Veterinary Medicine in the “Wild” West

Holy cow!  Where did the month of May go?!

I have been so consumed by the veterinary Clinic that I sometimes forget what month and day it is.  Most of my days at work seem to run together and I have issues telling when things happened.  One thing is certain though:  I never have a dull day at work.  My parents always have me save my “stories” about my day for the dinner table so they can sit and hear every detail about what new thing I have learned or witnessed.  Now that I have a moment, I’ll share the details with you.

The doctors each have a way of teaching the specific methods of their work to me.  The eldest doc has an old cowboy heart and broken knees and is nearly impossible to keep up with.  He has been trying to teach me the little things that pertain to how to handle horses – which comes in handy because almost all my life I have dealt with horses that are trained in an “English” style.  I honestly don’t know to describe how different such horses are compared to the rough rodeo horses that make up about 90% of what there are in the Dakotas.  Cow ponies are wild, rough, and very smart and, as such, I have learned that when you have to trot up a roping horse for lameness, no matter how hard you pull on the lead and how many times you try to hit the horse with the lead rope, the horse will only either stand completely still laughing at you sweating, or will shy away from the rope so quickly, you spin 180 degrees.

In South Dakota, more of the equine patients I encounter tend to look like this...

I have also mastered the art of wrestling.  Yes, I literally mean jumping, hopping, and pushing a cow or pony for vaccinations, teeth floating, and dehorning.  Ponies are cute, cuddly and precious…

… until you have to look into their tiny, biting mouths.

Three vet techs later and a pony backed into a corner, said pony will always decide to test the waters and rear (or vault) onto poor Doc, who is kneeling in front of the little terror.  Rule number one:  ALWAYS protect the vet.

I have also mastered the art of scrubbing – scrubbing hocks, fetlocks, surgery sites, bloody walls, and (of course) my own dirty hands and feet.  Being clean is very short lived, though – unless we’re floating teeth.  Then it’s always fun when the vet shoots a large stream of water into a horse’s mouth and the horse decides to play super soaker and you get your face soaked.  Shower anyone?

...than this. (That's Essy and me with Kjirsten "Bob" Sneed and James riding out in the first snow of the season this past school year.)

Sadly I have witnessed some death as well.  We had a horse who was extremely sick and lost all knowledge about the world around him.  He ended up placing his head through a glass window in his isolation stall and had to be put down.  We also had a mare and foal die during foaling.  Luckily, after that we had another mare come in with labor problems and we were able to successfully save the mare, but unfortunately the baby was much too large and had to be pulled from the womb with cow chains.  That foal didn’t make it.

On a lighter note, rule number two: NEVER let a stray cat due for a neuter loose in the vet clinic.  The clinic will have to shut down at 5:30 p.m. with all hands on deck trying to catch the wild, scratching, biting cat.  (Alternatively, you might just want to make popcorn and watch the action.)

Essence and I are also very busy when I’m not at the clinic.  We have taken a dressage and jumping clinic here in SD and are currently working on finding our rhythm because we have trouble holding a steady pace before fences.  I’m working on counting and making sure Essence is round and collected so we are able to jump higher and smoother.  No cross country yet, but I’m hoping to spend a weekend up in Minneapolis, MN for a cross-country school, but that is very up in the air at this point.  Our first show is the Wayne DuPage event in July at the Lamplight Equestrian Center near Chicago.  There’s plenty of time to prepare – right??

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