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Sound Advice On Call With Dr. Wally

Trusting the Process

It takes a team to keep a champion barrel horse firing on all cylinders, and Nellie Miller has one of the best.

Watching Nellie Miller and "Sister" navigate a pattern, it can be easy to forget these are not machines, but two highly skilled and finely tuned athletes. That they can do their jobs with machine-like speed and precision is a testament to genetics, training and of course, good health.

Photo by Christy Burleson

Nothing is more important to Miller than the health and wellness of her horses, and that's why "Dr. Wally" is always on-call.

Nellie, Sister and Dr. Wally at Panorama Equine Medical and Surgical Clinic, Redding, CA. Photo by Pat Lawless

Dr. Wally Liberman has been an integral part of Miller’s team for years. When issues arise, the team is guided by Dr. Wally's process, which is simple enough on the surface but involves the complicated nuances of veterinary medicine.

It all starts with a good diagnosis, Dr. Wally explains, which literally starts from the ground up, then laying out the proper course of treatment.

Practice makes perfect on the Williams Family ranch, Cottonwood, CA. Photo by Pat Lawless

"The way you look at, diagnose, and treat feet is almost always going to be the beginning of any treatment and is integral to the health of these athletes," notes Dr. Wally. "How you choose to treat those diagnoses becomes a thing from the veterinarian, to the team and rider, and what is best [for the horse]."

"There’s many ways to do it," he adds. "To just go and start injecting joints, especially without prior proper diagnosis, will rarely lead you to a long successful career. So, I have chosen to reduce how or if I inject joints, and what I may put in them. We have wonderful regenerative medicine available to us today. Very commonly, it’s really not a joint injection that is needed to achieve a good outcome for joint abnormalities. There are alternatives."

Family portrait. Nellie with a trio of home-breds (from L to R): "Cowboy", "Sister" and "Bassett". All three are out of Nellie's high school rodeo mare, "Reba". Photo by Pat Lawless

Nutrition is another key component of an athlete’s program, and “Sister” is no different. The 2017 World Champion mare, now 11, continues to thrive in the sport's top level; a testament to her program and Dr. Wally's process. Sister is gearing up for her third consecutive trip to Las Vegas for the NFR World Championships this December, after yet another season of success.

Nellie: "When I am trying to figure out what Sister needs in her diet, I lean on my veterinarian for consultation. Aside from myself, he knows her better than anyone else because he has been through the ups and downs with us. Together, we make decisions for Sister based on what she needs as an individual."

Dr. Wally: "Nutrition is complicated and what is required for each individual changes over time. So you have to look at hay and hay source and how you feed that. You have to look at supplemental feed, which company you choose to be involved with, and how much of that product is required for the individual and what else we think we need. In this particular case with this particular horse, we included Equithrive, because Equithrive has anti-inflammatory capabilities and is a great energy induction device, being a mitochondrial activator. So we had very specific reasons why we included Equithrive into our nutrition program. The way we have chosen to go forward with specific diagnosis, and very specific treatment for that diagnosis, created some longevity in this horse. Because we’re not just a one year deal here, we’re several years into this and we’re coming back having a real good year right now."

In addition to top-notch nutrition, Nellie makes sure Sister gets plenty of time on the ranch to "just be a horse."
Photos by Pat Lawless
"Diagnose well. Image well. Treat well. Don't forget podiatry. Don't forget nutrition." - Dr. Wally Liberman

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