We made it through Thanksgiving, stuffed ourselves, and performed the ritual of find-my-mother-in-law's keys/cell phone/glasses. Parent-teacher conferences have been survived and appreciated. Laundry is mostly done.

So, stuffed and proud, I've moved on, making packing lists in my head and thumbing through the AAEP Convention schedule (I've highlighted my sessions in two colors with annotations). This will be my first year traveling to AAEP with my family, and while I'm not looking forward to eight hours in the minivan with husband and three kids, it's pretty cool to have a conference on my coast for a change. I'll try not to think about how many times my family will be going on Space Mountain while I'm getting caught up on equine dentistry, though.

While the scientific sessions don't begin until Sunday, Dec. 1, I'll be getting a jumpstart blogging on Saturday from the committee and forum sessions. I'm a social studies/policy geek, so hearing what the leaders of the profession think about the issues that concern the horse industry and equine medicine is one of my favorite parts of the conference. These committees and forums address everything from the mentoring of students to equine welfare and performance issues. This is the human side of what we do as equine veterinarians.

Technically, I have Sunday morning off from my assignments for The Horse, but I'm torn. The temptation to hit a few rides at Disneyland with the family is huge (we have season passes that will expire at the end of the month), but missing the opening sessions, the keynote speaker and the Kester News Hour, seems almost heretical. Well, OK, maybe I could miss the keynote on "Influential Communications," but the Kester News Hour is the place to find out all of the cool, upcoming highlights in equine medicine. This is where they distill those boring journal articles - the ones I stick on my shelf and say that I'll "read later" into something that makes sense. This is where groundbreaking science meets the horse. Decisions, decisions...

Speaking of decisions, I'm very excited about blogging the Sunday afternoon sessions on "Ethics, Scope of Practice, and Racing." Veterinarians are consistently faced with an inherent conflict - our patients are not our clients. Perhaps nowhere is this conflict so highlighted as it is in performance horse, and particularly racehorse, medicine. The sorts of conversations that will take place Sunday afternoon are critical to the health of the profession and the health of the horse.

My inner medicine geek is looking forward to Dr. Valberg's lecture on the causes of tying up. I've lived most of my life in Quarter Horse country and was in vet school back in the early days of HYPP in the 1990s. I also can't wait for the sessions on managing equine emergencies in the field. This stuff was my bread, butter, and heartbreak for the better part of a decade.

There's so much more on the schedule to get me excited - dentistry, critical care of the GI tract, pigeon fever, EPM. I also know that there will be unscheduled moments that will strike my blogging fancy - a conversation in the hallway, something cool in the exhibit hall, a compelling follow-up question during one of the presentations. Who knows? Stick around; this should be almost as much fun as Disneyland, and we won't make you wait in line.