I couldn’t pay for by Friday. But was really questioned and put down for doing so.

I’m sweating this morning, I have no idea what I’ve been charged from Monday to Today, owing about $500 left from the first series and preg check. I sent my $900 yesterday that I’d promised, but was not prepared to pay anything until the 20th.

Thanks for listening.

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That would get my feathers ruffled as well!

I think the head of the clinic needs to know, because of this bill padding (I mean, lasering the legs when that was not being talked about? WTF?!)
They might have blackmailed you into paying this higher bill, but lost the subsequent business, since you are shipping the mare out.
There needs to be a conversation, because I would not trust to leave my horse there in fear of having to mortgage the house to bail her out a week later. Lord knows what procedure they had to play with this time!

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I agree with the others that this seems like something that you need to talk to the owner of the clinic about.
You had an agreed upon price, they added things you did not ask for, that is problem #1.
Problem #2 is agreeing to payments and then once they have the mare there saying you have to pay in full to pick up your mare.

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Can you get a Care Credit card to pay it off? I think the first six months are interest free. And I agree…talk to someone.

At a minimum, I would call the practice manager and refuse to pay for the laser if you expressly told them not to use. It’s not your problem that they actually did it. The only time this happened (horse that wasn’t on the list got a vaccine), manager apologized profusely, vet apologized profusely, and my account was credited both that charge and the entire call fee for that visit.

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This is really frustrating.

I can commiserate. For years I tried to get a breeding program off the ground and came up empty with nothing but high bills for questionable vet work. I try to be 100% supportive of vets, but they are humans and make mistakes, which isn’t much consolation when you literally pay for those mistakes.

As mentioned above, Care Credit is a life saver for when bills creep up unexpectedly, so long as you pay it off during the promotional period.

I think you are correct to get a negative culture before breeding. I see no reason for you to leave your mare there, at all period.

I bred my mare 3x before she took. Not once did she spend the night at the clinic, except for the last day, as the vet wanted to ensure she wasn’t having fluid buildup after being bred. I think board was $35 a night plus medication costs. Prices were discussed beforehand and I was given a quote before services were rendered. This is good business practice.

Now I actually used 2 different vets. The first vet could not get her pregnant and I suspect that vet just wasn’t as good at timing insemination, as vet #2. There were no problems on the mare’s end. Culture was negative and she didn’t have any fluid buildup after breeding. Vet #2 was more expensive than the 1st vet, but it was worth it to actually get the mare pregnant.

Vet #1 was my local vet and I was not thrilled with her response after my mare foaled. Her response (or should I say lack thereof) is responsible for my foal having a partial failure of passive transfer. I had an additional $2500 worth of vet bills after this. Needless to say I will not be using vet #1 ever again. As I felt like her actions could be considered gross negligence.

The entire reason I had her come up after my mare foaled was to prevent my foal from having a failure of passive transfer. The vet dismissed my concerns and told me everything was fine… Everything was definitely not fine. She was more in a rush to either get to her next client or get home for the day, then to take care of my foal. She had been my vet for years and I had trusted her.

A good vet is worth their weight in gold. And part of that is being transparent about estimated costs.

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I am a veterinarian. I breed my own mares, and help a handful of carefully selected clients with their mare work. If you specifically said not to laser the mare, you should not pay for any laser services. You should call the office and speak to the practice manager to get a credit on your bill for those services.

Regarding the breeding work, you will have to pay for services rendered. Since it seems like it was a fresh semen breeding, I’m not sure why hospitalization was recommended, unless you’re so far from the practice that they don’t provide ambulatory services to your barn. In the future, ask for an estimate before authorizing work.

Not every vet enjoys repro work. I probably wouldn’t enjoy it if it were my day job/means of earning a living. (I feel enough pressure to get my own mares and my handful of client mares pregnant!) It would behoove you to make sure that the person doing your repro work is the person in the practice that is actually passionate about it.

Establishing a CareCredit account is a great idea, as while I feel for you re: the unexpected expenses, if the figures you have provided are something you can’t immediately pay, I’m not sure what your plan will be if your mare needs a C section or you have a septic or dummy foal. (Note that I’m totally ok with your plan in these cases being “euthanasia” as long as that is something you have deliberated before hand and accepted as a possibility!)

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Thank you all so much for your suggestions and insight. I brought my mare home Wednesday. I am so glad that I did, as the culture results did not come back until today. Somewhat positive feeling, the culture results showed that the infection was still there. (So I’m very glad we didn’t continue to monitor and request another collection before those were back!) I also am breathing a little, as a more justified reason that she didn’t catch the first time.

Going forward, I’m going to send her to my family’s farm and have sent over her records to their vet who will treat the infection and we can hopefully catch her on the next cycle.

Lastly, regarding the billing. I still am perterbed by the way things were handled, both from I feel procedures repro related weren’t consistent with how another more senior vet would have handled them and the changing mid-stay while my horse was at clinic the biling method.

However, today a friend at our barn had an emergency incident that required a farm call. Another vet from our clinic came out who we hadn’t met, and before leaving ran my friends card. I likewise asked for a coggins and had my card run while at the barn. We both looked at each other weirdly as it was happening, as prior it’s gone back to the office and we would receive an emailed bill the next week. It obviously makes sense to have this in place as it’s much easier to get paid on time, but it must be a new policy.

You should be angry. I’ve never heard of a mare being required to stay at a clinuc to be treated for a uterine infection. Right there, the vet bill will go way up. I would question the whole process. Good luck.

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That depends entirely on the distance between your facility and your vet’s clinic. My mare stayed at the clinic earlier this spring to have an infection treated. The treatment required daily intrauterine infusions of antibiotics. I live 80 miles from the clinic, so her staying during treatment was more time-efficient and also cheaper than paying a $140 call fee five days in a row.

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Ok. Thanks…