Oh, my first blog post in so terribly long. I started a blog when I was in my first year of undergraduate, and was quite devoted to it for about... 20 weeks or so? Then life happened and I quit blogging and felt like a fresh start was needed. This site is intended to document my education, journey, and just overall life beside horses (And other equids, not to exclude anybody). It is mostly for me, as a tool for reflection; however, if my experiences are of interest or are any help to somebody else - how wonderful would that be.
So, this will be a long one as I document (somewhat briefly) the past 22 years of my life (okay, not quite 22 years, I will be 22 next month) in respect to how they have gotten me to this exact point in my life. This exact point of my life is a few days before beginning winter quarter of my fourth year of undergraduate, 6 months before graduation, 10 days after losing my great horse, Dante, several months before starting my applications to veterinary school, and four days before starting at the UC Davis Horse Barn as a stallion manager. 2018 is going to be a huge year for me.
My love for animals is something I have had since birth. I have always felt deep connection to them and have always felt I understand them better than I understand human beings. When I was 18 months old, my uncle got my family a teeny grey and white tabby kitten, who we named Cosmo Kramer. We loved each other and did everything together. There is not one family photo album from the late 90s/early 00s that doesn't have a photograph of me and Cosmo together. From him, I learned the importance and strength of the human/animal bond. From Kindergarten I have art projects and "about me" posters that say "I want to be a vet when I grow up" with drawings of Cosmo next my shaking writing. I lost Cosmo to renal failure in March of 2012, which really was my first animal loss. I found solace in writing, as I often do, and channeled the pain of losing my dear kitty into my college admission personal statement. To this day, I still cry reading it, and I attribute that piece of writing to be much of the reason I was accepted into UC Davis. I also discovered in losing him, that letting go of our animals can be a beautiful thing when it is their time. I had no idea at the time how important the concept of animal loss would become to me.
Now backing up in time a bit to when horses came into my life.
In January 2006, I had read every book in the school library on horses. Horse history, horse colors, and horse breeds, I knew it all. So I thought, at least. Appaloosas were my favorite. I begged my parents to let me ride horses for my 10th birthday party, something I had never done. They begrudgingly agreed, probably knowing once I started there would be no turning back. They weren't wrong. Like almost every little girl, I dreamt of horses. I dreamt of their power and grace, of their manes flowing as they ran and their coats gleaming in the sunlight. I dreamt of their hoof beats pounding as they ran together in rhythm. But I also dreamed of a friend - one to snuggle my nose into the neck of and breathe in their sweet aroma of hays and grains, one to follow me throughout my life, and to be my noblest companion.
I rode horses weekly and had a few that were really wonderful. Two of them being Ally and Sebastian. Sebastian was like my "dream horse", a black appaloosa gelding with a blanket. He was a lovely boy and built thickly, like a warmblood. In November of 2006, I began leasing an OTTB (off track thoroughbred) named Sunny. Sunny and I had a great and long enduring friendship. He was so gentle and kind to me, but also reprimanded me when my riding was too atrocious for him to bear. Sunny retired in 2008, and he was moved to a retirement facility. Later, he ended up coming out of retirement and lived to the ripe age of 29.
So, in 2008 after Sunny retired, Dante came into my life. My love for Dante cannot be expressed in words, and is something I just deeply feel. It is the strongest and most pure love I have ever known, and I hope for every person to experience something like it. I couldn't write enough about our time together or the things we did or accomplished together, but he greatly influenced the person I am today. Dante was put to rest 12/26/2017, but I know he is still with me and will be with me always. He was the horse who made my dreams come true, and was my noblest companion for a decade.
He was also the reason I have an incredible passion for geriatric care of horses. Although not recognized as a specialization by the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners), being fluent in the care of geriatric horses is what I want to do. Helping horse owners with end-of-life decisions and care is something I feel I was meant to do. These animals give so much, and being able to help them at the end of their life is something I feel so connected to. I believe that horses understand intent, and being able to send them to heaven/their next life/whatever you believe in with love is something I know I would be, dare I say, great at. (Maybe a bit morbid, I know).
So, on that personal note, what other experiences have I had thus far? I will write about them below in the most chronological (or just logical) of order possible.
In my first year of college, I was an intern and then a student employee for the UC Davis Center for Equine Health (CEH), and gained loads of experience there. This internship I started just by emailing the supervising veterinarian at the time. I was invited for an interview and then scheduled for 8 hours of internship/week. Later, almost anybody was able to become an intern and interviews weren't required or even asked, which was lame, but I am still grateful for the experience of the interview they gave me. The experiences I had at CEH included: professional rounds, graining, giving oral medications, giving IM injections, drawing blood from the transverse facial vein and jugular, taking TPR, doing lameness evaluations, body condition scoring, standing wraps, hoof poultices and wraps, wound cleaning and wrapping, SPL treatments, feeding, cleaning stalls, tractor driving, gator driving, and hauling horses. I was also able to handle stallions and foals as well as work in the quarantine center. The quarantine center is used to house horses imported from Europe and other countries. Working in quarantine, I was exposed to entrance exams and videos, stallion hygiene, teasing mares, packing and culturing mares for CEM, and assisting veterinarians with exams. A few other special experiences I had at CEH included giving medical bathing treatments to a mare for a dermatitis, monitoring a mare with acute laminitis, and monitoring and severely malnourished (BCS score of 1) horse and aiding in his return to a normal diet and exercise.
From my experience there and my relationship with my supervisor, I was also able to join in several research studies throughout my 2nd and 3rd year of college. The two most notable studies including Dr. Sharon Spier's cornyebacterium study (Pigeon Fever) as well as Dr. Emily Berryhill's maropitant study. (I love both of these ladies, and am so thankful for the role they have played in my life!)
Also in my first year of college, I received my first college job at the UC Davis Equestrian Center. Dante lived there, so it just seemed natural to work where I could say "hi" to my bub a few times each shift. I started there in May of 2015 as a Barn Supervisor, and a few months later trained to be a Facility Attendant and work in the office. In January of 2017, I was asked to join on as a Riding Instructor by Holly Fox which has been the most wonderful of the three experiences. I love to teach and even got to pioneer two new classes that I wrote the syllabuses for! I am still an employee at the EQC, but had to cut down my hours pretty greatly the past few quarters. I am hoping to continue to teach until I graduate.
In late 2016, Dante moved to Winterhaven Sporthorse Centre, a dressage barn in Davis. To afford it, I worked there feeding, blanketing and occasionally filling in as a barn manager. I learned a few things while working at WSC, but the job kept me busier than I would have liked. I moved Dante back to the EQC in August of 2017 after deciding that I didn't want to work there any longer due to all my other commitments.
In the early months of 2017, with absolutely no experience in equine reproduction, I decided to get in touch with Dr. Mary Scott after seeing her post on Aggie Job Link (an online source of job postings in Davis). Dr. Scott is a board certified equine theriogenologist. After an email with my resume attached, Dr. Scott said she would like to meet me. I went out and met her in March of 2017 and helped her with a mare exam and began regularly interning for her twice a week through the beginning of summer. Once summer began, I was less regular, just helping her out when she needed it. I got to witness many things which I didn't think I would get to experience until veterinary school: stallion management, hygiene, collection, semen evaluation, semen cooling, freezing, and shipping, artificial insemination, pregnancy checks, embryo transfers, and more. My experience with Dr. Scott was wonderful and came to an end towards the end of the summer when breeding season was over. She is an incredible veterinarian with the greatest attention to detail and a soft hand with the horses. I was lucky to work aside her.
In May of 2017 ,I wanted to do something a little different and decided to apply for and join the Tucker Laboratory and study dairy cattle behavior. The internship started out as something that I was going to just do for the summer, and ended up being something I continued through fall quarter and finished in December. I worked on a study looking at heat stress in dairy cattle, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing. I spent about 15 hours/week at the UC Davis Dairy over the summer studying the cattle, and then September-December spent my time in the lab watching videos of the cows and recording behaviors on an Excel sheet. Although I am done working on the project, I met some really neat people and have a renewed interest in welfare. I am looking forward to the paper(s) that get published from the research we did! This experience really opened my eyes to possibly getting a Masters prior to going to veterinary school - in equine welfare possibly?
Next adventure - at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH)! I applied to be a B Barn Nurse and was hired a week later as a fourth year veterinary student fill-in. At my interview, I had the option of the position I took, barn nurse, or an ICU technician. ICU technician, although it would have been incredible, seemed too much for me at the time so I decided to be the veterinary student fill-in. I started training really close to September 1st and got to do loads of cool things. I now work on call several nights per week for emergencies. Every night I have worked I have been in for a colic, and have got to experience helping with placing catheters, NG tubing, rectal exams, abdominal ultrasounds, belly taps, and euthanasia. It has been an incredible experience thus far and I am so lucky to be a part of the VMTH team. I hope to continue working at the VMTH until I begin veterinary school.
Missing riding and having thought about it forever (like, for two years, not really forever) I decided to start volunteering with CANTER California in Davis in October of 2017. CANTER stands for the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses. It has also been such a great experience. I have met some lovely horses, all of whom I hold very dearly in my heart, and some amazing people! I am looking forward to being a part of CANTER for a very long time - as long as they'll have me! (This Davis town has really wrapped itself around me)
Finally, my latest adventure is the stallion manager position at the UC Davis Horse Barn. The horse barn takes on a few stallion managers and foal managers each year, and I initially wanted to be a foal manager. However, that position required overnight care for the mares, and with my on call schedule at the hospital, it wasn't possible for me. With some confidence from my experience with Dr. Scott I decided to apply for the stallion manager position and got an interview. My interview was with Kelli Davis, the horse barn manager, Dr. Amy McLean, donkey/mule extraordinaire, and Dr. Michael Mienaltowski, my animal metabolism professor. Although I felt my interview went completely terrible (it was so embarrassing - I knew the answers to nearly nothing), I was offered the position to be a 2018 stallion manager. I will get to work with AQHA stallion Dun Walla Walla or mammoth jack Action's Protege. Only a few more days until we start!
Now that I am caught up, I will try to keep this updated weekly - and add pictures!