Not sure if that blog title makes sense… but its horse related!
I have always wanted to work with large animals after graduation, I have always had the hardest time finding equine experience. So one of my goals for final year was to gain more confidence working with horses so that after graduation I could be a mixed animal veterinarian who was willing to see horses and enjoyed the calls. I had a 3 week placement at an equine clinic, there were boarded veterinarians on staff and they saw horses with many different kinds of problems.
For the first two weeks I was working with the surgery team. The mornings we spent in the surgical ward and then often the afternoons were filled with lameness exams. My role often involved helping ‘drop’ (sedate) the horse in the padded recovery room and then move it onto the surgery table with the help of a winch. Here is a quick video showing how a horse is moved into surgery. I could then help scrub the surgical site (for a really long time!!!) to make sure the area was clean before the surgeon made his incision. On the first day I scrubbed into a cryptorchid surgery and tried my hand at some suturing. I still haven’t been given the chance to do a gelding (castrating a male horse) myself and I cannot wait until I have the chance to do one. I watched a couple of arthroscopic surgeries; such as 3rd carpal bone fracture repairs on racehorses. One of the more interesting surgeries I got to watch (twice actually!) was a mandibular tooth retropulsion. The mandibular teeth are in the back of the jaw, on the bottom, so if they need to be extracted they are very hard to pull out the traditional way. It is much easier to drill a hole in the bottom of the jaw and then retropulse (basically hammer) the tooth out with a peg. This surgery required a lot of skull radiographs to ensure that the surgeon was drilling and hammering the peg in the right direction in order to remove the correct tooth. I was in charge of taking the radiographs and this is probably why these were my favourite surgeries to be involved with.
I also helped complete the treatments for all of the hospitalized horses. This meant giving injections, checking bandages, flushing intravenous catheters, taking horses for walks to graze, cold hosing wounds, etc. In one part of the hospital there is a large model horse, we put it in front of the stall of any horses who are lonely or anxious without a friend –often it helps them calm down! One patient I helped with had gotten a large stick rammed up into his groin, another had extremely sore feet as he had a condition called laminitis.
During the first week there was an Ag Tour going on in the county; the tour group stopped by the practice on two different days. We had 3 stations in the hospital to explain to the people on the tour what actually goes on inside a big equine referral hospital. One of the tour groups actually got to watch through the windows of the surgical suite as we completed one of the mandibular tooth retropulsion surgeries.
On some afternoons we would load up the truck and go out to see horses at stables or farms. We often went to stables and looked at horses training for different competitions, we did lameness exams and joint injections. I often helped scrub the site prior to the injections. I did my first nerve block (abaxial) on this placement! When owners are preparing to take their horses across the border into the United States they need to be checked by a veterinarian and have a recent blood test (Coggins) completed before they are allowed to enter the states. We did quite a few of these exams and blood tests. Often the paperwork for these horses can be monotonous but there is now a new app that allows vets to fill out information and take photo records on their phones! I also watched quite a few euthanasias and on a couple of horses we completed post mortems to find out why they had died. The intern and I got to practice finding our landmarks and performing joint injections.
I got to use some of the practice-owned horses to hone my lunging (an important skill for conducting lameness exams and just being a generally horse-competent person in general), reproductive rectal exam with the ultrasound, and placing a jugular IV catheter. I also practiced putting in a nasogastric tube; it is an easy enough procedure to do when there is a calm situation. NGT’ing is an important diagnostic for working up a colic case and I’m nervous for the first time I’ll have to get a NGT into a colicking horse (which can often be very stressful!).
On the third week I worked in the reproduction barn. It was the end of the season and appointments were slowing down–but this was good because it left me lots of time to ask questions. I spent a lot of time running out to mares in pens and giving them injections of hormones to help manage their reproductive cycles so that we could get them bred (so they could have a foal next year). When we weren’t giving injections to mares we often had them inside the barn for a reproductive tract ultrasound exam; we would look at the body of the uterus, the horns, the ovaries and any follicles or corpus lutea that were present. If a horse had already been bred then we would monitor her for fluid build up (that could ruin a pregnancy) and preg-check her at 14 days to see if she had twins or not, and then assess the fetus’s heartbeat at 25 days. Later in gestation, the owners could bring their horse back if they wanted to know the foal’s gender (filly vs colt). I also got to watch a couple of stallion collections using an artificial vagina— if you wanna talk about dangerous jobs; collecting stallions is definitely one!
There was a cute little loft apartment on site that ended up being really handy–I stayed there when I did on call with the vet. Some of our emergency calls included: a miniature horse foaling, colicking horses, a broken skull, a horse who wouldn’t get on a trailer, and wounds. Other notably cool appointments included a horse enucleation, a horse with a bullet in his leg, a suspected Strangles case, and a suspected Potomac Horse Fever case!
I had a great time on this placement, I really enjoyed the chats with vets in the vehicle, bonding with the intern, the variety of appointments to see, and the friendly nature of everyone at the clinic! Thanks a million Delaney Veterinary Services 🙂
P.S: This was the only placement that gave ME a thank you card at the end of my time there, I was so blown away by this!!