Abdominal palpation per rectum of horses is not a skill that typically gets developed overnight. I should know — I have spent the last two weeks palpating mares for an hour each morning trying to master the blind art, and I still feel lost. The first time I tried, I felt nothing but the mare squeezing hard on my poorly developed arm muscles. The only two things I could identify were:
1) I was indeed arm deep inside of a mare’s rectum, and
2) I was, indeed, feeling soft tissue…things.
As the first week progressed, I was able to better identify some of the more salient features of the mare’s reproductive tract, including the cervix and occasionally an ovary. I initially started with my dominant arm, since I am much more dexterous with my right than with my left, in an effort to ease the difficulty associated with palpating. Halfway through the second week, after I thought I had found the left ovary about three times as often as I could correctly identify the right ovary, I switched to my left arm. At the beginning of my third week of palpating mares, one of the clinicians asked me to mentor a second-year student as she performed her first palpation. It was amazing to me how much I could describe and teach the second-year student, even as an amateur myself. Of course, the clinician was standing nearby to answer any questions the student had that I was unable to answer. For the most part, however, I would like to think that I was pretty helpful!