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The 80-15-5 Rule

I read another interesting article a few days ago by David Ramey, DVM. I’ve shared a few of his articles over the years as I often find his perspective interesting and refreshing. I don’t agree with him on everything, we are still talking about horses so unilateral agreement on all topics will never happen, but I do agree with him on many things. His latest article was titled “The 80-15-5 Rule.”

The gist of the 80-15-5 article was that horse owners tend to spend way too much time worrying about their horses, and that we would all have more enjoyment with our horses if we learned to worry less. From his perspective, 80% of the time a horse is going to recover from whatever ails it regardless of what treatments are or are not performed. Hence, why he feels a lot of people think ineffective treatments are actually effective. The horse was going to get better anyway, and the supplement/laser therapy/shockwave treatment didn’t actually contribute anything. We horse owners just feel like it did because we did the treatment and the horse got better, and his point is the horse would have gotten better anyway.

He does feel that about 15% of the time the only way a horse is going to recover from something is with intervention. Some colic cases are only going to recover if colic surgery is performed. On a side note, he said in a previous article that he gives banamine to horses with a gas colic for the owner’s sake, not because it does anything for the horse with gas – that the majority of the time the gas colic will resolve on its own. A bone chip interfering with a joint will need to be removed surgically. A horse with an eye injury needs medical treatment. A horse with an upper respiratory infection, cellulitis, or any other type of infection needs antibiotics. A horse with a soft tissue injury needs to follow an appropriate protocol of rest and controlled exercise.

Then he feels you have the dreaded 5% of issues, where it doesn’t matter what you do or how much money you are willing to spend, the issue is not treatable. For some diseases there is no cure. A big one that we see people fret about is horses looking and/or acting old. Your 27 year old horse is not going to look and act like it did at 20 no matter how much money you are willing to spend, aging is simply a reality of life. The majority of the time a broken leg isn’t going to be treatable. You can’t prevent your horse from having a heart attack or an aneurysm. If your horse is in kidney failure there is no dialysis treatment for horses. These are a few examples that fall into the 5% category.

Jason and I spend a lot of time worrying about the horses in our care. It can sometimes be hard to discern when you are seeing something in the 80% category, and when you are in the 15% or 5% category. We’ve gotten better at knowing when we’re in 80% land and when we’re not. However, we still see our vets a lot, and many times we have a horse seen by a vet out of an abundance of caution just in case we’re not in 80% land. I feel that’s a reasonable approach. I think Dr. Ramey’s overall point is important though – worry less about your horses and enjoy them more. His article made me realize that sometimes Jason and I spend too much time and effort worrying about our residents rather than simply enjoying them. What do you think, do you worry too much?


Thanks to help from my friend Kate all of the blankets are ready to be dropped off to be washed and repaired. Amazingly, this project was finished a week ago which has got to be a record for me.

Moe and Thomas

Tony, Chance and Convey

Miel, Taco, Happy and Murphy

Baby and Hemi

Elfin, Thomas and Apollo

Walon and Johnny

Roho and River

Bruno and Merlin

Walden and Fabrizzio


Bonnie, Griselle and Sabrina

I never get tired of pretty morning skies

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