How do you do what you do?

    January 25, 2013
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    The joy of a new foal
    The joy of a new foal

    Dr. Ashley Craig

    The other day a young horsewoman was asking about the cases I had seen in my time at Hagyard. I discussed the medical problems I had dealt with in my short time as a Field intern at Hagyard. At the end of the discussion, she looked at me with heavy eyes and asked- “Have you had to euthanize any patients?” Inside, I cringed. Euthanasia is not an outcome that veterinarians like to talk about. No one goes into veterinary medicine because they like to see patients have a negative outcome, but I couldn’t lie to this young lady so I answered honestly- “Yes”. She immediately followed up with, “I don’t know how you can do it.”

    While her statement is one I have heard before, for some reason this time, it made me think a little harder. Thank goodness driving around farm to farm gives me a lot of time to think and reflect. As I reflected on the euthanasia cases I have witnessed in my time working at farms, as a vet tech, at veterinary school, and now at Hagyard, I formed my answer to the young woman’s statement. I can emotionally handle the death of an animal because I see it as the final gift we can give to our sick and dying animals. I don’t know of anyone that enters into the discussion of euthanasia lightly. As a veterinarian, we took an oath to help with the “protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering…” After we do all that can be done for the animal and the animal is still suffering and will eventually die, we can give them a final gift- the relief from suffering.

    Another reason why I can handle the death of a patient is because I am surrounded by so much life. Being in the field, I am often called out to handle preventative medicine such as vaccinations or teeth floating (dental care for horses). Not every horse I see is sick; at times it is the exact opposite! The joy of watching a new foal bounce around their mother, the anticipation of a yearling walking in the sales ring, the excitement of a racehorse or a show horse performing, or even the contentment of a pasture horse grazing in a lush field of bluegrass is what drives me. These magnificent creatures need veterinarians to help prevent and treat medical problems.

    So how do I handle the lows of death? Because I get to see the highs of life and I know that in everything I do, I am doing it for the benefit of the animal.

    A Day in the Life

    January 16, 2013

    Dr. Ashley Craig

    As a field care intern at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, no day is ever the same. A day recently was definitely not like any other! No matter how well you schedule your day, horses have a mind of their own and generally re-work your schedule.

    So at 8am, I was supposed to meet my mentor, Dr. Arnaldo Monge, and work with him the whole morning, but as I said previously, horses don’t often look at our schedules. When my phone rang at 7, I hustled through my morning routine to rush out the door to see a mare that had just aborted (gave birth early). After inspecting the fetus, placenta and then lavaging the mare’s uterus- I hurried off to meet up with Dr. Monge only 30 minutes behind my previously planned schedule. With Dr. Monge, I got to palpate late stage pregnant mares to make sure they were still pregnant. Dr. Monge is a leader in his field and his demeanor is inspiring to a young veterinarian. As I finished up with my mentor, I headed back to the clinic to assist Dr. Ernie Martinez, the up and coming dental guru. But first, I got to partake in a nice doctors appreciation lunch that was organized by the wonderful ladies in Dispatch and Billing. These ladies work day in and day out to help keep the practice running smoothly and yet they still find time to organize a fabulous potluck lunch to show the doctors how much they appreciate us. The food was great and getting all of the doctors in the same place at once provided much entertainment. As a young doctor, it also allowed me to quiz the more seasoned doctors about my upcoming charter flight for horses that I would be riding on and to pick their brain for tips and suggestions.

    With a full stomach, I headed back to assist Dr. Martinez with floating three sets of teeth. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “floating”, it refers to the process of filing down the sharp edges of the horse’s teeth. Horse teeth continually grow and can grow unevenly. This uneven growth can cause sharp points to form and pain to the horse. As the knowledge of dental issues in horses has grown, so has a veterinarian’s ability to help correct these dental issues. Dr. Martinez has made it his goal to be on the forefront of dental knowledge and it shows! His dental tool kit is exciting for any equine veterinarian to explore. Watching and learning from Dr. Martinez was a treat!

    As I finished up with Dr. Martinez, I rushed off to a more personal appointment- a meeting with Central Kentucky Riding for the Hope. This amazing program helps children and adults with mental and physical disabilities by allowing them to work around and on horses. The horses are special animals that require patience, understanding and a calmness that would shock most people. One of my own horses was a candidate for the program and that day was the day he was going to be evaluated. After putting my gelding through his paces and having a discussion with one of the riding instructors from the program, we determined my horse didn’t quite fit the need of the program. CKRH is looking for horses and with their strict requirements, it is difficult to find the right horse for the program. (Side note- if you know of any horse that might possess the temperament and personality for this amazing program- get in touch with CKRH! )
    Even though my horse wasn’t right for CKRH, my day didn’t slow. I then met up with Dr. Heather Woodruff to work up some lame horses. Seeing multiple horses and traveling across three counties kept me busy learning and driving! Evaluating lame horses takes a special eye and a talent both of which Dr. Woodruff possesses. Learning from a lameness expert was wonderful but not the end to my day! As I hustled from the last appointment, I headed to my parent’s house to grab a duffle bag for my upcoming charter flight to England. With a bag in hand, I headed back to the clinic to attend the Hagyard Lecture Series led by Dr. Jaye McCracken. This in-depth discussion of problems with foals was the finale to a day of learning from some of the experts at Hagyard and a fairly typical unscheduled day!

    A Once in a Lifetime Night

    January 2, 2013
    A Once in a Lifetime Night

    A Once in a Lifetime Night

    Dr. Ashley Craig
    In my four months as an intern at Hagyard, I have been to a total of 5 different Thoroughbred sales. On November 5th, I walked onto the Fasig-Tipton sales ground expecting another “typical” sales filled with yearlings, radiograph retakes, and scoping but boy was I wrong. The moment I walked onto the sales ground, the place was buzzing with excitement. Several big named mares would be selling that night and people near and far were coming to watch.

    As the first call came in, I met up with Dr. Kristina Lu to start checking mares post sale. Depending on if the mare is pregnant or not, dictates what is done on post sale inspection. If the mare is pregnant, she needs to be rectally palpated to make sure she is pregnant, the baby is alive and to do a general assessment of the mares reproductive tract. If the mare is a maiden or barren, she needs to be rectally palpated and her reproductive tract assessed as well as having the mares vaginal vault and cervix visually inspected via vaginal speculum. Our first mare was a kind broodmare who knew the drill. After spending most of her life producing great racehorses, she stood quietly for Dr. Lu to perform the post sales pregnancy check.

    Once the first mare was done, the list of horses to check continued to grow. The entire night I went stall to stall with Dr. Lu to do post sale evaluations of numerous different mares. Sometimes we were told of the sales amount, but no matter the sales price, the routine stayed the same. Through the entire sale time, Dr.Lu and myself rarely paused but we both had smiles on our faces because we were doing what we loved.

    One of the few breaks that we did have happened to coincide with the horse of the year, Havre de Grace, selling. The best way to describe the air at Fasig- Tipton is electric. The amount of anticipation was high and everyone around seemed to pause his or her important duties to watch this graceful mare sell. I stood in the back walking ring watching the monitors with baited breath. The auctioneers started the bidding and it quickly climbed. At five million, people started holding their breath. As the mare’s price soared to seven million, the auctioneer seemed to pause. People started taking pictures of the price but the excitement was slightly premature as the price continued to climb. Once the amount reached 10 million, the auctioneer asked the audience to hold their applause till the mare safely left the sales pavilion. I personally had to hold my jaw as it had fallen long before the gavel did. I was witnessing history. Due to my location, I was able to walk back towards the walking path as HDG regally walked past on her journey to her stall and ultimately to her new home.

    While the excitement of HDG selling lingered in the cool night air, the sale wasn’t over and the post sale inspections were far from over. As we continued looking at mares through the night, the value of horseflesh that I touched climbed but it wasn’t the most expensive mare that I touched who was on my favorites list. It was the kind eyed mare whose owners parted with her so they could pay for their son’s college education. It was the big bay mare who towered over me but sweetly dropped her soft muzzle to my chest in her way of asking for love. It was the young racing mare who was nervous about the process but took it all in stride. It was the group of owners who just sold their first horse, making a profit and joyfully celebrating their success. And it was the previous owner who made the trek to watch the mare he used to own and still loved, sell to her new owner. No matter the price, it was the stories and personalities that impressed me the most.

    I was fortunate to witness history and enjoyed a night of excitement at Fasig-Tipton. It was a sale that I will never forget.