BY Emily Randolph/Randolph PR
Speak to patients of Dr. Barbara Blasko, and you’re likely to hear a lot of similar sentiments: “Barb saved my life!” And, “I wouldn’t have been able to show if it weren’t Dr. Barb!”
Whether it was a shoulder put back into place ringside instead of a trip to the emergency room, or a lifesaving diagnosis between classes, Dr. Blasko’s mobile concierge medical service, ShowMD, has been an addition to the horse show that many didn’t even know they needed.
For Blasko, the feeling of gratitude is mutual. While the board-certified emergency medicine physician has spent more than 20 years working in ERs, it is inside the ShowMD mobile health clinic where she has found her true calling.
“My work with ShowMD makes me so grateful to be a doctor,” says Blasko. “I feel like everything that I’ve done leading up to this has been for this purpose—to be a doctor at horse shows and to take care of people who ride.”
Taking Care of Riders Like Riders Take Care of Their Horses
Before she was Dr. Barbara Blasko, M.D., Blasko was a horse-crazy kid growing up in Long Island, NY.
A $1 pony ride at a fair sparked her ongoing love of the animals, and she began taking lessons at the age of 8. When she was 14, her parents bought Blasko her first horse, an Appendix Quarter Horse named Myrtle.
“I started doing the ‘B’ show circuit on Long Island and the equitation,” says Blasko. “I worked for some trainers on Long Island as a groom and a braider to pay for my horse expenses. I didn’t have my own horse in college; it was just too expensive, but I did ride others’ horses. I kept braiding and grooming in college and in medical school. That kept me sane during my studies.”
Today, Blasko balances running ShowMD with being an associate clinical professor of emergency medicine at Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, CA, and an avid amateur show jumper.
As a frequent competitor in the adult jumpers, it was not long before Blasko’s medical acumen became known at horse shows throughout California.
“A handful of people knew that I’m a doctor, and when they needed help, they would come to me,” says 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.”
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 would ultimately launch as ShowMD, a mobile medical care service providing equestrians with top-of-the-line healthcare onsite at horse shows.
Making a Difference Right at the Ring
Now, the ShowMD mobile clinic is a familiar site at horse shows throughout the West Coast, and Blasko is the go-to for medical advisor for many riders and trainers, including Hugh “Bert” Mutch.
After Mutch was sent home from a hospital visit with what would prove to be a misdiagnosis, he returned to the week’s horse show and went to see Blasko at her ShowMD mobile clinic.
“Barb looked at my medical records and said, ‘I really think you should go to the hospital again. You’ve got an infection going on,’” recalls Mutch. “She realized immediately that there was something possibly life-threatening. She called the hospital where she works and got me quickly through the system, and I was treated like a VIP. I was in the hospital for three nights with what was there properly diagnosed as diverticulitis, but I got to go home after that. Had I not listened to her advice and gotten into the hospital as quickly as I did, I would have likely been looking at surgery and having 10-12 inches of my intestine taken out.”
In addition to going to Blasko for acute medical care, Mutch also utilizes ShowMD for IV fluids to prevent dehydration and for treatment of chronic back pain.
“One day I was in there, and a lady came in who had had a fall off of her horse and dislocated her shoulder,” says Mutch. “So, I’m lying on one bed getting fluids, and she’s lying on the other bed. They gave her a little lidocaine and popped her shoulder back in, and off she goes. If she had gone to the emergency room, that probably would have cost her thousands, let alone the inconvenience. Instead, Barb was right there.”
For junior rider Avery Glynn, the close proximity of ShowMD onsite at Blenheim EquiSports in San Juan Capistrano, CA, kept her from having to miss the CPHA Foundation Equitation Championship, in which she ultimately finished second.
“I have never seen Avery sicker in her life than the 24 hours surrounding that final,” says Avery’s mother, professional rider and trainer Hope Glynn. “I’m so very thankful to ShowMD and Dr. Barb for getting fluids and anti-nausea medicine into her. The emergency room wait time was close to six hours, so if it wasn’t for Dr. Barb, she couldn’t have done the class.”
Blasko’s extensive knowledge is among the most common praises for ShowMD—but her services go beyond the medical advice.
“Over the years as a professional rider I’ve had many injuries. It’s so refreshing to be able to talk to Barb who truly gets it,” says Leslie Steele of Acres West. “She understands when I tell her I got a two in the one stride or that my horse spooked and spun me off. If you walk into an urgent care or ER and tried to explain that to someone, they wonder what foreign language you’re speaking.”
“Not only does she understand, she really goes over and above,” adds Steele. “I recently had a fall that created severe pain in my neck and arm. Barb realized I might have a herniated disc, and, after seeing me on Thursday afternoon, she arranged for me to get an MRI Friday morning. She truly cares about us as riders and knows we want to get back in the ring.”
For Lisa Watts, having Blasko and ShowMD onsite provides a sense of comfort.
“As the parent of an equestrian athlete and a digital nomad, my time is split between running to the ring to catch my daughter’s round and back to my mobile office in our RV,” says Watts, VP of product marketing at Magic Leap. “Being on the circuit also means being away from regular doctor care. Having Dr. Blasko on hand now at many of the shows has resulted in peace of mind on many levels. Earlier this year when I suffered from severe back pain, she was able to quickly and effectively get me back ‘to business’ making sure I didn’t miss a beat.”
In addition to providing onsite care, Blasko and ShowMD are able to offer remote telehealth services–something that many people, like animal health industry professional and amateur equestrian Jenna Mutch, are extremely thankful to have.
“Being able to have a doctor that’s consistent, rather than walking into an Urgent Care in a state where you don’t know anybody and they don’t know you from anything, is really incredible,” says Jenna. “That part of ShowMD, the remote care, is amazing as a working professional and as an amateur rider. You just don’t get that otherwise.”
A Team Effort Focused on Education
While Blasko is the founder and face of ShowMD, the mobile medical service is also made up of a team of nurses, a physician’s assistant, and medics. Together, the ShowMD team is able to offer IV fluids, oxygen therapy, 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 able to dispense non-controlled prescriptions.
“I couldn’t do it without my team,” says Blasko. “I owe a lot of thanks to Lucas, Erin, Rachael, Wendy, Mike, David, Amber, Phillip and John for their dedication and contribution to ShowMD on so many levels, and also to my wonderful husband, Jason, for putting up with me spending hours at the barn and working all kinds of ER shifts while starting ShowMD.”
Much like Blasko, each of the aforementioned support staff members is emergency medicine trained, and, thanks to Blasko, they are also becoming quite equestrian trained as well.
“There is certainly a difference between our team and the EMTs that you see at most shows,” says Blasko. In addition to training her ShowMD team to be knowledgeable equestrians, she has begun to hand select EMTs and paramedics to be onsite at show venues, and has been training them to understand the unique language and nuances found at shows.
“One of my proudest moments at a horse show was when I was sitting on a golf cart with an EMT at the in-gate for a Grand Prix,” says Blasko. “Someone went in, and the EMT asked if me they were ‘preloading.’ When she said that, I knew I was succeeding in educating the paramedics and EMTs who provide care to the riders!”
And that’s something that doesn’t go unnoticed by show management.
“The whole team at ShowMD provides the best medical care a show manager could ask for,” says Ali Nilforushan of Nilforushan Equuisport Events. “Everyone on the team, including the nurses, physician assistants, and medics, have years of experience in the field of emergency medicine. We have known Barb for years as a rider and competitor. We were honored that she chose Nilforushan Equisports events to debut her ShowMD services last year.”
A Whole New Purpose
For riders, show managers, trainers, and equestrian families, ShowMD is providing top-of-the-line medical care. For Blasko, ShowMD is providing her with a sense of purpose even greater than what she ever found in the emergency room.
“I have so much gratitude for the show managers who have welcomed us, particularly to Ali Nilforushan who made me believe in myself enough to undertake this amazing journey,” says Blasko. “I love working at ShowMD; I love being there. I love helping people and providing care to people that might not be understood otherwise. It’s given me a whole new lease on medicine. After 20-plus years of practicing emergency medicine, you can get burnt out.
“I feel like this is why I really became a doctor: For ShowMD.”
Learn more about ShowMD at www.ShowMD.org.
*This story was originally published in the October 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!