How do you examine the belly of a mini-horse? You either crawl around on the ground, or elevate the animal somehow.
Dr. Jacob Mecham, CVM’s mobile equine veterinarian, faces this problem often. He investigated commercial animal lifts and found they cost several thousand dollars, and still weren’t well-suited to his needs. So he asked Steve Lehto for help.
Lehto has been the jack-of-all trades at CVM since 2004 (official title: Trades/Maintenance 2). Prior to that he worked for Pacific North Industrial and Oregon Metallurgical. But he learned most of his diverse range of handy-dandy skills from his dad.
In a typical week, Lehto tackles everything from basic plumbing and electrical, to janitorial. In the past, he has helped plumb the swimming pool in the rehab area, and built the ramp leading up to it; he added new lights to the pharmacy; and he welded a bar on the squeeze chute in the food animal area to keep incoming bulls from turning around. So when Dr. Mecham approached him with the horse lift problem, he was able to draw on years of experience to solve it.
Lehto started with a $500 hydraulic motorcycle lift. Then he customized the heck out of it, right down to the orange and black paint job.
He added a chute to the top of the lift that is built from square metal tubing; all but the lowest bars are removable, so the veterinarian has easy access to the animal. Lehto built the chute with gates at both ends and he welded rings along the sides so the veterinarian can add ropes if needed.
The motorcycle lift came with a ramp at one end. Lehto added a ramp at the other end so the animal can walk off the lift going forward; much easier than trying to back them off. The ramps are built to swing out of the way while the veterinarian is working, so he can get closer to the animal.
There are two pedals on the side of the lift, one to pump the lift up, and one to release it. “I loaded Cory, Matt Weist, and a small student onto the lift to test it,” says Lehto. “That was 500 pounds of pure fun. It took 73 pumps to lift it as high as it will go – thirty-one inches.”
He also tested the wheels by rolling the lift out to the barn. He discovered that the small metal wheels made it difficult to move. Dr. Mecham pointed out another problem: the corral hung over the lift on one end, making it easy to tip. “So I customized some new wheels,” says Lehto. “These are bigger and heavier so it won’t tip anymore, and it’s easier to roll around the hospital. I also made a T-handle to pull it.”
The lift now resides in a stall in large animal hospital and is available for anyone to use. “They can use it with sheep, pigs, goats, whatever,” says Lehto.