He Touched my Heart

    March 5, 2013
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    Dr. Ashley Craig

    Have you ever worked with an animal that just instantly touches your heart? Just reaches down into your soul and plants a hoof firmly there? For those of us who work with animals on a daily basis, we have a list of animals, in my case- horses, that I hold near and dear to my heart. Every patient that I meet is special in one way or another but it takes an extraordinary animal to leave an imprint on my heart. One such horse walked into my life while I was on a rotation at Medicine. He was a tall lanky handsome colt who just wasn’t responding to treatment in the field for his medical problem. I met him on a Monday morning and he quickly won me over. His medical problem required extensive treatments which took not only time on the doctor’s part, but also patience from the colt. With every treatment that was performed, the colt was calm and seemed to understand that we were trying to help. I caught myself wondering if maybe he just felt that bad that he wasn’t reacting in a way that would be expected of a young stud colt, but I was later proven that wasn’t the case.
    One morning I stepped into the colt’s stall just to take a deep breath; I stood there rubbing his handsome face, he dropped his head into my chest, looked at me with his kind eyes and just let me love on him. I am not sure who needed this time more, me or the colt. As time progressed, the colt’s condition finally started improving but his patient attitude and kind ways never changed. By the end of my rotation at Medicine, he was able to go home to continue treatment under the watchful eye of his owners and the Hagyard’s Field vet. A few times I visited the farm where the colt was born, raised and was recovering and I always made a point to stop and spend a couple of quiet minutes checking on his progress and visiting with the colt.
    One morning I met up with the primary Field vet who helped manage the colt’s recovery and got to help with a thorough re-check of the colt’s progress. As we did an extensive examination of the colt, I was reminded again exactly how kind he was. Looking up from my ultrasound screen towards the colt’s head, I saw him drop his head into his owner’s arms as she rubbed on his head. When the primary Field vet gave the word that his condition was 95% resolved and was continuing to improve on a daily basis, the smiles that came on the owner’s face lit up the room. At that moment, I realized just how remarkable this young stud colt was. He had touched not only my heart but the heart of his owners who run a large farm. His courageous and kind spirit in the face of hard times will serve him well as he heads to the racetrack. I am lucky to have had the chance to meet him and to be a small part of his life; he has firmly left a footprint on my heart.

    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.

    Opportunities in Equine Practice

    September 7, 2012
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    Two years ago I was a third year veterinary student attending Opportunities in Equine Practice Seminar (OEPS) held in Lexington, Kentucky. Being a Kentucky girl, this was a great excuse to come home for the weekend, show my classmates the beauty of Central Kentucky and learn more about a future in the equine veterinary world. Now as an Intern, I am getting to experience OEPS from a different perspective. The two years since I attended OEPS as a student has flown by, things in my life have definitely changed, and I am ecstatic to be living my dream- the constant smile on my face is testament to how much I love what I do.

    As a student at OEPS, I enjoyed listening to the practitioners speak about life as an equine vet; so many of my questions about internships were answered during that amazing weekend and my decision to pursue a career in equine veterinary medicine was confirmed yet again. As a veterinarian at OEPS, I have enjoyed seeing friends from across the country, meeting students interested in equine medicine, but most of all, I have gotten to share my personal experience and passion for equine medicine to future equine veterinarians. In preparation for OEPS, my internmates and I got together and made a humorous video for the students. It just goes to show you that an equine internship isn’t all work and no play; we make time to enjoy ourselves and find ways to laugh even during the busiest of times.

    Life as a Hagyard Intern – click for video.

    It doesn’t seem possible that only two months have past since I started as a field care intern at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Every day is filled with opportunities to learn and grow as a veterinarian. Being an intern at a prestigious clinic like Hagyard, is not only an honor but also a great opportunity. On July 2nd, I walked through the front doors of Hagyard as a newcomer and full of anxiety about living up to the standards of such an amazing clinic. This anxiousness was quickly laid to rest, as every single veterinarian and staff member was full of kind words and open arms. As a young veterinarian, there is a steep learning curve in your first year; as a Hagyard Intern, the steep learning curve is filled with seasoned vets constantly encouraging you and helping you along this journey. Everyone wants to see you succeed and is willing to go out of their way to help you achieve great success. My intern class is also extremely lucky as all of the field care interns knew each other before we started our internship and consider each other great friends; at the end of the day it is helpful to have close friends who know exactly what you are going through and can be there to grill out and laugh with you through it all.

    Riding along with different field veterinarians and meeting all of their clients dominated the first month of my internship. While July in Central Kentucky is considered a slow time of year, the caseload is still far greater than most academic institutes. I would be lying if I said I didn’t go home at night mentally and physically tired. Every day I learned an incredible amount of information and gave myself plenty of homework assignments to review before the next day. For those who think learning stops when you graduate from veterinary school, you are wrong. Veterinary school is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to knowledge acquisition. Studying, post-graduation, is more in-depth than just studying for a test; it is studying for life. Every vet at Hagyard is great about teaching, talking through cases, and helping weave the knowledge I acquired from veterinary school in with the practical field knowledge. One day that stands out in my mind is a day I spent with Dr. Stuart Brown, President of Hagyard and fellow Tuskegee Alumni. In the process of discussing a weanling we had seen, we got into the discussion about pneumonia which lead to an in depth learning session where we tied together the pathophysiology, anatomy, clinical presentation, diagnostics, and treatment. To summarize- that was information gleaned from 1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year and 4th year of veterinary school, some of which I never thought could be clinically applicable- but I was wrong! I am lucky to say that Hagyard has some of the best equine vets in the world but they are also the best teachers.

    One of the great things about being a field care intern at Hagyard is the flexibility. This internship allows you to work with a vast amount of veterinarians and learn different approaches or styles to equine medicine. This allows you to learn from the best minds in the practice, and pick and choose how you want to practice veterinary medicine. The large number of practitioners in the clinic is a definite plus; it is like being on “Who Wants to be A Millionaire” and having 38 lifelines. There is always someone a phone call away whether it is in the middle of the night and you need to discuss a case, or you are studying and need some clarification.

    Another great aspect of the field care internship at Hagyards is the opportunity to spend time in the surgery and medicine departments. The time spent in the other departments not only provides you a chance to view how things are done in those areas, but also a different perspective and additional learning opportunities. My second month as an intern had me at the McGee Medicine Center learning from practitioners who not only are on the forefront of equine medicine but also in many cases, wrote the book about it! The second night I was on call gave me plenty of chances to learn. Starting at 5pm, only 15 minutes after being home, I received a phone call that a patient was colicing and I was needed back at the clinic. As soon as that patient was stable, another emergency was on its way in- this time it was a neurologic patient who could not stand. After working with the second emergency for several hours, the third emergency came through the door just after midnight. By 3 am, the third emergency was semi-stable and I headed home for a couple hours sleep. At 4 am, the technician monitoring emergency number 3 notified me that it was uncomfortable again; so back to the clinic I went! At 5 am, horse number 3 was sent to surgery, which I got to watch for a short period of time before I headed back to medicine to take care of my other patients and come up with the treatment plans for the day. This steady flow of emergencies was just the experience that I needed to help build my confidence and teach me how to handle these situations. The entire night I was supported by an amazing primary doctor who was there every step of the way, allowing me to take a large role in the cases while also knowing my limitations, and wonderful technicians who are blessed with years of experience and expert training also helped me. This night was just one of many where the learning opportunities were abundant. My time at the McGee Medicine center was well spent and took my medical knowledge to the next level.

    As I enter the third month of my internship, I am excited to be back in the field. It is sales time in Central Kentucky and that means radiographs, radiographs, and more radiographs before the sale. This past week, I took over 700 radiographs (or x-rays) in one day! Shortly, I will be working at the Keeneland sale and watching the next generation of Thoroughbred racehorses sell. As an owner and exhibitor of Saddlebred show horses, this is a different side of the horse business than I am use to, but I am excited to be a part of it!

    Stay tuned for more stories from myself and other interns at Hagyard as we document our internship and give you a glimpse into our lives as new equine veterinarians! I have left a great deal of stories out of my summary of my first two months, but don’t worry- they will make it into the blog at some point. I hope you enjoy my experiences as much as I have and continue to do. The life of an intern is full of hard work, lots of learning, and as much fun as you can imagine!

    Life as an Intern – Dr. Ashley Craig

    September 4, 2012
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    Dr. Ashley Craig

    Welcome to the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute Intern Blog. Whether you are a student, owner, or seasoned veterinarian, we hope that you find this blog an entertaining and insightful look into the life of an equine intern. As the first of many interns posting, I feel it is my duty to give you a good southern welcome! So who am I? My name is Ashley E. Craig. I am a Central Kentucky native who just recently graduated from veterinary school at Tuskegee University, in Alabama. I joined the Hagyard’s Team this summer as a Field Care Intern.

    So how did I get here and how did I decide to become an Equine Veterinarian? Like most little girls, I grew up loving animals. I told my parents when I was just 4 years old that I wanted to become a veterinarian. Throughout my childhood my parents were kind enough to allow me to have a multitude of dogs, cats, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, fish and even a horse! My mother never had to worry about finding a babysitter for me; all she had to do was drop me off at the barn. As I grew older, I enjoyed not only working with the horses but also working with the veterinarians that came to the barn. To say the least, I was, and still am, inquisitive and full of questions! The equine vets who answered a young girl’s questions are the ones who helped me realize that the veterinary world was my calling in life. I truly found my passion after working at a large American Saddlebred breeding farm during my undergraduate college years. It was there that I got my first experience working with stallions, broodmares and foals. This passion for the breeding side of veterinary medicine is what drives me to this day. There is nothing quite like it! After graduating from Georgetown College with a Biology degree, I took two years off of school before going to veterinary school. During this time I worked at another Saddlebred breeding farm as the stallion manager (starting to see a trend here?). Once in veterinary school at Tuskegee, I was heavily involved in our student chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA). I am honored to say I was the 2011 National VBMA President and also the student representative on AAEP’s Student Relations Committee.

    After years of my life being spent in the classroom, I am excited to start my life in the field. The life of an intern is filled with tons of learning, fun at every corner, and a year of personal and professional growth. I hope throughout this year you follow along and read as myself and the other interns share their day-to-day life and uncloak some of the mystery behind the life of an Intern.