Before I tell you about my Research Rookies experience of last year and of this year, I’d like to give you all a little more information about why I am doing what I am doing… So here it goes!
I have wanted a horse all of my life. Seriously, from the time I was about three or four, I had figured out a way to have my horse live in my backyard and in my bedroom. (I was going to convert my closet into a stall.) A few years later, the whole wall and ceiling of my half of the room that my sister and I shared was covered in horse posters. Add to that a set of horse sheets, a “few” stuffed animals, and some riding gear that at the time I had no use for, and you’ve got 9-year old me.
Shortly before my 11th birthday, I started taking horseback riding lessons at Plumcreek Stables. It was just once a week, so when my mom naively said, “Remember Sarah, you’re not getting your own horse,” I actually believed her. To her dismay and my surprise, I did at age 13, get my first horse, Max. Gosh I adored that horse. He was such a great horse. I was even teaching him tricks for a while! Ever seen a horse do the “Hokey-Pokey”? Well, apparently you never met Max. He never learned the whole thing, but you’ll find out why in a minute.
After having Max for about two years, we suddenly found out his kidneys were failing. He was dying, and there was nothing that could be done to help him. We took him up to the clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, only to have them confirm that his condition was very rare, but also fatal. I had to make the decision to put my best friend down that day, and my life hasn’t been the same since.
Of course, I still miss my horse a ton. He meant the world to me, and without him, I wouldn’t be the rider or the person that I am today. I am convinced of that. However, he changed my life in more than just that way. He actually gave my life a focus, and a purpose that I am pursuing to this very day. While we were at the clinic in Madison with Max, I had to help run the tests and get samples of urine, etc. from Max, because I was the only one who could come near him. (By that point he was in a lot of pain and was defensive about anyone touching him, except for me.) As I was doing this, I realized how much I loved helping my horse, and learning about the tests, and participating in the process. I also noticed, as the head veterinarian asked me questions, that there had been subtle signs of Max’s condition all along. We could not have prevented his condition, but we could have at least made him more comfortable had we noticed the signs. As I said, I had to make the decision to put my horse down that day, and it was an awful day. I’ll never forget how he whinnied after me as I left him after saying my final goodbye.
Alright, enough of the sad story. The point of the matter is that I learned how much I liked veterinary medicine that day. And I decided then that if there was any way that I could maybe prevent another 16-year old from having to go through what I had just gone through, then that was what I wanted to do.
I am currently a sophomore at Northern Illinois University, studying Biology, and hoping to go to veterinary school. THIS is how Max continues to affect my life. Not in his absence, but in the motivation he provides me. And this is why I decided to become a Research Rookie my freshman year of college.