Too early, the alarm jars me out of sleep at 5:30am. I pry myself out of bed and begin the day that promises to be anything but slow and relaxing! After heading out to the barn to pick up manure and throw hay to my own horse and goat friends, I head back inside to pack lunches, organize dinner, send my kid out the door for school and then I am finally ready to head off to work. On the drive in, I start thinking about all the things I know are on the schedule; hospitalized horses that need meds, stalls needing mucked, horses needing fed, teeth needing floated, trucks needing packed for the day, blood work that has to be sent to New York by noon, that young horse that we are going to castrate, the vaccine clinic I am setting up at that big barn down the road, the ultrasound we have to do at a barn with limited electrical power, and the stifle radiographs we have to take on that ticklish mare! By the time I get to work, I am ready to go!
I have spent my entire life living and breathing horses. Back when I was a kid, equine veterinarians basically worked alone with no supportive staff but I knew for sure I wanted to pursue an education that included both horses and medicine. Vet school was not a personal aspiration of mine so I decided to go to tech school. Aspiring technicians spend at least two years in school studying subjects ranging from anatomy, microbiology, parasitology, anesthesia, and pharmacology. The education ends with a semester of mandatory internship where I gained invaluable practical experience. Surprisingly, when I was in school, technicians were mainly utilized in small animal medicine and I was not given the option to intern at an equine hospital. In fact, there was very little focus on horses in school beyond the basics like breeds, colors and basic terminology. Happily, technician schools have opened their internship programs to include equine practices for those students who would like that experience. After earning my associates degree, I then passed a board exam that allows me to call myself a Certified Veterinary Technician (each individual state has the latitude to call licensed technicians different titles). Licenses and certifications must be maintained with continuing education. In fact, over the years, the tide has turned even to the degree that technicians are used in many of the veterinary schools and internship sites as educators for new veterinarians!
So what does a typical day look like for a technician? Our day usually starts around 7:30am when we arrive at the clinic. We attend hospitalized patients first, administering medications and performing physical exams. After that, we look at the schedule and prepare for the appointments scheduled that day, prepping equipment and medications. Throughout the day, we might take radiographs, administer medications, change bandages, assist in lameness exams, restrain horses (keep the veterinarians and owners safe!), perform laboratory procedures, place catheters, monitor colic cases, perform anesthesia for surgeries, prep injection sites, client communication & education, and too often, assisting with euthanasia. The list goes on and can be endless! Lunch is usually on the fly and the day ends when all the patients are taken care of and appointments finished.
What is the best part of being an equine veterinary technician? For me personally, of course it’s all about the horses themselves. All you horse folks understand that! Also, I very much like that there is no such thing as a typical day and every day brings something new. In my time in veterinary medicine, there have been so many advances. Digital radiography is now commonplace as is regenerative medications. Opportunities for advancement for technicians have grown far beyond working only in practices and there is hardly a veterinarian that graduates that doesn’t rely heavily on technicians for information and help. Rarely is there a day that ends in discouragement or as a “downer” and overall I think you can’t do too much better then that!