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Vet works to improve the lives of horses

Local equine facility uses state-of-the-art technology to diagnose and treat horses


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Dr. Scott Hansen stands with Trigger, a horse skeleton he purchased from the vet school when he graduated.

Dr. Scott Hansen still employs an old-school country doctor practice — house calls.

Except Hansen doesn’t arrive on horseback.

“Things have changed significantly over the years,” said Hansen, owner of Columbia Equine Hospital in the Orient area of Gresham. “It used to be you would hear your pager and you’d have to go find a pay phone. Now, we’re looking for cell phones.

“But it’s also not always possible for people to bring their horse to the clinic. So we take a mobile unit to their farm and we do just about everything there, except diagnostic testing.”

For the past 30 years, Hansen has been a familiar face among the equine community and local horse-racing world. Columbia Equine is one of only three full-service equine facilities in the Portland-Vancouver area, utilizing state-of-the-art diagnostic technology and surgical procedures to treat the medical conditions unique to animals most people, including Hansen, consider “gentle giants.”

Hansen grew up on family land in Nebraska. It wasn’t exactly a working farm, since there were no cattle or poultry, but after his mother acquired a horse when he was 16, his passion and career path were born.

Hansen attended Oklahoma Farrier College in Sperry, Okla. Following graduation, he returned home to apply his trade. While working as a farrier, Hansen became acquainted with the local equine veterinarians, who introduced him to the world of equine medicine. He continued providing farrier services while studying at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He graduated in 1980.

Within months, acting on a whim, he moved west and settled in Gresham.

“I had a Volkswagen bus, $1,000 and a dog,” Hansen said, laughing. “And I had to pay the $1,000 back to my dad.”

He joined the medical staff at Cascade Animal Clinic (now, 12-Mile Animal Hospital), but also offered his services at Portland Meadows Race Track.

“I went to the racetrack for work and experience and I like race horses,” Hansen said. “There were 900 horses at Portland Meadows and lots of sports medicine and surgery. I worked there as a practicing veterinarian part of my time for 15 years.”

Hansen opened his own equine-only ambulatory practice in 1983, primarily focusing on racehorses. His interest in the lameness common to racehorses led to a specialty in arthroscopic surgery — a less invasive diagnostic and surgical repair procedure utilizing a camera-equipped arthroscope (think shoulders, knees and hips in humans.) by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Dr. Scott Hansen uses nuclear scintigraphy for bone scans.

The advancements in diagnostic and surgical technology quickly led Hansen to recognize his desire to provide a higher level of care for his patients. In 1985, he purchased two acres off Orient Drive, moved his family into the house on the property and built a surgical facility.

“I started with two stalls and a phone in my house,” he said. “The practice grew much larger than I ever imagined, so I shifted from racetrack work to sport horse and companion animal medicine and surgery in the mid-1990s.”

Once just a single outbuilding nearly buried by blackberry bushes, Columbia Equine has grown to include an intensive care barn, therapy arena and several short-stay and recovery stalls. The clinic maintains an on-site laboratory and three mobile units — small pickups that are essentially mini-clinics on wheels, allowing staff to take treatment and emergency surgical services to the patient. by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Horse veterinarian Dr. Scott Hansen removes stitches from the eyelid of Cali, owned by Colleen Vaday. The horse injured itself when it rubbed against a fence railing.

Despite the addition of two other full-time veterinarians and a full-time veterinary dentist, Hansen isn’t considering retirement any time soon. The ongoing evolution in equine medicine continues to make his work challenging and rewarding.

“The improvements in health care for horses has improved dramatically in my tenure,” Hansen said. “We have lots of options now, from MRI, nuclear medicine and stem cell therapy. Horses live longer and healthier lives. I’m not planning to slow down, but I do realize I have a shelf life. I will most likely always work with horses in some way.”

Things to know

What: Columbia Equine Hospital.

Where: 27841 S.E. Orient Drive, Gresham.

What: Comprehensive equine services, including veterinary medicine, diagnostic imaging, surgical center, dental and ophthalmology care, emergency and critical care and more.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Info: Call 503-663-1515




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