I may have just failed vet school today.
But let me start at the beginning…
I love horses. I think they are majestic, beautiful creatures with really freaking weird skeletal structure. And, aside from the way they remind me of Guinea Pigs (prey animals who will either freeze or stampede), I stand in quiet awe of horses.
I came into school today excited for my afternoon horse practical. In anticipation, I’d spent the evening before my horse practical watching Seabiscut and crying my head off instead of reading over my lecture notes and learning objectives. Looking back on it now, this may have been my fatal error.
After lectures on ruminant limbs and a practical in which we gently wielded severed cow feet as if they were made of precious metal, it was finally time to go play with the horses.
It only took my group about 5 minutes to royally piss off our horse Rita before her ears were laid flat back and she was giving us that “touch me again, I dare you” look. We put her away and hijacked the halter of a more docile and patient horse (I called her a Teacup Clydesdale, which isn’t a real horse breed, but it was what she looked like.)
As I was going over all I could remember about a horse’s head, I decided the bump giving our Teacup Clydesdale her distinguished Roman Nose must have a name. The members in my group looked at me like I had sprouted a second head when I started thinking out loud so, I sought a second opinion from a kid in my class who seemed to know the keys to unlocking equine mysteries: TD.
I decided TD must be an expert on horses because I saw him open a horse’s mouth and heard him mumble something about wolf teeth – a term that still holds a bit of mystery to me. I assume they are similar to our wisdom teeth. I am most likely wrong.
TD was unable to confirm my suspicions that the pronounced nasal bone on our horse had a special name. He assured me I wouldn’t flunk the class because I couldn’t think of the name. I decided to let it go.
A few minutes later, when I had moved onto checking out all the joints in the horse’s forelimb, I noticed TD standing behind the horse and lifting her tail up.
He caught me staring quizzically and said, “I think this one’s foaling.”
My eyes got huge.
I asked, “How can you tell?”
TD replied, “Well, I can see the hooves poking out.”
I gasped, “Seriously!?”
He nodded, “She’ll foal tonight, is my guess.”
Suddenly, I was overcome with concern for the welfare of this beautiful animal standing before me. I looked at her with a critical eye and noticed she did seem a bit fatter than the other horses and she was just so quiet! Was she in that much pain that all she could do is stand stoically and allow vet students to practice lifting her leg up and putting it down and lifting it up and putting it down and lifting it up again? That didn’t seem very horse-like to me, but what do I know about horses? It’s been decades since I earned my equine merit badge as a girl scout….plus, she had enjoyed walking around in a circle and I think pregnant ladies really like doing stuff like that when they are in labor.
I briefly considered running up to tell the instructor, but, I decided I wanted to take a peek at the foal for myself first. Thank goodness. Not rushing up to my professor might have been the best decision I made all day.
I nervously approached the hind quarters and looked to TD, “She really won’t mind if I lift up her tail and take a peek? You can really see the baby foal!?” After watching a farmer shoulder-deep in sow pull out 3 piglets the other day, I was excited to once again witness the miracle of life unfold before my eyes.
TD smiled and nodded, in what I interpreted as a friendly and excited manner. The miracle of life really can bring out the best in people.
Just as I was reaching for the tail, the tiny part of my brain devoted to rational thinking commandeered all the neurons in my body. I froze, turned back to TD and asked, “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”
He was laughing so hard, he could barely confirm my suspicion: he was so totally pulling my leg.
We all got a good laugh about it, especially the other girls in my group who stood back and silently watched the whole scene unfold like a slow motion train wreck they were powerless to stop. I congratulated TD on tricking me, the most gullible and trusting person in the class. I may have even shrieked, “YOU LIED TO MY FACE,” before coming to my senses and realizing that shrieking for any reason around horses is pretty much never appropriate. Especially if you are about to grab their tail and look for a crowning foal. You’re just too close to the back legs.
Still, I shudder at the thought of my equestrian comrades reading this post….