I wrote a post about failure just shy of one year ago. Don’t let that fool you, as I have had failures since then. Some of them just hit you harder. This story’s failure is not a life ending one, but it could be career ending for this horse. I cannot tell you his name, but I can tell you that he was a gorgeous Warmblood who was undergoing a procedure to put his heart back in the right rhythm. The doctor was confident. Less than 10% of horses do not correct. The trainer was excited that this horse should be able to continue to perform at high intensity. The owner was calm and prepared for all scenarios. I was excited for the experience and to help this team get back to work.
And then, he was part of that 10%. The procedure was not successful. We gave it the most effort we could, but it just did not work. I was disappointed. The owner was quite sad. The trainer was in disbelief. But the doctor took it really hard. I did not notice it so much when we were in the barn. I caught up with her at the end of the day, and she said she felt like she failed everyone. I was not prepared to hear that. It never crossed my mind that she would take it so personally. She was very experienced. She understands science. Not all horses can be cured. I asked her if she compartmentalizes, or if she takes that home with her. She said she takes it home with her every time.
In that moment, there was nothing to say. This is the job. People love this job, and they invest 100% of themselves into it. I think we have this false perception. If a procedure works, it was luck, science, and skill: in that order. If a procedure doesn’t work, it is primarily our lack of skill. There was something we should have done differently, or something we should have thought of. Likely, we will never know the “something.” I am not sure if I will ever understand why we put so much pressure on ourselves. It is very easy to see why this profession suffers so much burnout. We really need to support one another and remember the “cures, fixes, and saves.”