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 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.


    December 18, 2012

    Dr. Ashley Craig

    The American Association of Equine Practitioners holds an annual convention that practitioners and students alike can attend. The location rotates every year and the convention always seems to offer fun mixed in with great educational opportunities. As an intern, I got the privilege of attending the convention in Anaheim, California next door to Disneyland!

    “Amazing”- is the only word that I can use to sum up the whirlwind four days that I spent at the AAEP convention. I flew out to California on Friday afternoon. Luckily, a fellow Tuskegee graduate and friend was on the same flight as me, so she and I got to catch up as we flew cross-country. Upon landing, I met up and caught a taxi with fellow Twitter friend- Dr. Nathan Voris. It was nice to spend the cab ride to the hotel discussing his job, my internship and the ins and outs of veterinary medicine. Parting ways at the hotel, I luckily got to meet up with my brother who drove down through L.A. traffic to have dinner with me. After spending some quality time with my older sibling, I headed straight to bed because I had an early start the next morning!

    One of the main reasons I got to attend the AAEP Convention was due to my position on the Student Relations Committee. The AAEP has an executive board, board of directors and several committees that help direct the organization. The Student Relations Committee is involved in directing the student AAEP chapters at veterinary schools, providing the short courses at the schools, choosing scholarship winners, and handling most student related programming. Last year, I was chosen as one of two students to join the committee. As a strong believer in organized veterinary medicine, I was honored to be a part of not only the AAEP but also a committee.

    Walking into the meeting, I took a look around and was excited to see three board of directors attending; students are important to the future of the profession! The agenda was detailed but the meeting went smoothly and ultimately the discussions were educational and important decisions made. Once the committee meeting was over, the discussions continued. I got to sit down with friend and mentor, Dr. Betsy Charles, for further talks relating to students, programming and also catching up on each other’s lives. What was supposed to just be a coffee turned into a three-hour conversation, which only ended because our other obligations started. It was a great time catching up with a great friend and someone who I respect greatly. That evening I headed off to spend the evening with two amazing ladies from the clinic, Nicole and Jamie. It was so enjoyable to spend time with these two friends away from the hustle and bustle of the clinic while also roaming around and socializing with other veterinarians and friends.

    As Sunday started, the opening ceremonies and the keynote speaker officially started the educational part of the convention. With my fellow Hagyard’s field care doctors, Dr. Ernie Martinez and Dr. Stuart Brown, we tweeted the important messages from every meeting that we attended (follow us on twitter! We are entertaining and educational!). With a calendar full of educational topics, hot button issues and round table discussions, I bounced from room to room to absorb as much information as possible. Sunday and Monday were filled with information and flew by. Sunday afternoon, I got to attend the student luncheon and meet several members of the AAEP executive board. The chance to discuss issues in depth with the leaders of the industry was a once in a lifetime chance. That evening, I got to attend the Avenues event where students roam around and network with practices from across the country. Speaking with students about my internship, Hagyard and passing along my personal advice to them, was a great time. Meeting future equine practitioners is always enjoyable and working at such a great practice where I get amazing experiences made speaking with students even more fun! As a special treat after Avenues, I got to spend some time at Disneyland, courtesy of Pfizer, with Dr. Wolfsdorf, theriogenologist at Hagyard. It was a night of fun, enjoyment and the kid in me coming out.

    After another day of exciting lectures and more networking, I finished the evening having dinner with several doctors from the practice. All too soon, it was time for me to board the plane and resume my duties in the field. So while I have described the convention as “Amazing”, one word doesn’t justify the time I had at the convention. While the education and committee meetings were very beneficial, I firmly believe that the greatest part of the convention, for me, was the networking opportunities. The chance to meet practitioners from all over the country, speak with the leaders of the equine veterinary world, and widen my network was the greatest part of the AAEP convention. Even though the jet lag hit hard once I hit Kentucky, I wouldn’t trade my time in California for anything. I came back even more determined to make my mark on the equine veterinary world. As I continue working, I hope to apply the lessons and knowledge that I acquired in my short time at the AAEP convention.