My grandmother always thought there was something wrong with the pre-teen me as I raced around the house with hands held in front like I was holding reins and the rounded part of a pretzel lodged in my mouth like a bit, while I made neighing sounds. (Getting those neighs just right does take a bit of practice, by the way.) As I think back on this, well, there is something wrong with this image--kind of like the cart going before the horse. I mean, if I was steering myself ... hmmm, you get the idea. I am digressing. My mom thought I’d be okay and really didn’t need any professional help. My grandmother wasn’t so sure. Well, I suppose they were both right--I didn’t persist in acting like a horse but my horsey passion kind of took over my life as I went on to surround myself with “all things horse” by becoming a horse doctor.
So, is it any wonder that even in my travels, I end up going where everyone talks all day long about horses? If I ever wanted to network with people from all over the world who have the same focused passion, well, there’s one place where horse vets go--the annual AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) Convention. Each year, nearly 6000 (count 'em!) horse doctors, veterinary students and trade show exhibitors from various parts of Planet Earth descend upon a different U.S. city. Some cities are really popular places to visit and warrant repeats, such as San Antonio or San Diego. Many of us know all the favorite eating, drinking, and stomping haunts in these towns--that’s where we burn the midnight oil to shake off 10 hours a day of serious learning time. This year, after all the meetings wrap up each day, we should have quite a treat: We’re heading for the first time to the Capital of Country: Nashville.
With most of our time spent inside a large convention hall, sometimes it’s difficult to feel like you’ve gotten a taste of the place you’re visiting. It always strikes me that we could be anywhere USA, whisked by shuttle from the airport to the hotel and convention hall, which look pretty much the same in every city. Well, maybe the carpets are different? (Oh yes, I remember one hotel where the carpets in the elevators had the appropriate day of the week embossed in the carpets, which were changed in the wee hours each night! Now, our smart phones tell us things like that.)
Full days are spent sitting in darkened meeting rooms listening to expert equine practitioners present cutting edge information. This is a pretty different kind of “activity” from what most of us are used to--days spent outdoors in rain or shine, working on horses. But when the meeting schedules wrap up each day and the evening events take over, this means time out and about, visiting with colleagues and taking in the local fare and the town’s unique complexion. Every city we visit has something to offer, but this year’s Nashville complexion should be more handsome and interesting than usual.
What do I know about Nashville? Well, we’ve all heard that this is the Mecca for bluegrass and Country, with so many famous music personalities making their start there. We’ve all heard of the Grand Ole’ Opry and the Ryman theater. We’ve heard of tasty barbecues and unique gastronomy that is part of Tennessee and Southern culture. And, of course, Tennessee was a hotbed of southern plantations and Civil War conflict and all that goes along with that part of American history. Before pursuing a career in vet medicine, I had a degree in American history under my belt so Nashville holds yet another spark of interest for a history buff like me. And, who hasn’t heard of the Great Nashville Flood a few years ago that threatened so much of the historic downtown? Having just spent the last three months working hard to recover our devastated property from Colorado’s Great Flood of 2013, a chance to see an area that has fully recovered from a natural disaster is near and dear to my heart right now.
Most of us go to these professional meetings to increase our veterinary knowledge on behalf of our equine patients and to quench our intellectual curiosity. But this year, there’s also the potential thrill of kicking up some heels in the land of Country, in a place with so much musical background. When I get around to packing my bags--definitely a last minute chore--I’ll keep this in mind. As a Colorado mountain girl who is most comfortable sporting Levi’s, hiking boots and polypro sun-blocking shirts (and lately also work gloves and shovels!), I should probably rummage around in my closet to see if I can scare up a few snap button shirts and my weathered pair of cowboy boots…
So, stay tuned for what should be a rollicking ride. Each day, I’ll share tidbits of impressions as we navigate five days of the best veterinary medical meeting of the year, one that is geared exclusively for equine vets. To launch the Convention before we dive into scientific and technical meetings, clinician and trainer Buck Brannaman is featured as a keynote speaker to share his insights about life and horses. That pretty much describes all who will be attending--our lives are fully wrapped up with horses. So put on some country music, and stay tuned!