A TEESDALE veterinary practice is expanding with the launch of a branch in the north of County Durham to cater for horse owners.

Castle Vets, based in Barnard Castle, will open its new office in Lanchester, near Consett, on Monday.

Castle Vets director Richard Matthews said the practice’s number of clients warranted a permanent presence in the area.

“Being based up there – 25 miles from Barnard Castle – will reduce visitor charges for our equine clients,” he said.

Situated in a former sweet shop in the centre of the village, Mr Matthews said the base would also be handy for horse owners to pick up drugs or wormers.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback,” added Mr Matthews.

“People want specialist vets who do nothing else but horses. The James Herriot ‘Jack of all trades’ type of vet is a dying breed.”

Much of the work will be routine, carrying out vaccinations, teeth rasping and other equine dentistry work plus providing a service for older horses.

“For this routine type of work, it is an advantage being up there,” said Mr Matthews.

Initially, the branch will be open mornings only, with one of practice’s equine vets based in Lanchester.

“For the rest of the day and night, we will look after our clients from Barnard Castle,” said Mr Matthews.

“Demand from clients will dictate how the service develops in future.”

He added: “Opening the branch consolidates something we are doing, but it is an expansion of the business and complements the equine service at Barnard Castle.

“Traditionally, this is an area where we have always had horse clients and we are looking to provide a better service.”

Castle Vets was established more than 70 years ago. Initially a traditional Dales practice, it now concentrates on three areas – horses, farm animals and pets.

The practice has been based on the Harmire Enterprise Park, Barnard Castle, since 1997, and since 2007 has operated a branch surgery in St Helen Auckland.