I talked with a friend tonight. I know her through multiple sources: she lived with my college BFF's family , she knows the people at my family's barn...etc. And my 6 year old daughter has loved her since the first meeting. This woman, newly graduated from a college with a great horse program, is a wonderful instructor. My daughter has taken one lesson, and though she fell off due to over balancing, has ID-ed the reason she fell off (horse tripped and she was too far forward), wants to go back and correct the problem.
Recently, we stopped in at a local place. After seeing their stallion standing in a stall in at least 12 inches of manure, a horse with a swollen eye/emaciated (glaucoma or cancer), and the lead instructor riding without a helmet and with a 5 inch shank bit (for every pound you "pull," the horse feels twice that per inch), AND the horse was behind the bit, it assured me that this was not the place where I could sub some lessons for my daughter. Oh and the mini-horse had such over grown feet that I would tern them as elf feet.
I was lucky enough to take college classes in equine production, training, physiology, and teaching riding lessons. I know how to start a new rider. I know how to build up an advanced rider. In addition to being a vet, I can do these things....if only I could afford a pony for my daughter.
So, I talked to "daughter's riding teacher" tonight after my daughter found her name in my phone and called her. And we shared stories of riding without helmets. Things that are, to us, as uncomfortable as getting in a car without a seat belt. We talked about horses (and other animals) that needed to rejoin the great grape jelly bean in the sky and we talk about the stupidity of riding without a helmet. I have come off of a horse so many times that when I started having seizures and my neuro guy asked about head injuries, I just laughed. Most of the injuries occurred with a helmet. So, good there. But some were when I was futzing with my helmet and it fell off. There are so many times that I would have been dead without a helmet.
Distance be damned, I will drive my daughter to my friend who cannot even get on a horse without a helmet vs the place where the woman rides with no helmet, a 5 inch shank, and the horse's head behind the vertical. Because my daughter loves her for her artistic and crazy colored hair.... and I love her because she believes that true equitation covers all disciplines and she believes in effective riding.
And this is true for your vet. Just because everything looks ok at first glance and parents tell you that thinks are great, find someone that you really trust. If they are far away, that is a pain, but it is likely worth it. Because I will choose someone that will give my daughter what I would like to give. Common sense, forward thinking, and workman like riding. I want her to be safe, but on the cutting edge of equitation. I want her to be able to ride anything. I guess as a parent, I expect some perfection. Ok, maybe a little over-reaching.