Best Veterinarian: Flying Horse Ranch | SteamboatToday.com

Best Veterinarian: Flying Horse Ranch

Jim Patterson

Lou Dequine, DVM, shows the various dental problems a horse can develop in his clinic at Flying Horse Ranch.

Specializing in equine veterinary medicine, Lou Dequine, DVM, winner of the 2016 Best of the Boat award for Best Veterinarian, has been caring for the Yampa Valley's horse population for the past 25 years.

Operating out of the 340-acre Flying Horse Ranch, located about 25 miles south of Steamboat Springs off Routt County Road 16, the name of Dequine's practice says it all. Or, at least, it used to.

Until about 2005, Dequine, who is also a fixed wing and rotorcraft pilot, frequently used his own helicopter to visit his four-legged patients.

"You know, I could go in the morning and do all my calls that would have taken me all day, and be back here to do ranch stuff," he says. "It worked out really well."

He's since sold the helicopter, but still maintains a small airplane which he uses for hobby flying.

A native of Tennessee, Dequine originally came to Colorado to attend school in Fort Collins. After graduation, he won and internship at Cornell University, moving from there to run a successful practice in Aspen for some two decades.

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He relocated to the Yampa Valley in 1991.

"I lived in Aspen for about 20 years or so, and I had a mixed practice there," he says. "I did everything — small and large animals. Then, I moved over here full-time in about '91."

Since that time, Dequine says he has narrowed the scope of his practice to large animals, specifically horses and, even more specifically, equine dentistry.

"Other than just the usual range of normal things we see, I kind of have developed a little specialty in dentistry — equine dentistry — so that's mostly what people bring their horses to me for," he says. "Most veterinarians would rather do other stuff, because dentistry is a lot of work, and it takes a little while."

He explained that horses' teeth "erupt" all their lives.

"People call it 'growth,' but really, they erupt," he says. "And so, they grind them down just in normal eating … and if their bites aren't perfect — and most of them aren't — over time they start getting abnormal wear, they start getting problems with waves and hooks and stuff like that, and so a big part is, as a horse gets older, we try to correct some of that and get good, normal, flat dental tables again so they can chew decently again and not have pain."

He added horses also sometimes suffer for tooth abscesses.

Dequine, 68, expressed some surprise at having been voted Best Veterinarian — the first time he has been so honored — as he says he is currently scaling back his practice.

"I'm not near as active as I used to be," he said. "I'm kind of scaling back, which is why I'm surprised this even came up."

Even so, he added he has no plans to fully retire in the near future.

"Well, I'm here," he says, "so I might as well keep on."