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From Sperry’s to Boots: Third Year Skills

Those of you who have read my biography know that I am intensely focused on small animal medicine. I prefer Sperry Top-Siders over cowboy boots and like to wear Ray-Bans with my bow ties on game day. I grew up in the suburbs of Houston and have always been a city boy. Thanks to some family friends I was able to ride horses growing up, but I have never been keen on large animal medicine.

Well, in veterinary school, regardless of your focus, you work with everything: cats, dogs, horses, cows, birds, goats, pigs, etc. During our third year we have a skills lab where we learn the more technical aspects of veterinary medicine with actual animals. This past month I was in large animal skills. This city boy had to trade in his Sperry's for some cowboy boots. I was sure to scuff them up a little before we started skills labs so the good ol' boys wouldn't judge me too much.

Fortunately for me, they start large animal skills lab from a basic level, where we learn methods of restraint and how to put a halter on a horse and a cow. Each subsequent week we acquire new skills. A farrier in the large animal hospital taught us how to trim hooves and apply and remove shoes on an excellent hoof model. We also trimmed goat hooves and learned how to cast cows (which is basically a fancy way of saying "get them to lie down"). Blood collection is another crucial skill in veterinary medicine, and skills lab allowed us to practice blood draws from large animals of every variety. My favorite memory of large animal skills was passing a nasogastric tube in a horse, where you have one end of the tube in your mouth and the other end in the horses' stomach-a frightening thought for non-horse people.

A farrier in the large animal hospital taught us how to trim hooves and apply and remove shoes on an excellent hoof model.

I loved every minute of large animal skills and looked forward to those special four hours of my Wednesday morning that kept me out of the classroom and doing hands-on activities. It is easy to get bogged down sitting through countless hours of lecture, and at times it's easy to forget why you wanted to go to vet school in the first place. Skills lab brought things back in perspective for me and I even was able to utilize these skills I had just gained outside of the vet school. A classmate of mine has a blind horse, Fancy, and a "seeing eye goat", Rigby. Rumor has it the goat is supposed to help the horse get around…in reality, Rigby just eats a lot; he's 250 pounds and is not my biggest fan. My friend needed help trimming his hooves, so we went out to the barn and used the skills that we had just learned to take care of the job. Rigby tried to put me on the ground a few times; fortunately, I had learned appropriate restraint techniques. It also happened that the farrier was coming to trim Fancy's hooves and had caught wind of our recent skill set. Of course, he insisted on us trimming her feet that day. I was amazed at how well the model replicated trimming an actual horses' hoof and that I was able to put into practice the skills that I had just acquired.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed myself during large animal skills, I haven't changed my mind about being a large animal vet. I still belong with small animals, but I'm hopeful I won't look too foolish in the large animal hospital... then again, there is still quite a bit of time before graduation. Until next time, Gig'em!