Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Day on the Job

Today I started my first “real” job. I’ve found various ways to make money in the past—riding, training, or exercising horses, teaching barrel racing lessons, buying and selling for commission or on my own (I cleared a fair chunk of cash that way starting when I was 14), and making a bit of custom tack. But I’ve never been on an official payroll before, so I was a tad excited to get to it today.

I was hired by my neighbor the equine vet, and until the end of the school year (in just a few short weeks!) I’ll be working one day a week as a degree-less tech—holding horses, managing equipment, and just being a general lackey. This morning I arrived just as the vet and her assistant were laying down a big white-faced mustang with squamous cell carcinoma on his lower eyelid. She used a scalpel to cut out the cancerous growth, then stitched the slit closed. While she was finishing the sutures, the gelding started to wake up, dopily and clumsily heaving himself up one his feet. He was far too sedated to actually support his own weight, however, and what followed was a dangerous dance as we attempted to keep the horse under control and on the ground. The thousand pound horse staggered drunkenly, fell, scrambled, and rose again. He was making his way slowly to where the cars were parked. His legs gave way. He stumbled and crashed sideways into the front bumper of my car. No harm to vehicle or animal, surprisingly, and things eventually calmed down. The vet was pleased with the results of the surgery, but suspected that she didn’t cut out all of the growth and predicted that the horse would come back in six months to have his whole eye removed. Sad, but it beats dying of cancer.

Next was cosmetic surgery on a show horse with an old injury to his nose. When he had been young, he had sliced his nostril half off, and it had healed with a long flap hanging off to the side. The vet reopened the old wound and stitched the sides together. This surgery was followed by a few ultrasounds on recipient mares for embryo transfer, then we headed out to do a dental float on an aged Arabian mare named Rosie. She was heavily sedated, almost to the point of collapse, but still she fought the hydraulic float and it was all I could do to hold her head still, even with the weight of it supported by the overhead beam. Her mouth was a mess, and during the procedure one of her teeth fell out, accompanied by much blood. She was underweight, too, because the pain in her teeth kept her from eating like she should. Poor old girl.

Finally, we arrived back at the clinic to collect semen from a stallion and do a few more ultrasounds. Overall, it was a pretty interesting day. I learned a little, and I’m glad I found a job that I enjoy and will benefit from in terms of life/career/résumé experience.


Anonymous said...

Very full first day on the job. Are you planning on being an equine vet yourself?

Mozart said...

Well, that's the plan, anyway! I've got a long way to go, but I was the little girl who always wanted to be a vet, and save for a short interlude when I wanted to be like Ranger Rick Raccoon, I've held steady to that path. Just can't picture myself doing anything else.

ihateyoupetersmythe said...

How does one collect semen from a stallion? I honestly want to know.

ihateyoupetersmythe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mozart said...

The studs have to be trained. I’m sure you can Google it and get a much more accurate (or perhaps explicit) explanation, but here’s a quick synopsis. You can use a mare in heat to get him “excited,” and then there’s a “dummy,” or fake mare, which he mounts. Usually there’s a real mare present for him to talk to and for him to feel like he’s getting the real deal. The sperm is collected in an artificial vagina, assisted by a handler to make sure everything goes where it should. The semen can then be treated with an extender chemical, cooled or frozen, and shipped for AI into a mare across the country.

A lot of people (the vet I work for included) get a huge kick out of reproductive work. I don't know if it's an ego thing or a cute-widdle-babeh thing, but personally I'm much more interested in lameness issues than breeding.