Woodside Equine Clinic is a horse-only hospital located in Ashland, VA. The veterinarians are available for emergency care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You probably haven’t thought about what happens at a horse hospital, but every day is something new and different.

At 1 am, a horse we will call “George” arrives at the clinic with colic. George did not eat his dinner and later started nipping at his sides. His owners walked him to try to ease the discomfort. George attempted to lie down and roll due to the pain and his owners loaded him on the trailer to take him to the hospital. The Woodside surgeon, Dr. Jonathan Hirsch, performs an examination including blood-work, a rectal exam and an abdominal ultrasound on George. A tube is passed through George’s nose to his stomach to relieve pressure caused by fluid and gas. Horses cannot vomit like humans and can rupture their stomach if it becomes too distended. Luckily, his colic was caught early and can be treated medically. He will not need to go into surgery. They put a catheter in a vein in his neck to deliver fluids and medication, and take him to his stall in the hospital barn. George is feeling better already and is greeted by his neighbor Lady who is being fasted in preparation for elective orthopedic surgery in the morning. George is hooked up to fluids; he will need 20-30 liters during his stay. Between 2 am and 5, the intern doctors keep an eye on George, monitoring his comfort, heart rate, abdominal sounds, and more as well as make sure all the other hospitalized patients are stable. The doctors get some rest when they can, but prepare themselves for another busy day starting at 6 am for morning treatments!

Treatments involve a full physical exam on each patient. The doctor takes vitals, listens to hearts and lungs, gastrointestinal sounds, feel digital pulses and monitor hydration status. The patients that can eat are fed according to their individual dietary plan and stalls are cleaned. As part of her preparation for surgery this morning, Lady is given anti-inflammatories and antibiotics.

By this time, it is 8 am and the rest of the Woodside staff has arrived. The office answers phones and schedules appointments while the ambulatory assistants prepare the trucks for the day, making sure they have everything they need for their farm call appointments. Just like in a human hospital, the doctors conduct with the technicians to assess the hospitalized patients. After plans have been made for each patient, it is time to bring Lady down to prep her for surgery. The surgical attendees change into scrubs and surgery shoes.

It is 9 am and Lady is getting x-rays before her procedure. She has a small fracture on her splint bone of a hind leg that needs to be removed. She is sedated and moved into the padded induction stall. Once she settles into sedation, she is induced into general anesthesia with the help of two technicians. Because horses are so heavy, a 1 ton hoist is needed to lift her onto the surgery table. As soon as the anesthesia takes full effect and she lays down, soft ropes are wrapped around her feet, to gently hoist her in an upside down position and onto the surgery suite. She is placed onto the surgical table, is laid down gently, and positioned for surgery. While the anesthetist monitors her, the scrub technician prepares the surgical site. The splint bone is surgically removed and Dr. Hirsch places a sterile bandage after suturing incision. Lady is unhooked from anesthesia and the lift takes her back to the padded stall where she is monitored while she recovers. She is periodically given a light sedation so that she wakes up from the anesthesia gently. Once she is standing and steady, she is brought back to her stall to fully recover. Like humans, horses need some time to recover from the effects of anesthesia.

While only noon, Woodside has been very busy. The office staff receive a call for an emergency laceration and quickly dispatch the closest ambulatory vet to assess the wound for possible radiographs and possible sutures. Another owner, concerned about the wellbeing of his horse, calls to schedule an appointment. His mare, Bella came in from the field that morning with a swollen leg. Despite his attempts to relieve the swelling, the leg was still quite swollen, hot and painful to the touch. The scheduler assigned the case to come in to see Dr. Anderson later that afternoon. Meanwhile one of the lab technicians prepares medication for a client to pick up.

The clinic’s reproductive specialist, Dr. Stanford, returns to the clinic from farm calls to check on the breeding barn. Spring is breeding season and equine reproductive specialists are extremely busy. There are mares to breed, pregnant mares to check, and mares with foals to examine. Working at vet clinic is unique in that everyone is extremely passionate about what they do and there is nothing better than the new life of a baby horse!

Later in the day Bella arrives on time for her appointment. Dr. Anderson examines her legs. His assistant Maureen jogs her in a straight line as well as a circle to try to assess where she is painful. Bella is not lame at the walk but shows lameness at the trot. Dr. Anderson decides to take some radiographs to evaluate for arthritis. Thankfully her radiographs are clean. Bella was sent home with special wraps on her legs and some anti-inflammatory medications. Horses get bumps and bruises too!

Meanwhile, Dr. True returns from the road to take care of her in-house appointment that has just arrived at the clinic. Junior has not been eating normally and has been dropping his food when he chews. After an examination of his mouth, Dr. True determines that he needs a dental. Horse’s teeth grow continuously often resulting in very sharp points which make chewing difficult as well as effecting bit comfort and training. Junior is given a light sedation; a speculum is fitted into his mouth to prevent him from biting down on the instruments. She begins to electronically file his teeth down but it is a painless procedure. He barely notices as he naps. Dr. True files down the sharp points on his teeth. He soon wakes up from the sedation and can safely ride home in the trailer.

As the clinic office closes, the doctors are still working hard to finish up paperwork, return phone calls, and try to wrap up their busy day. The patients in the hospital barn are continually monitored, given medications as well as fluids on a strict time schedule. George is doing very well and is slowly re-introduced to small amounts of mash (grain made into a consistency similar to oatmeal). He will not be allowed to go back to his normal feeding program until the doctors are sure his stomach can handle it. A full meal might cause a return of the colic symptoms. However, he is looking bright and cheerful and will get to go home tomorrow. Evening treatments for all the hospitalized patients are completed and everyone is tucked in for the night though they will be quietly monitored by the night technician until everyone returns to work in the morning. The doctors all finally get to go home for a brief rest until another emergency call comes in! At 2:00 a.m. the in-house doctor is woken up by a phone call from the answering service; a client has a horse with an elevated temperature of 103.2. The horse is on his way to the clinic for examination and eventually admitted to an isolation stall. So another day begins; there is rarely a dull moment at Woodside Equine Clinic!