My First Rollercoaster Ride

    April 5, 2013

    Rollercoaster Ride

    Rollercoaster Ride


    Dr. Ashley Craig

    Imagine waiting in line to ride a rollercoaster. You sit there wondering if the waiting will end, then it is your turn. You climb into the seat and ride towards the first hill. As the chain slowly pulls you up the hill, your heart starts to pound; you are excited but yet apprehensive as the anticipation of the first hill looms. And then suddenly, you are there zooming down that first hill and you realize any apprehension or anxiety you had is gone and you enjoy the ride. As quickly as the ride started, it stops but you look forward to the next rollercoaster ride.

    So why is an equine intern describing a rollercoaster ride? Because it is the perfect metaphor for my first solo emergency call that I had back in September, and yes I know this is a little late, but better late than never! Hopefully no matter how far along I go in this field, I hope to always remember the feeling of my first solo emergency. For the first month of the internship I was busy riding along and attending emergencies with other Field Care veterinarians. It was a great chance for me to get my feet wet and learn more about how Hagyard handles cases. My second month was in Medicine, where I was on-call, but more as a secondary doctor since the board-certified Medicine experts attend every emergency and case. During my third month in the internship; I am put in an on-call rotation where other doctors are also on-call but I am sent out to emergencies on my own. Up until my first true emergency, my time on-call had included some fun cases and routine problems, but no “true” emergencies. I was just waiting in line for the rollercoaster.

    My morning had been unexpectedly slow as a couple of calls were cancelled and I had some time before joining another Field Care veterinarian to do a castration. I decided to hang out until it was time to head out to my next call in Dispatch, which put me in the right place at the right time. The phone call came in that a farm had a horse that needed help immediately. As Dispatch tried to reach the primary vet for the farm, I talked through how I would handle the situation with another Field vet. When the primary vet for the farm couldn’t be reached, it was my chance to ride the emergency rollercoaster – and I jumped at it! With a vote of confidence from Dispatch and a mentor, I was on my way armed with directions, experience from my internship and four years of veterinary school knowledge. The drive to the farm was like the climb up the first hill of the rollercoaster; my adrenaline was high but my anticipation was higher. I ran through what information the farm had shared, all the possible scenarios, how I would handle the situation, what I would do, and how to differentiate the potential problems that I would encounter. Turning into the farm, my heart was pounding as I made the mental checklist of what I needed to pull out of the back of my truck when I got to the horse. Reaching the horse, I got straight to work assessing the situation, examining the horse, and determining the course of action. I was riding down that first hill of the rollercoaster and just focusing on the task at hand. As I completed the treatment that the horse needed and informed the farm of the next steps that needed to be taken, I finally took my first deep breath. I had handled my first solo emergency call without having a panic attack. My rollercoaster had come to a momentary stop.

    Driving back to the clinic, I called the primary vet for the farm to inform her of the situation and what all went on during the call. As I walked into Dispatch at the clinic, I was greeted with high fives from all of the dispatchers and one of my mentors. My rollercoaster ride was over for the time being, but I couldn’t wait till the next time. The rest of the day I was overwhelmed with the compliments from other Field vets who had heard about my first solo emergency call. While the rush from the adrenaline high was gone a couple hours later, I will never forget my first emergency call, nor will I ever forget how much support and encouragement my colleagues give to me each and every day. I am truly lucky to be riding the rollercoasters at the Hagyard theme park! =)

    Since my first emergency, I have gotten the chance to ride lots of other rollercoasters. Each and every single emergency brings about a very similar feeling to my first time. There is a sense of anticipation as I get the call, the mental exercise of running through all of the possibilities as I drive to the horse, sometimes the discussing of ideas with mentors, the excitement of treatment and the greater excitement of a positive outcome. With each and every call, each and every case, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have great patients, amazing clients and supportive mentors and staff at Hagyard.

    For the Love of the Mare

    March 21, 2013

    Mares and foals running in a field

    Mares and foals running in a field


    Dr. Ashley Craig

    Its breeding season in Central Kentucky; that magical time of year when new foals are hitting the ground and the farms are busy with the hustle of breeding horses. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that hangs in the air. As I start my first breeding season as a veterinarian, I am anticipating many adorable foals with soft noses perfect for kissing, hours in a breeding shed, a strong palpating arm, some sleepless nights, adrenaline rushes and time spent doing what I love most- practicing veterinary medicine.

    When I was in undergrad at Georgetown College, I went to work for a breeding farm. As I interviewed for the job, the broodmare manager asked why I wanted to come work there. I gave the standard answer that any younger girl would- “I love the foals”. While this statement still rings true, it doesn’t fully begin to explain what all I love about breeding farms. Foals are wonderful. Watching a healthy, energetic foal bounce around a stall or field can always put a smile on your face. But for me, my admiration, respect and affection is given to the unsung heroes of the breeding industry, the mares. These mares put up with so much and yet, they are often the kindest and most patient beings. Every year, they have a vet palpate, ultrasound, culture, re-ultrasound, and check their reproductive organs on a fairly regular basis. They are sent to the breeding sheds, where in an unfamiliar environment, they meet the future father of their next offspring. They handle the hustle and bustle of the breeding shed with ease before being loaded back onto a trailer and head to their main farm, upon which the cycle of vet checks continues until the mare is declared pregnant. If the mare is “easy” to get in foal, she will produce a foal every year. Being pregnant so frequently is what the mares are made for and what nature intended. If she were out in a herd with a stallion, a similar cycle would happen just minus the human intervention. Through all of this, the mare finds joy in her foal, and patience with the humans (and the foal!).

    Recently, during my second rotation through the McGee Medicine Center, I ran across a maiden mare, or a mare that has not had a foal previously, which demonstrated all of the qualities that I love in mares. She had just recently given birth to her first foal but the foal wasn’t doing well. The foal came into the neonatal ICU not able to stand on it’s own and having seizures. The mare followed patiently behind the techs as they carried her foal into the stall. Since some maiden mares can be a little anxious, a technician stood with the mare as the doctors worked to help her foal. The mare stood quietly occasionally nickering softly to her foal. She watched the entire time as the foal was being given the medical attention it needed. As soon as the foal was stabilized, it was propped into sternal position on a tempur-pedic mattress (yes, a memory foam bed) in the stall and covered with blankets to help to keep it warm. The tech slowly loosened her grip on the mare and let her investigate what was going on. The mare walked over gently to the foal and nickered to her new baby. She then proceeded to pull the blanket back so she could touch her baby and make sure he was all right. After investigating the foal, she then went to the IV fluid lines and nosed at them a little. Once she decided she was ok with the process, she stood next to the bed where her foal was laying and kept a watchful eye on him. As it was time to reassess the foal, I walked into the stall apprehensively, not knowing if the mare would be ok with someone handling her foal again. Instead of heading straight to the foal, I paused at momma’s head. I am a firm believer that a horse’s eye can tell you their thoughts and what they are feeling. This young mare had a kind eye with a gentle spirit radiating through her expression. As I started to kneel down to the sick foal, the mare placed her head onto my shoulder. For most horse people, this isn’t always a welcomed feeling especially when you don’t know the horse; having a horse’s mouth near such a vulnerable spot in your body can quickly turn disastrous but luckily, this mare meant me no harm, she just wanted to watch her foal. Over the several days that the mare and foal were in the NICU, the foal grew stronger and my respect for the mare became greater. She was taking to her job like a pro. She understood that the doctors and technicians were only trying to help her foal and at every turn, she demonstrated kindness to the humans and love for her foal. When the pair was finally able to head back to their farm, I shed a small tear of joy. It always great to see a baby able to overcome such sickness and its always wonderful to come across such remarkable new mothers.

    With the breeding season ramping up, I look forward to so many wonderful memories that I will be apart of. But most importantly, I look forward to spending time with the unsung hero’s of the breeding industry, the kind mares.

    The Calm Before the Storm

    February 1, 2013
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    Calm before the storm

    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.