It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s what my Pandora Vince Guaraldi (think Charlie Brown Christmas) station is telling me, at least, in upbeat instrumentals.

I don’t know how you’re feeling, but this holiday season seems like one heck of a whirlwind to me. Whereas Christmas used to saunter in, leaving ample opportunity to shop for thoughtful gifts, write copious Christmas card messages by hand, reflect on the reason for the season, and have another leisurely cup of mulled apple cider, this year has come fast and furious.

Earlier this month, several thousand veterinarians stepped out of their December bustle--with foaling dates approaching, breeding season looming, and winter show seasons beginning--to brush up on their knowledge on treating your horses. Perhaps you kept up with our blogger, Dr. Christy Corp-Minamiji, as she reflected on daily AAEP convention sessions from Anaheim, Calif., or you watched some of our daily video coverage. This is a colossal annual event, and you’ll continue to see take-home messages from these many presentations roll out on our website in the coming days and weeks.

The Christian Veterinary Mission was honored with the Lavin Cup during the 2012 AAEP Convention's President's Luncheon.

Photo: Stephanie L. Church

But what I want to point out about the convention right now isn’t necessarily the staggering loads of state-of-the-art (yet applicable) material shared there. I want to talk about an undercurrent that I noticed as stronger this year than any other year that I’ve attended (and that’s roughly 11 AAEP conventions): One of compassion.

This compassion reaches across equine veterinary medical practice here (there was a lot of focus on keeping the best interest of clients/their horses at the heart of veterinary medicine) and abroad, but I’m going to focus on the abroad.

The Equitarian movement has become a household name among practitioners in recent years. Dr. Jay Merriam and his colleagues passionate for the cause have sought to help working donkeys, mules, and horses across the world. In many cases, people’s livelihoods depend on these animals. Simply keeping these working equids in good health and educating owners on good husbandry can beneficially impact entire communities of people. This year the AAEP honored Dr. Merriam with the President’s Award.

This year the AAEP conferred its Lavin Cup, the organization’s Equine Welfare Award, to the Christian Veterinary Mission. And for the first time in 11 years of AAEPs, I was able to make it to CVM’s evening seminar, where this year Dr. Julie Henderson, a veterinarian who serves as a CVM missionary in Mozambique, described her experiences working with local residents. Veterinarians often end up caring not only for animals but also for people’s health emergencies, and limited access to drugs and medical supplies that are common elsewhere means Henderson (and veterinarians like her, worldwide) must be creative in finding sustainable solutions for helping people.

I also noticed that the AAEP conferred several other awards that recognized veterinarians for service--and each veterinarian had a background of concern for equine welfare. And we can't forget the presentations and discussions sprinkled throughout the scientific program that were focused on equitarian outreach and on welfare and wellness (session subtitle: Improving the Lives of Horses and Veterinarians).

Sure, these may have been just a handful of awards and sessions at a five-day event with hundreds upon hundreds of high-level scientific presentations. But, it seemed that in my one-on-one conversations with veterinarians, such equitarian activities and other causes benefiting equids were a recurring theme.

The AAEP meeting’s undercurrent was not one of self-promotion or haughtiness because of vast accumulated knowledge; one might expect that, with the sheer amount of brilliant intelligence packed into one convention center. Rather, it was one of caring for horses and for their people, both domestically and worldwide.

What types of causes does your veterinarian support, either here or abroad?