Hello from Southern California! I am Dr. Magda Stewart, a Hagyard Sport Horse intern who is getting to experience practicing veterinary medicine not only Hagyard- style but on the other side of the country at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal. Our technician Rachel Blum and I road tripped across the United States in my trustful steed “The Silver Bullet”– a gas-guzzling Tahoe packed high with equipment. We made a quick detour through Red Rock Park in Arizona for some scenic views and to acquire some extra earth energy from the famous vortexes in preparation for nine weeks of horse show fun!
Now I am here with the Hagyard HITS team and I am finding not only how different equine management is in California but also the challenges the environment presents. I know that I should not be complaining about my inevitable farmer’s tan while the East Coast prepares for blizzards, but the desert conditions are keeping us very busy, especially in the evenings when we are often called out to treat emergency colics.
Here in the desert the temperatures vary greatly over a 24-hour period–hot and sunny during the day and then dropping down into the 40s overnight. Temperature swings can cause a horse to drink less water, which when combined with a hard day in the show ring can lead to dehydration as well as gastrointestinal disturbances. I am lucky to have the guidance of a boarded surgeon, Dr. Liz Barrett, who is skilled at performing abdominal ultrasound as well as thorough colic examinations. Abdominal ultrasound provides a window into the abdomen to evaluate stomach size and small intestinal motility, locate the kidney to rule out nephrosplenic entrapment (when the large colon becomes trapped between the left kidney, the spleen, and the ligament that runs between them) and measure colon wall thickness and cecum status. With Dr. Barrett’s guidance I am learning this important skill that helps to make game-time decisions such as whether to trailer to the nearest referral clinic, three hours away. I find abdominal ultrasound to be such an important skill, particularly because in the jumper world it is common for the colon microflora to become unbalanced from the stresses surrounding showing and for a gas-filled colon to be moved into an abnormal location from the motion of jumping. Being able to identify these displacements is important because it alters your treatment of choice and the likeliness of referral.
This doesn’t mean that we refer everything, in fact at this point our team has been able to treat all of our colics either stall-side or by bringing them to our veterinary building here on the grounds, which is equipped with stalls for hanging fluids and hospitalizing patients overnight for observation. A fluids shortage is making it very difficult to obtain 5-liter bags of Plasmalyte. Having only single 1-liter bags and a USEF rule requiring a minimum of 10 liters run to any horse has required us to get creative. Thankfully we are ambulatory vets, so along with some help from Hagyard Pharmacy, our skilled technician Rachel Blum and some MacGyver-like skills, we have come up with a solution to run multiple liters of fluids efficiently into our patients.
All of our patients have done well and it is exciting to see them returning to the show rings. That is a small glimpse of the official show vet day, or more accurately nights, here in California. I look forward to sharing more of my intern adventures next week!