I have always loved horses. I started riding around the same time I first wanted to be a veterinarian, and while I don’t remember my exact motivations, I can’t help but believe there was probably more than just correlation between the two. Although I came to the conclusion during my first year of vet school that working as an equine practitioner probably isn’t the right fit for me, I was nevertheless enthusiastically looking forward to spending two weeks on equine medicine.
My experience on equine medicine was absolutely shaped by the fact that the other student on the rotation with me is one of my best friends and roommates. We met first year when, pretty much by random chance, we ended up in the same anatomy lab group. I’m pretty sure that if you can become friends while dissecting cadavers for two hours a day and attempting to memorize a bazillion minutia about muscles, vessels, and nerves, you can make it through anything.
Our caseload while on equine medicine was decently heavy, but entirely manageable between the two of us. We showed up between 6am-6:30am every day to perform morning treatments on our patients and most days we were able to leave by 6-7pm. For those not as familiar with standard veterinary clinical-year-hours, 12-hour-days are on the shorter side of what you can expect with most rotations. We also divided up emergency shifts amongst the two of us and the other students on rotations in the equine hospital, but we got pretty lucky because there was a student specifically assigned to equine emergency that block, so we only had to cover the days on her weekend and a backup shift on her primary shifts.
After morning treatments were completed and we had called the clients to give a morning update, we sometimes had rounds at 8am, although these were cancelled as often as they weren’t. Next on the agenda was preparing for the day’s appointments, then seeing those appointments, then performing diagnostics such as ultrasound, endoscopy, or radiology, and finally summing up the paperwork for the appointments to go home. If there were any emergencies that came in the night before, we also managed diagnostics and paperwork for them. We would sometimes have rounds in the afternoons as well, which were more focused on medicine topics, as opposed to the morning rounds, which were focused on patients who were in the hospital.
We had a wonderful group of clinicians who were good-natured and exceedingly patient. Rumor has it that not all the clinicians on the service are as pleasant, so I’m very thankful we had the opportunity to work in a positive environment. I learned a ton during my two weeks on this rotation. Curiously, I found that I was frequently able to “logic” the correct answer to questions in a way that I used to do all the time when I was a teacher, but which I haven’t been able to do with small animal medicine. Perhaps equine medicine is more intuitive to me. Nevertheless, it drove our senior clinician crazy, because my stock response to almost all of her questions was, “I don’t know, but I would guess that [insert correctly logicked answer here].” By the end of the first week, if I started to say “I don’t know, but…” she would interrupt saying, “Yes you do know, stop saying you don’t know.” She was usually right, which never ceased to surprise me.
Overall, my experience on equine medicine was fantastic. I got to work with kind, humorous, compassionate people and I got to snuggle horses to my heart’s desire. At the end of two weeks, I bid my last patient (a mare and foal) goodbye and prepared myself for the next adventure – 4 weeks of zoo medicine at the North Carolina Zoo!
This post is part of a series documenting my clinical year in veterinary school. To read more from the series, please visit the Clinic Series homepage.