Had to Choose Between Music and Horses: Today the Only Specialist in the Baltics

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A young singer, famous winner of a music project, veterinary doctor, lecturer – and student, scientist – and the only horse osteopath in the Baltics. This is a brief description of Giedrė Vokietytė-Vilėniškė’s career path of the last decade, which began as a childhood hobby and lead to an interesting and beloved profession, which encourages ongoing personal growth

To the public Giedrė was more familiar as a passionate, singer with a unique voice and the winner of X-Factor Lithuania. She created a music band, sang jazz – however, in her life there was always a second passion – to ride horses, which encouraged her to choose the studies of veterinary medicine at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU).

The young woman became the winner of the music project immediately after presenting her Master thesis. Which path to choose? Whether to continue with the musical career – or the veterinary doctor’s one? The young specialist chose studies – and presently she treats horses implementing a quite rare method.

From two pursuits she had to choose one

“I have always sung. When I was a child, I would prepare performances for my parents, grandparents, friends. But I was equally passionate about horses. After long-lasting requests, my father took me to the stables in 1999. I was only allowed to ride as long as I did not neglect my studies at the music school. The first horse, whom I learned to ride, looked after, was Satelitas, an old purebred horse,” – recalled G. Vokietytė-Vilėniškė.

Both pursuits competed with one another, sometimes they would clash when singing got more serious – interest in horses became more subdued, but when she had to choose future studies, it was revived once more. In her application form for higher education Giedrė chose veterinary medicine as her number one option, second choice – was medicine. Having passed her school examinations in flying colours, she easily got to study the subject of her dreams.

“Our whole course of veterinary medicine at the time was very strong, motivated, during my studies quite a few times I took advantage of the ERASMUS exchange programme. These internships and practices decided a lot. Even though after a successful vocal chords surgery I began singing again, and while I was taking part in the TV show there was insanely a lot of music in my life –  I had already seen the advanced veterinary clinics abroad, their unlimited potential, I understood how much more there is to learn, to create and to adapt for the improvement of ill animal’s fate.

Therefore, abandoning singing in the name of the more appealing scientific career was not difficult. I began veterinary medicine residency at LSMU Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, I received a huge scholarship, and fulfilled my dream to study in Germany, to acquire certified horse osteopath degree,” – Giedrė spoke of her life changing decisions.

Treats not the symptom but the whole organism

In one of the photos of the period – a horse, stretching out his leg towards the young specialist. Looking from aside – it is simply a beautiful moment, however, truly it is part of an osteopath’s examination, when not only the flexibility of animal’s joints is checked, but gently and carefully an examination of spine, internal organs and the whole-body systems’ functionality takes place.

“Osteopathy, a holistic method of treatment, often referred to as gentle treatment with hands, has effects on the condition of the whole body. Horses, the same as people, often suffer from certain mobility problems which are caused by something else entirely – a compressed muscle, spreading innervation or similar. Osteopathic treatment gives the body an impulse to deal with those issues itself. We remove certain obstacles and the body helps itself and recovers,” – the veterinary doctor explained the principles of the treatment.

Today Giedrė Vokietytė-Vilėniškė is known amongst equestrians, Veterinary Academy’s community, beloved and respected by veterinary students, the only equestrian osteopath in the Baltics. Her patients – are not just Lithuanian, but also Latvian and Estonian horses. The veterinary doctor rejoiced, that attitude towards horses, their health, is gradually changing and more and more frequently equestrians reach out not only during critical moments, but also during the intensive competing season: just like for human sport’s people, so for horses osteopathic procedures reduce stress, helps them recover faster and without damages to their health.

“Even though horses which are used to be ridden by children, receive smaller loads than the sports horses, these horses do not receive osteopathic treatment. However, I inspect these “learning” horses sometimes even more often, as the owners of the expensive sport horses already take great care of them, whereas these “Misérables”, who sometimes have more than one training session per day receive veterinary doctor’s attention only when something serious happens,” – shared G. Vokietytė-Vilėniškė.

Studies inspired continued development

The young specialist stressed: veterinary medicine studies at LSMU Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, exchange programmes and internships taught her the most important thing: not to stop upon achieving something, but to carry on learning, because present-day veterinary medicine studies have reached such heights and are not far behind from human medicine.

“And I don’t stop – at the moment I am studying for a PhD, at USA University I am studying animal sport rehabilitation, I lecture surgery, horse rehabilitation disciplines and I treat the patients of the LSMU Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Large Animal Clinic. The world is big, there are many opportunities, scientific knowledge travels without boundaries, thus it is important to not be afraid, to dare, to do, not to sit in the same place,” – smiled Giedrė.

Veterinary medicine – is one of the most popular subjects not just in Lithuania, but around the globe. Qualified veterinary doctors are trained only at LSMU Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Lithuania, their degrees are recognised in Europe. Not in vain veterinary medicine studies at LSMU are chosen by students from as many as 26 countries of the world. Upon commencing her lecturing career at the University G. Vokietytė-Vilėniškė noted, that now studies of veterinary medicine are chosen by students very selectively, with a purpose, they are far more motivated and very well prepared to study.

Recalls her very first patient

Even school students who are still just thinking about their future studies pursue their interest in person, often they ask – whether it is possible to become specifically just horse or dog doctor?

“We are trained to be capable to take care of, treat and love all animals – from a horse to a cat, from a dog to a wild bird or lizard. Even though my specialisation is horse related – I do consult cat and cow owners as well,” – shared the specialist.

Another frequent question from school children – how and from when on do the students learn to work directly with the animal, to examine it, inject medicines, to deliver all medical treatment? Giedrė reassures all concerned: during the first two years of study of veterinary medicine there is no clinical practice, it begins during the third year. However, at that time animal anatomy and physiology are taught, without learning which it is impossible to become a doctor. They also learn how to feed the animal, how to ensure its wellbeing, they practice on domestic animal farms, learn veterinary nursing skills.

Once clinical studies begin, first of all students practice on special mannequins and moulages – this way allowing the students to practice injecting medicines, bandaging or stitching wounds, resuscitation and so on. Students are only allowed to work with real patients once they have been impeccably prepared, gathered essential skills, because sick animal should not be made to suffer or to become an object for learning.

However, numerous students of veterinary medicine encounter live patients whilst volunteering at the LSMU Small and Large Animal Clinics – they assist nurses and doctors. During such volunteering they learn to know the animals, their body language, to take care of their needs. G. Vokietytė-Vilėniškė still remembers her very first patient.

“I worked as an orderly at the Large Animal Clinic, I was assigned a very important duty – to assist the doctor on daily basis in bandaging a horse’s leg. The horse recovered, and even now I still see him at the competitions,” – smiled Giedrė.

Must listen to yourself

“I really cannot say that studies are nothing but joy, and all stories – are happy ones. There will be mistakes and fears, there will be patients who will not survive – after which you will think for a very long time, about what you could have done differently. There will be long shifts. Psychologically – it is a hard profession, complicated, responsible work. Therefore, understanding of your own responsibility adds a lot: you grow up, become more serious, more mature. Every situation teaches something new and encourages growth,” – spoke the veterinary doctor.

Those who are sincerely interested in animal healthcare, studies of veterinary medicine and who would like to see up close, what does the work of veterinary doctors look like, it is possible to do so: the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine organises open days when at a pre-arranged time it is possible to partake in ambulatory excursions, to observe the daily life of veterinary doctors.“When choosing these studies, it is important to listen to yourself. The profession of a veterinary doctor is large, complex, responsible. Our patients do not complain, they speak with their eyes, and you have to feel their suffering with your heart. Studies do not end when you get your degree: if you want to be a great specialist, to be valued by your colleagues and students, they must know, that you have studied, you study and you will be studying for the rest of your professional life,” – shared G. Vokietytė-Vilėniškė.