What I'm Thankful For

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take a moment to share a quick story. For thepast year, I've made monthly visits to Raven Rock Ranch, owned by Tim and Sandy Matts, to provide pro-bono acupuncture services for the horses. The relationships forged on this ranch between at-risk youth and the re-homed/rescued horses are therapeutic for everyone involved. The place just has a wonderful energy.

I've become a lot more sensitive to energy as I've shifted my practice from Western medicine to an Eastern approach to healing. Learning acupuncture has led me to slow down and to be much more observant of the subtle cues that horses use to communicate. I am incredibly grateful to have access to a modality that the majority of my patients really enjoy. Until I started Balanced Horse Vet, I hadn't realized how important it was to me that my patients enjoy their treatment, something which I rarely encountered when practicing Western medicine.

Horses lining up for acupuncture!

Horses lining up for acupuncture!

I don't always treat the same horses at Raven Rock Ranch, but I do have a couple that have become my regulars. At my most recent visit, the volunteers were redoing much of the fencing, so the horses were loose on the property, happily grazing on the front lawn. I had just started working on my first patient, when Rachel, one of my regulars, stopped grazing and wandered over to the barn. She came into the aisle and waited patiently. I was flattered that she had stopped her grazing to come say hi, and since she was there, I started working on her. A few minutes into Rachel's acupuncture treatment, Rocky, another of my regulars, stopped grazing and wandered into the barn to wait his turn. There were no treats or lead ropes involved; these horses just love their acupuncture! I was humbled that these kind creatures would leave their fresh green grass to come spend time with me. Every day, I am thankful that I can serve our four-legged companions in a way that fosters positive relationships. It's a rare vet that can say that her patients voluntarily line up to get poked with needles.

If you are looking for a great cause to support both horses and children, you can find out more about the great work that Raven Rock Ranch does at www.ravenrockranch.org.

Do you know what the Yin-Yang symbol really means?

The Yin-Yang Symbol

The Yin-Yang Symbol

Almost everybody has seen the yin-yang symbol, but few have taken the time to understand the complexity of its meaning. In designing the logo for Balanced Horse Veterinary Service, PLLC, I drew my inspiration from this symbol because it represents a philosophical view at the heart of traditional Chinese medicine. I encourage you to join me in taking a closer look at this classic symbol.

My mentor, Dr. Huisheng Xie, gives this description of the symbol in his text book Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine; Fundamental Principles:

“The symbol above is traditionally used to represent the interrelationship of Yin and Yang. One can think of Yin and Yang as a way of trying to understand the events of the universe by organizing phenomena into distinct categories. It is at once extremely simple and staggeringly complex.”

To understand the complexity of its meaning, we must first understand the 5 principles of Yin-Yang.

1. Everything in the universe has two opposite aspects: Yin and Yang

  • Yang is used to characterize warmth, energy, motion, loudness and light. It is represented by the color white
  • Yin represents things that are cooler, quieter, more still and darker. It is characterized by the color black.
  • Example: Daytime is characterized as more Yang, whereas night is characterized as more Yin. A young boy would be more Yang, while an elderly woman would be more Yin.

2. Any Yin-Yang division can be further divided into Yin and Yang aspects.

  • Within the white half  of the symbol, there is a black dot (Yin within Yang)
  • Within the black part of the symbol there is a white dot (Yang within Yin)
  • Example: Within Daytime (Yang) the morning/ sunrise is more Yang while the afternoon/ sunset is more Yin. The afternoon is an example of “Yin within Yang”

3. Yin and Yang control each other

  • The two opposite forces that compose everything in the universe are in constant struggle to regulate each other.
  • Example: Heat (Yang) can dispel cold (Yin), but cold can also lower a hot temperature.

4. Yin and Yang mutually create each other

  • Because Yin and Yang are defined as opposites of each other, each cannot exist without the other.
  • Example: There can be no concept of cold (Yin) without an understanding of heat (Yang).

5. Yin and Yang may transform into each other

  • Yin and Yang are not static. Under certain circumstances each may transform into the other.
  • Example: Day (Yang) becomes Night (Yin), and night transforms into day. Summer (yang) transforms into winter (Yin), and winter into summer.
Balanced Horse Veterinary Service, PLLC

Balanced Horse Veterinary Service, PLLC

As we look at the Yin-Yang symbol, we see these five principles represented. Within the black there is a little bit of white, and within the white there is a little bit of black. Nothing is all Yin or all Yang. As your eye follows the flow clockwise, the white becomes black, then the black becomes white.

The balance of Yin and Yang in the body is critical to maintaining health. Disease can be described as patterns of excess or deficiency of Yin or Yang. My goal at Balanced Horse Veterinary Service, PLLC is to restore your animal's body to a natural state of Balance.

The Life of a Veterinarian: More Than Just Helping Animals

The story of my unconventional journey into veterinary medicine

Most veterinarians had their careers picked out by the age of seven; this is not my story. If you had asked me as a child what I wanted to do when I grew up, I wouldn't have known what to say. I was drawn to the idea of helping others, yet was hesitant to pursue the careers that had been modeled for me. Field trips to the firehouse portrayed firefighters as heroes, but I didn't really fancy running into burning buildings. Our local police force had a mounted unit, and I remembered wondering if there was any way to be one of the officers that got to ride a horse without having to perform the other parts of police work, like risking being shot. I guess I had a decent sense of self preservation. The idea of being a human doctor never really appealed to me either. Sure, doctors save lives, but my visits to the pediatrician usually ended with a needle in my arm, and somehow that didn't inspire me.

Out on the trail, one of my favorite places to be!

I was a late bloomer. The idea of going to vet school came to me my freshman year of college, and I owe it to my best friend. It was Thanksgiving day. We had all piled into the family minivan for the two hour drive to my aunt's house. At some point during the drive, conversation turned to what classes my friend and I were each taking. She mentioned something about animal science classes and that she was thinking about a career in veterinary medicine. I remember thinking two things. First, I was insanely jealous that my small liberal arts college didn't offer animal science courses. Second, would I be a total copycat if I decided to go to vet school?

I began volunteering with local veterinarians to find out what life as a vet was really like. I soon discovered that being a good veterinarian was much more than diagnosing and treating a wide range of species. Good vets take on the role of teacher when explaining complex medical conditions and treatment options to owners. They are called upon as advisers when owners struggle with difficult decisions, and counselors when owners experience loss. The more I saw, the more confident I became that I finally had the answer to that question posed over a decade earlier. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I couldn't get enough of it. I volunteered in small animal hospitals, rode along to farms with large animal vets and jumped at every opportunity to gain exposure to veterinary medicine.

Sherlock, my favorite puppy

It was during those early years that I first saw a horse receive acupuncture. As someone who is not terribly fond of needles, the concept of acupuncture was a little hard to stomach. Why would anyone let someone put not just one, but a couple dozen needles in them? And how could this possibly be a good thing? The horses changed my mind. The nice thing about horses is that they don't lie. I watched horse after horse go from alert and slightly anxious to completely relaxed, with head held low and lip drooping, just minutes after acupuncture needles were placed. It's hard to argue a placebo effect when a horse resembles a pin cushion, but is so relaxed he looks like he's been given IV sedation. I promised myself I would learn how to do that someday. Many years later, not only can I produce these results in my patients, but I have also personally benefited from acupuncture treatments. I have the horses to thank for convincing me to give it a try.

I love them in all sizes!

I became a veterinarian because I wanted to help people. Don't get me wrong, I do love animals. One doesn't sit through four years of undergrad lectures followed by four years of intensive veterinary medical training just because puppies are kind of cute. A passion for working with animals is a prerequisite, and one that I was born with. The beauty of veterinary medicine is that it gives me the opportunity to assist animals in need, while simultaneously building relationships with their people. Too often, I hear people say that they want to become a veterinarian because they hate people. They've got it all wrong. Veterinary medicine is about teamwork. It's about finding the best course of treatment for an animal and his person in a given situation. If the owner isn't on board, treatment is bound to fail. So much of veterinary medicine is making sure that the humans are working together toward a common goal. There is nothing more comforting to an owner than to know that her vet is on her side.