“Being a horse vet is a very dangerous job,” Buck Brannaman said, a truth the famed horse trainer confirmed with a show of hands of veterinarians who had sustained career-related injuries—and those were just the ones without chronic shoulder or arm injuries. But helping horse-owning clients understand horses’ herd behavior and mentality, and encouraging them to handle their animals accordingly, can improve this picture, better equipping horse, owner, and to vet handle any problem that might arise.

Brannaman addressed a standing-room-only audience as the keynote speaker at the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners' Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn., where he sought to motivate and inspire the several-thousand veterinarians in attendance.

He began by emphasizing that horse owners tend to select their veterinarians by how well they get along with the horses, but they often seem to forget that even in the best of circumstances, a horse that is unprepared for the unexpected can be difficult for anyone to work with, no matter how professional or skilled the individual might be. He stressed, “Horse owners must prepare their horses for the unthinkable.” It is not enough for a horse to cooperate when everything is going right; he must also be cooperative enough to facilitate a thorough veterinary exam and to accept procedures that may induce some degree of discomfort or restraint.

Brannaman offered horse behavior insights based on his own experience: “As much as we like to anthropomorphize, horses process things in one way—they do it the way things work in a herd. In other words, they b