I remember the first time I assisted a veterinarian in Vermont with joint injections. We drove to a small, beautiful stable on a quiet spring day. We walked into the quiet barn and found our patient, who was eyeing us with obvious skepticism. I bet he remembered all of the signs that “the vet was coming,” and he may have been a bit nervous. Luckily, a bit of sedation convinced him that we were OK. Now it was time to proceed with some injections in his hocks.
My role was fairly minimal, but I tried to look like I knew what was going on. While I sterilely prepped the injection sites, I tried to keep up with the seemingly ridiculous names of the many joints that comprise the hock. It seemed like a jumble of semi-familiar words to me. Tarsocrural joint, proximal intertarsal joint….I nodded and tried to keep an expression of interest and understanding even though I was relatively unfamiliar with the anatomy.
I especially remember trying to work out what the heck the difference was between blood spavin, osteoarthritis, and spavin in general. I still shake my head at some of these umbrella terms, but hey, it is equine tradition after all. I put up with and embrace it.
Regardless, I now think back on these memories fondly, because I am now in an equine anatomy course. By the end of the course, we will have thoroughly studied the entire anatomy of the horse (and donkey!). All of those hock joints that used to baffle me now seem like second nature. Their biomechanics make sense when thinking of the morphology of the limb and the dynamic movement that the equine hindlimb has to do.
Thinking about someday injecting these joints or addressing lameness issues in them now seems much less intimidating to me. This reinforces my sense of awe in the ability of our minds to understand a structure so differently over time. It is a reminder to me that “climbing the ladder” in veterinary medicine involves time. I have always believed that there is no alternative path other than hours and hours of invested time when learning how to practice medicine. As I progress through veterinary school, I believe in this idea of time and exposure more and more every day.