Sandy Robertson, the principal of Equine Endo, provides a
mobile clinic that truly offers a scientific approach to equine healthcare. But
how did she get started, what drives her and what are the rewarding experiences
that make it all worthwhile?
Q. What was your background prior to qualifying as a RAMA (SQP)?
Since leaving school at 16, I have always worked in the equine industry. Prior to becoming self-employed and qualifying as a RAMA, I worked in equine welfare for over 10 years. This gave me a close insight into the detrimental effects a lack of knowledge, and having an incorrect worming programme, can have on our horses.
Seeing the fatal outcome of many horses, I knew we needed to do better, so I trained and worked alongside some great vets to have a better understanding of parasitology and faecal egg counts (FEC).
This became my passion and my goal to set up my own mobile business. I told myself ‘if I don't do it now, I never will.’ I wanted to provide a service where customers could get their horses tested and weighed all at the same time, while getting advice on weight management and health concerns.
Being a mobile laboratory, allows me to have a better insight into the different yard practices, and have a better understanding of the individual needs of both client and horse. Following that process, I can prescribe the correct wormers for clients, and give in-depth advice.
I set up my business at the back end of 2015, and shortly after I qualified as an AMTRA RAMA/SQP, then had my premises registered with the VMD.
Q. Can you give us a brief run through of your normal day-to-day activities?
My work can vary from day to day. I generally set out on my journey to yards early. Arriving and setting up ready for a day of weighing horses and doing FECs on-site.
The part I enjoy the most is the education side, having face to face contact with clients and being able to advise them on a targeted worming approach, helping them to have a better understanding of issues like resistance and under-dosing, over-use of certain chemical groups, and assisting in any weight issues the horses may have.
The feed-back I receive after visiting yards is very rewarding.
Q. What do you feel is the most important aspect of your role as a RAMA?
The most important part of my role is the education. Helping clients understand about parasites and the wormers used, in terms they understand. I advise on how resistance happens, and how to slow-down the process with pasture management, alongside an effective worming programme.
Encouraging owners to have the horses weighed and the importance behind it, giving advice on weight management, it is all key. Having a state-of-the-art weighbridge, with no wires or bars, allows the horse to feel relaxed about the experience of being weighed.
Q. What do you think are the most important skills and qualities you must demonstrate as a RAMA?
The most important qualities a RAMA can have is being able to communicate effectively with the customer. You must listen to what is being said and decipher the information you receive.
Not all customers are easy, some know what they want, even if it's not the correct choice you would advise. It's up to the individual RAMA to have the confidence, knowledge and empathy to disagree and guide them in the right direction. Once you have given the reason behind your decisions you gain their trust.
It all works hand in hand with each other. I like to build a rapport with clients, so they feel at ease asking questions.
Q. Do you have a particular success story, or work that sticks in the memory where you have been able to make a real difference?
One of the main stories that sticks in my mind, is of a client who had several horses, one being a nine-month-old foal. She said the foal always looked rough, never healthy. I went out to test and weigh, and he did have a high FEC.
It took many months to get him to start going in the right direction. It involved guidance on correct wormers to use, help with land management and resting paddocks, several extra FECs to check the efficacy of each product used.
A year on and this yearling looks amazing, still sometimes having a medium count, but it is so rewarding to have a close relationship with a client and her horses.