Riding in an Ambulance

· Cows, Diseases, Horses, Treatments, volunteer

This post is not as scary as the title suggests. In my past post I made brief mention that I had gotten some experience at the beginning of the summer. This is me going more in-depth with the experience.

After making several phone calls to try and find a shadowing position I called one veterinarian that invited me on the spot to ride with him the next day. After a very early start to my morning and a forty five minute drive I arrived and Dr. S’s abode just a smidge before 8am. A very clean house guarded by some cuddly Boarder Collies, Dr. S’s was saying goodbye to his wife as we hopped in his truck. At first or exchanges were awkward and quiet. Asking the general questions of where are you from, what is your plan in life, where did you go to school etc. Shortly after we started driving we came up to the first appointment.

It was a rich women’s dream retirement home with a pasture full of senior horses. The visit was routine with a nasal injected strangles vaccine. There was one particular horse not feeling well and Dr. S offered to take a blood sample. The horse was not comfortable with needles and required a twitch to sit still.  After we left the horses I started to flood him with questions. I started with questions I had gotten wrong during the interview for vet school.

Dr. S told me the major vaccinations of cow are IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV, Lepto, Blackleg, other Clostridia’s, Pink Eye, Vibriosis, Histophilus Somni, Manheimia Haemolytica, Brucellosis, E. Coli, Coronavirus, and Rotavirus (yeah it’s a lot.) We also discussed vaccinations for horses and how Tetanus, Eastern/Western Equine, West Nile Virus, Rabies are the core while Anthrax, Botulism, Equine Herpesvirus, Equine Virual Arteritis, Influenza, Potomac  Horse Fever, Rotavirus, and strangles are risk based vaccinations.

A good publication to study can be found here:


It provides a simplified version of cattle vaccination schedules and its best to figure out when optional vaccines become necessary. An example Anaplasmosis causes mild cold symptoms but results in lower production. However Anaplasmosis is mostly located in the north east, cattle located in Montana have very low risk.

I also asked him about industrial trends in how through better breeding a major portion of his business was lost because cattle had better ease of birthing. His business also shifted towards education and helping ranchers make a herd management systems that were appropriate for the individual’s herd. Along the ride I was able to experience a number of exciting things. After the first round of horses we moved into the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park to a horse housing and breeding facility. There I made friends with a foal while the ultra sound was prepped and a horse was brought into the stall. We observed four horse’s ovaries all in their different states of estrus.

After leaving the horses I finally got some hands on experience wrestling a bull. The Angus in question had a rather sour wound on his front hoof. Already in the process of healing we were there merely for a rewrap. After a shot of Rombin and an interesting series of rope knots along the bull’s body we pulled the beast down. Dr. S pulled away the old bandage to see a good looking scab forming and went to clean it. The bull decided it was time to get up just as Dr. S was about to wrap its foot. This happened about six or seven more times before Dr. S gave another dose of Rombin right in the jugular and finally subdued the bovine. In all this dust I was the assistant that elevated the foot and jumped for safety every time the bull tried to rise again (as per Dr. S’s instructions).

The final event was an unplanned visit to an elderly retired women at her little estate and her two old horses. Her riding horse was not walking right and seemed to be painful after some light riding. Strangely this was the most exciting part. I had learned about lameness exams with the use of hoof testers and nerve blocks in my equine management program but had never seen it in life. It was surprising to see the small differences in the horse could be barely be observed and yet it was indeed rather lame. Hoof testers resulted in nothing, the nerve block proved the problem was in the hoof. Conclusion: an internal abscess. Treatment: Epson salt bath for ten days or till affect is reached with the abscess popping right out of the top.