By Emily Randolph
Inside the walls of a hospital, Barbara Blasko, M.D. can be found amidst the often fast-paced emergency room, where she’s worked as a board-certified emergency medicine physician for more than 20 years.
Outside of the hospital however, Blasko prefers to trade in her scrubs for breeches and the pace of the emergency room for that of an easy canter. Her hospital knapsack and medical expertise, though, are never far behind. In fact, it’s those two things that led first to her unofficial role as what Blasko calls a “knapsack doctor,” and ultimately to the founding of Blasko’s revolutionary mobile healthcare service, ShowMD.
Expert Healthcare For Riders By Riders
An equestrian since the age of 8, Blasko can frequently be found competing in amateur jumper rings throughout California, and over the years, Blasko’s medical acumen has become known to many on the California show circuit.
“A handful of people know that I’m a doctor, and when they’ve needed help, they’ve come to me,” explained Blasko, who, while not charging for her services, began addressing fellow riders’ medical questions. “I was kind of the barn knapsack doctor for a while. I’d have my knapsack; I’d have my stethoscope and the basic stuff to help people.
“I’d answer questions, and I’d get people in to see other doctors or into the ER if they needed to,” continued Blasko. “It’s very difficult to navigate the medical community; many people don’t even know where to start. So aside from providing actual basic medical care, I was sort of concierge-ing to get people into facilities more quickly or to help get them into specialists.”
Eventually, a friend suggested that Blasko make her services more formally available to everyone on a consistent basis, and an idea was born.
Blasko soon got to work planning the logistics of what, two years later, would launch in California as ShowMD, a mobile medical care service providing equestrians with top-of-the-line healthcare onsite at horse shows.
Medical Care Made More Accessible
ShowMD officially debuted at Nilforushan Equisport Events in Temecula, CA, in the summer of 2020, and now, the 26’ mobile unit and Blasko and her ShowMD team can be found at horse shows throughout California, including at the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, CA.
“I’m always wanting to help people, especially in the equestrian community where sometimes people don’t even have doctors or they’re frequently away from their regular doctor, and this has already been a great solution,” said Blasko.
Inside the custom-designed, climate-controlled mobile medical clinic, visitors will find comfortable IV chairs and a pristine treatment area, as well as extras like phone charging outlets, high-speed Wi-Fi and iPad tablets for use by those receiving IV fluids.
“In a place like Thermal, hydration is key,” explained Blasko, who has helped a large number of riders and trainers take advantage of ShowMD’s IV fluid hydration options. “If you’re just drinking water, and you’re really not actively replacing your electrolytes, you can still easily become dehydrated. Being dehydrated can obviously impact your energy, your performance and how you feel. I have so many people come in and tell me they just feel tired, and honestly, they’re really just dehydrated.
“We have multiple different formulations of fluids you can use to get your vitamins and minerals and what you need to help you feel better,” continued Blasko. “People come in and they look tired and dehydrated. We give them a bag of fluids, and they’re regenerated – like new people!”
The IV fluids and services such as oxygen therapy only scratch the surface of what ShowMD is able to provide. With emergency and trauma-trained nurses, a physician assistant and a fellow emergency medicine physician all on staff, Blasko and her ShowMD team are able to offer minor wound care, back pain and trigger point injections, medical consultations and routine appointments, therapeutic ultrasounds, use of a TENS unit, lab testing and much more. The ShowMD mobile unit also includes an onsite pharmacy, with Blasko and her team able to fill non-controlled prescriptions.
“If they fall off and need stitches or need an examination, we’re able to do that,” said Blasko, who also continues to provide emergency room care in Riverside, CA. “I’ve been at shows where I’ve taken off toenails, fixed up lacerations, drained cysts – all kinds of things. We’ve taken out sutures that other doctors have put in, but the rider isn’t able to have them taken out by the same doctor because they’re at the horse show in southern California and their doctor is in northern California.
“I do a lot of trigger point injections for people with chronic pain; we see a lot of riders with back pain,” continued Blasko, who is also available from across the country for telehealth consults.
“As a show manager, having ShowMD at the Sonoma Horse Park gave our organization a great piece of mind, knowing that Barb was there for all of our exhibitors’ medical needs,” said Sarah Appel, the Sonoma Horse Park facility manager.
“There’s usually a veterinarian onsite for your horse at a horse show, but rarely is there a doctor for you,” concluded Blasko. “Our hope is to continue to make medical care and treatment options more accessible at the horse show so that you don’t have to go offsite for illness or injury care.”
Presently, the ShowMD mobile clinic can be found onsite at the Desert International Horse Park by the Jumper 1 Schooling Ring, with medical services available Tuesday through Sunday.
Now through the end of the winter circuit, trainers at the Desert International Horse Park can take advantage of “trainer Tuesdays” and receive special discounts on IV fluids and oxygen therapies every Tuesday.