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For years equine melanomas have just been left and monitored, with surgical removal only carried out in a few select cases. However, as technology improves, we are now adopting a much more pro-active approach.

New evidence has come to light that there is a real benefit in surgically removing melanomas when they are solitary and small. This is something that we can carry out at Mullacott Veterinary Hospital using our surgical laser, which cuts through skin and soft tissues like a scalpel, with the added benefit of instantly sealing any blood vessels .

This 15 year old gelding had a solitary growing melanoma beside the head of his tail. With a little standing sedation and local anaesthetic, the melanoma was removed by laser within 30 minutes and with no bleeding at all. The surgical sites are then best left open to heal naturally.

Here you can see the appearance of the tail head six weeks later, showing the site fully healed. This treatment will greatly decrease, but not completely eliminate, the risk of this horse developing further melanomas.

Sadly, this treatment cannot be performed on all affected horses. We do see a few cases annually where the horse has melanomas which have become too expansive around the anus or throat region to operate on and where little treatment options remain.

When melanomas are not suitable for surgical removal, a new vaccine is currently being trialled. Oncept® is a melanoma DNA vaccine which, when given to horses, stimulates their immune system to react against the cancerous melanoma cells.

Early study results are encouraging, with no reported side effects and some horses showing a shrinkage in tumour size or a halt in tumour growth. However, not all horses respond to the treatment and the vaccine has to be imported from the USA under a special treatment certificate.

Advanced cases may require a combination of both surgery and vaccination.

Feel free to give us a ring to discuss melanoma treatment options for your horse with one of our equine vets. Surgical melanoma removal is best done at this time of the year, before the fly season starts.


Just as we have been trying to cope with the snow, frozen water pipes and bottomless mud, Vanessa and Sally Jobson Scott have timed their trip to Portugal perfectly.

For the past six weeks Vanessa has been competing two horses in the ‘Sunshine Tour’ and has had great success with her promising 6 year old mare, Muna VD Bisschop (pictured)

North Devon Schools Show Jumping League

Summer might still seem a way off, but with just four more rounds before the championship show, competition in the North Devon Schools Show Jumping League is hotting up!

Torch Equine Vets are a main sponsor for the league, which showcases the junior show jumping talent among local schools. Good luck to all competitors and we look forward to the championship show in July.


It had been a busy Friday at Torch Equine Vets when a call came in from a neighbouring practice. Robin had been suffering from colic during the afternoon and was not responding to pain relief.

He arrived at the hospital late in the evening and after an examination and ultrasound scan it was clear that he needed surgery.

His loving young owner told her mum that she would donate all her pocket money and earnings from picking up for the local shoot to the cause.

The pressure was on for a good outcome.

The colic surgical team were called in from their homes and went to work on him.

During a long general anaesthetic, a blockage at the end of the small intestine was located and removed. The distended small intestine was emptied and washed. After several minutes of observation, some small movement of the intestine returned giving us hope that normal function could be restored.The team finished at 6am , in time to get breakfast and return to start the next day’s calls.

Days of intensive care followed with 0ur amazing nursing team giving 24 hour attention.

Robin made a full recovery, going home to his very happy owner after a week.

We are one of a very small number of equine practices in the South West able to perform colic surgery due to the veterinary expertise required and the level of nursing care that we have.

I cannot compliment our nursing team enough. They are all horse lovers and put in an incredible amount of work during these intensive care cases.The lovely home made card from his owners put a huge smile on everyone’s faces when Robin went home.


We strongly recommend that all horses are insured and that the policy includes cover for veterinary fees.

We are happy to process and submit insurance claims on your behalf, and do not charge for this service.

From the 1st April 2018 due to unacceptable delays in processing claims we will be unable to process direct claims with the following companies;

•  E&L

•  HorseInsurance.co.uk

•  Animal Friends

as well as any of their associated companies.

We will continue to honour any current claims that we have in hand with them, however new claims will require initial settlement by the client.

We will continue to provide you with the necessary veterinary reports in order to claim back your settlement from the insurance company.

The ultimate responsibility for personal accounts lies with the owner/keeper and Torch Farm & Equine Ltd cannot be responsible for invalid claims for whatever reason.


Q: What’s your name: 

Nathalie van Heesewijk

Q: How long have you worked for Torch Equine Vets? Two years

Q: Can you describe your earliest riding memory? 

I grew up in the beautiful french Alps surrounded by horses, donkeys and goats. Most days after school, I would take my very naughty shetland pony for a ride in the mountains… and often come back late for tea and covered in grazes!

Q: Do you currently ride?  

I don’t currently own a horse of my own as I got distracted by surfing, stand up paddle-boarding, mountain biking and climbing in the last few years, but I am very lucky to have plenty of horses at my disposal so I still get to ride regularly.

I love working with young horses and am hoping to get back into eventing this year.

You can find out more about Natalie on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/torchequinevets/