Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I'm on large animal emergency right now. I love it so far. The hours are a little annoying (7pm-midnight or later, usually). But I love the one-on-one time with the animals. It's quiet, the lights are dimmed, they're sleepy and cuddly. We do walk-bys every hour and any treatments that need done throughout the night. Last night I spent 10 minutes holding a hot pack against a sweet little Arabian mare's shoulder, and feeding her treats and scratching her neck.

While I was in Nashville camping with Don a few weeks ago, I picked up some apple molasses horse treats at a dog treat bakery there. I used to buy treats from them all the time for my rats. They were crazy for the peanut butter blueberry cookies and the cheese sticks. But these apple molasses treats smell *heavenly*. The other brands I've ever given to horses, although the horses love them, smell like Milk Bones. Just bland and uninteresting. These smell like oatmeal cookies fresh from grandma's kitchen. Every horse I've ever given one to has started nickering and bobbing their head enthusiastically.

I just love horses. The sweet, musky smell of a horse barn is one of my strongest olfactory triggers for a feeling of calm and well being. When I was working at Purdue, one of my responsibilities was husbandry for the horses. I'd clean out anywhere from 6-23 stalls every day. I got really comfortable shoving horses around in a cramped stall without fear. I had those horses trained well, too. They didn't get hay until they backed into the far corner of their stall. Anyone trying to crowd me or bump the hay out of my hands got the stall door closed in their face. I don't tolerate bratty behavior from an animal that can kill me with one kick. Most of them would move to the back corner if they saw me coming with hay. The rest would usually only take one, firm "Back!" and they'd move. Occasionally I got a butthead or two who needed work. Then, after I was done cleaning, everyone got a quick scratch and a cuddle before I moved to the next stall. And afterward, if there was time, I'd brush them out, pick their hooves, feed them treats and love on them. Those were my babies. They were research horses, usually a terminal study, so they were euthanized at the end of their time. But I did my best to make sure their remaining days were happy, and all of my coworkers did, too.

And I swear, if I'd had the money or the ability to board him, I'd have adopted Bo. He was undoubtedly *my* horse. Bit a few other people, because he was a stall sour jerk. But we had one day where he tried to bite me, and I yanked his head down by his halter and made it very clear that I was not afraid of him, and from that moment on that horse loved me. He'd poke his head out and follow my every move in the barn, and lean against me for cuddles while I cleaned his stall. I still miss him.

But I don't want to go into equine practice. I've seen enough of my classmates who started out with a strong equine focus and switched to small animal to know that I'd burn out fast if I even considered it. They all say the same thing; they love to ride, have loved horses all their lives, but equine medicine made them hate horses because all you ever see is horses close to death, in pain, aggressive or scared. So I'll stick to cuddles and kisses and treats.


  1. The sweet, musky smell of a horse barn seems so good....................
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