You learn things as a student; things like how a mouth speculum will be your first purchase as a vet. Unfortunately, epiphanies like these only come after some traumatic event, like watching your own blood drip off your elbow.
I was doing an independent study rotation with an ambulatory vet who worked in the Fort Collins area. He did not like floating horse teeth and I really did, so I got to do a lot of dentals during the two weeks I rode with him. Things went really well, both with hand floats and power floats, until the last day.
Doing a dental float on a horse can range from smooth and sophisticated to mostly medieval. What I like to see is a well-sedated horse standing quietly in the stocks with a full-mouth metal speculum that, though it looks like a torture device out of Saw, is safe for both horse and vet.
In reality, I may have to grab a tongue with one hand, a rasp with the other, and file away like the bejeezus. A sedate horse will stand quietly, but if it is not fully sedated, the horse will toss its head, chew, and chomp down on the file. Without a full-mouth speculum securely holding the horse’s mouth open, I have to move pretty fast and really pay attention to the position of every finger. The vet I was riding with did not own a mouth speculum.
On this particular day, I didn’t move my hand quickly enough, got caught on a sharp canine, and the blood flowed. The owner was quite concerned and rushed over, and I was thinking it was nice to get a little sympathy for once. I put on a brave face and started to tell her it was just a scratch, but was interrupted when she asked me why I made her horse bleed. She was comforted only when I told her it was my blood, and not her horse’s. A mouth speculum will definitely be an initial purchase.