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Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I have a neuro test on Friday.  I should be studying.  Instead, I'm going to write a humongous post in which I'm going to strive to get caught up on the million rough drafts sitting in my journal software that I use to manage draft posts. 

1.  Only 300 more posts before I can officially declare google reader bankrupty, click "mark all read" and start over.  Get to writing people! 

2.  ROM - In all likelyhood I am NOT going to Rides of March least not on Farley.  I'm still going to support Funder and get my butt out to a real endurance ride so that my motivation can remember how much FUN it is.....With the weather that has come in, I haven't gotten the miles in on Farley that I should have and I just don't want to risk it.  Now......I wouldn't say no to a mount for ROM.....if you know someone, or have a horse and want to help out a ride-starved vet student!

3.  Last year in March I posted on dealing with the stress of vet school.  A current vet student commented that it was really hard to say whether this sort of advice was useful, because I wouldn't actually know until I was in vet school what it was going to be like until I was there.....I made a commitment to go back and revisit the advice once I was a vet student and make a judgement.....and let me tell you, that person from SDN was a freakin' genius.  At least for me in this curriculum they are SPOT ON.  I would probably be more productive and feel less stressed right now it I hadn't skipped working out for the last 2 weeks, and started skipping meals again.  Up until ~2 weeks ago I was REALLY good about following this advice and then fell off the wagon.  Time to get back on - the 10 steps to a happier and less-stressed vet student really are true. 

4.  Do you have a purpose driven horse?  I read an interesting article over a year ago (this is how long this topic has been a draft....) about certain horses being "purpose-driven", versus those who aren't, and how that can determine which sports they enjoy and really excel in.  Farley is a purpose driven horse.  She sees the trail, the vet check, the horses in front of her and takes over the endurance ride as her job.  She LOVES jumping - she sees the jump, she wants to go over the jump.  She enjoyed working calves in the roundpen.  Now let's talk about things she does not enjoy or has very little motivation for: dressage, random circles, repeats, patterns of any kind, showmanship.....The article stated that purpose driven horses tend to excel at sports where they can clearly see the object of attention - such as cutting, endurance riding, jumping.  Horses that are less purpose driven may enjoy dressage and other more "abstract" sports.  I hadn't thought of categorizing horses in this way, and it was very interesting to consider the implications.

5.  What was your hardest concept to learn in equitation?  Apparently I had an idea of what mine was, since at the time I put this question into my drafts I was taking regular lessons and remember having quite the epiphany....too bad I can't remember what it was......I think one of the most memorable concepts that took me YEARS to figure out was that gaits in the horse are NOT like gears in the car.  For example, if I wanted to get a horse to canter from a trot, I would "kick the horse forward" into the gait, going faster and faster until the horse "shifted".  A major revelation was that a gait change was a FOOT PATTERN CHANGE, not necessarily a speed change.  Yes, a speed change could, and usually did occur, but it was not a prerequisite or a necessary part of that gait change.  You were asking the horse to do something different with his feet, and use his body differently.  I think I saw it mostly clearly on a jump course at a cavalry competition.  Some competitors were going around the course at a nice canter, others trotted, and others trotted but really wanted to canter - so they kept going faster and faster, rushing the jumps, trying to get their horse to canter.

6.  The importance of a stable.  I was at a boot fitting several months ago that was at a boarding stable.  As I stood there on a Saturday morning and watched everyone around me interacting, getting their horses ready, and socializing - I realized how much I miss that dynamic, and how much that dynamic really motivated me to ride on a regular basis.  Nowadays I show up at Farley's pasture and instead of riding I find other horse-related chores to do.  There's no one to share the excitement or wonder of riding, and that "air" or "feeling" I get walking into a barn isn't there.  I find myself making excuses - it's too windy, or too cold, or getting dark.  Things that wouldn't have stopped me before.  I'll probably end up boarding again in the near future (the pasture she's in will likely not be available past this summer) and I've certainly appreciated some of the management things I've been able to do with the total control I have.  Until I do have access to a stable and regular access to other riders, I need to go riding with people and trailer out to places that will motivate me.  On Sunday I get to go riding with a local reader and see some new trails!

7.  Stupid questions.  THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A STUPID QUESTION.  This of course, came from vet school.  In order to determine whether your question is stupid, and keep people like me from having to breathe deeply and eat copious amounts of chocolate while you waste 136 other people's time with your question.....please ask yourself the following - Can you look it up in a book?  You should ask questions:
-To clarify uncertainties in the literature or get an opinion
-To get help developing a system to order a complex set of ideas.
There ARE such things as “stupid questions” - these questions enable continued ignorance and stupidity because there is no cognitive effort required by the asker.  Feel free to ask if you don’t understand…BUT recognize that if you have not put forth any effort to answer the question yourself before turning to the oh so convient professor in front of you, you are doing yourself (and those around you) a disservice.  This originally was going to be an entire post rant.  Aren't you glad I was able to constrain myself to a single paragraph?

8. So you want to be a vet ….and you are a small animal person.  Want to leave a good impression on your non-small animal professors and fellow collegues?  Follow this very simple advice.  Food animals are not dogs.

Sheep, goats, cows, horses (which cross the line reguarly between pet and livestock) - Here's the thing about these animals.  *Most* of these species are stressed out by petting and human contact.  As a general rule don’t “mess” with the food animals until it necessary for your physical exam.  While the occasional one may like to be scratched under the chin, in general, they want their space, and if you are the 3rd group to rotate to the calf station in the span of 2 hours, don't hang on them like they are an oversized Fluffy.  Some horses may be a cuddle-bug just like your sweetie pie back at your stable - but recognize that MANY horses that come into the clinic or that are used for palpation/physical exam labs are NOT.  It's best to error on the side of a caution and have a hands off approach.  Another clue is to look at your client or the animal caretaker - are they casually petting the sheep?  Hanging on the horse?  Scratching the calf's back?  Most likely no - a food animal that is being seen by a vet is mostly likely injured, sick, and not feeling good, and isn't going to want to be continuously touched. 

Part of being an animal lover is to read and respect the animals mental wellbeing.  I can't tell you how many times I've had to witness in an exam room a clueless student who can't keep their hands off Fluffy, even though the exam is done.  I'm not sure if they are still physically touching the animal because it makes THEM feel better, if they think the animal likes it - but considering that the animal is trying to move away and just finished trying to bite the tech during the ear exam, and is obviously uncomfortable with overt affection, it's not appropriate.

In general, I think you can't go wrong with a hands off approach, unless you know the animal well.

9.  Due to the "technical" nature of today's society, a LOT goes on in school about what is appropriate to post and what isn't.  There was a lot of talk about "transparency" at the beginning of the fall term and some people felt that the rules that the school imposes about posting pictures etc in public places is retrictive and limits the transparency of the process.  In some ways it's frustrating to hear the back and forth because it seems obvious to me.  I've had a substantial online presence for a couple of years and I've never posted anything I've regreted, or that caused lasting harm to my reputation or career.  The rules that I follow seem obvious and common sense....but then I remember how scary it was when I started this blog - I REALLY didn't want my full name associated with my blog and I obsessively checked that it wasn't for months.  Here's my personal blogging rules that have served me well:
-Keep it focused
-Consider your overall goal/breadth and your specificity level.
-Wait a week if you aren’t sure.  If you still aren’t sure, don’t say it.
-Think really hard before burning bridges.
-Keep it civil and professional.  That doesn’t mean you can’t say controversial things.  Or be honest.  Or disagree.
-Be as transparent as possible.

10.  Endurance prepares one very well for vet school.  I think that would be true of any strenuous activity worth doing.....the focus, commitment, overcoming failure, the feeling of success, stress management, getting lucky, getting unlucky, reevaluating your beliefs and principles often (is it still working?  Is there something I'm missing), problem solving, having contingency plans, know how to put your nose to the wheel and pushing that last iota of effort into something worthwhile.....all that and more.  Before endurance came along I don't think there was anything else I wanted to do bad enough that I was willing to push through even the really hard stuff.   Maybe agility people feel the same way, or those people that do motorcross, or who quilt, or a myriad of other stuff.  For me, vet school would not be as rich an experience if it wasn't for the time I spent on the back of a horse on the endurance trail.  (Doesn't this sound like a rough draft of an AERC article?  It's on my list to write one.....eventually).

I think 10 topics is enough for now.  It may have to last your for a couple of days until I get past my test, so make sure you savor it!  More posts to come.....(only 21 draft posts left...)


  1. I love the bit about purpose-driven horses. Two of our three have been that way, especially when it comes to trail/endurance. Give them tsomething to do that makes sense and hasa specific purpose and they'll be happy horses. Aimless circles in an arena for half an hour? No, thanks. Interesting, it's the two mares that have been that way. Independent mare thing versus goofy, eager-to-please gelding thing?

  2. Why do you write like 7 good topics in one post? Fffff!

    2 - I hope you find a horse! I'm going to keep training exactly like I've been doing :) I made a lot of excuses til I finally wrote out the rides I needed, in ink, on my calendar.

    5 - Heh, ride a gaited horse. Dixie can do at least five gaits in the 7-10 mph range now. I've got a canter cue and a "do something else please" cue but that's about it.

    9 - hahah I was the same way. Facebook + blog was a huge scary step for me. I don't actually have codified rules; I just think "how would this look if someone who hated me reposted it five years from now?"

  3. And just think! There were a total of 21 topics I skipped over because I just couldn't bear to only talk about them for a paragraph and I REALLY want to do a full post on them....

    PREplanning my rides. What a concept. I may ahve to try that. As funny as it seems, I've NEVER done that! I think I see a hole in my training.....

  4. Leave it to a busy vet student to come up with a great idea - the multi-topic, catch-up post. =) Love it!

  5. Love the purpose-driven horse idea. I wonder though: I'm a purpose-driven human, I like a destination, a job, I can't sit still much. How much of that transfers to my horse? I wrote about it a couple weeks ago, and you put it much better!

    And the stable is nice...sometimes. There is always some drama at the smallest barn, but I just try to stay out of it. Still nice to catch a ride with a friend though.

  6. Great equestrian blog - why not come and post it over at for more to follow? Be great to have you there!


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