February 1, 2013
Calm before the storm
Dr. Ashley Craig
January in Kentucky is an unpredictable time. We all are waiting patiently for the hustle and bustle of breeding season to start but often times the start can be unpredictable. Thoroughbred, and other breeds that are registered, all share a birthday of January 1st, but not all foals are born exactly on or even near that date. Equine vets in Central Kentucky are sitting on go at the start of January, just waiting for the storm of foaling season to start.
One quiet week in medicine in the middle of January left me wandering if breeding season would ever get here. My thoughts must have reached mare’s ears because it wasn’t moments later that it seemed as if there weren’t enough people to handle the influx of newborn foals entering the hospital. I am not sure if it was a change in weather, the moon, or just time, but a steady stream of mares and foals signaled the start of the breeding season. As quickly as the flow started, it stopped again, leaving me slightly perplexed. A mentor suggested to me that it was just like a storm; you knew it was coming, you could feel the change in the atmosphere and a short burst of activity was just a sign that it would all start soon. Her description reminded me of the movie Twister- where Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton watched a small tornado quickly pull back into the clouds as fast as it had descended. Bill Paxton analyzed the sky and realized that the tornado wasn’t done but was just “back building”. To me, this is the perfect example of the atmosphere in Central Kentucky in January. It is the calm before the storm and the rush of foaling season is just “back building” until the right moment arrives for it to touch down and start. Until that time, I am sitting on Go- just waiting on the call.
January 25, 2013
- 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.