Commentary: Making a Difference with Equine Experience

Make a difference in someone’s life by sharing your equine expertise and passion.
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The horse is a central theme in our lives. Sharing our passion for horses and creating learning or work opportunities for other people are great ways to serve the next generation of horse men and women. The smiles of those I have taught in the classroom, laboratory, veterinary clinic, and the field are a major part of my self-worth. Today’s young people need opportunities just as we did. As mentors and role models, we need to offer our time and experience to encourage young people to explore the equine industry and perhaps find their life’s work in it.

A number of caring people gave me opportunities to become a rider, then a horsewoman, and ultimately a veterinarian specializing in large animal internal medicine. My unconventional overseas childhood (one of five children of a diplomat) did not include much farm experience, but many generous horse owners let me ride. Back in Maryland for my senior high school year, two pioneering female veterinarians gave me a summer job at their small animal clinic, my first step into veterinary medicine. In college, I was able to shadow at a veterinary practice on Saturdays. A generous dairy farmer in upstate New York gave me–a clueless urban gal–a summer job milking cows and a chance to go on calls with his veterinarian. Dr. Jack Lowe (DVM) championed my veterinary school application because he believed in this out-of-state applicant in an era of gender inequity in admissions. The Hamiltons taught me valuable lessons about raising beef cattle in Colorado and breaking horses. In veterinary college, Drs. Bob Whitlock (DVM, PhD) and Joe Mayhew (BVSc, PhD, DSc, DACVIM) inspired me to pursue internal medicine. Drs. Paul Gibbs (BVSc, PhD, FRCVS) and Ashley Robinson (BVSc, MPH, PhD) mentored my interest and that of many others in infectious diseases, epidemiology, and clinical research. I thank all these people all for their time and guidance.

Finding opportunities to mentor and help others interested in the health and welfare of horses is easy, if we just look around. I’ve had a blast teaching horse health to children with the Pony Club, enlisting eager young learners for research projects, and creating more equine community interactions for veterinary students. Best of all has been the experience of helping lead other veterinarians into international service for the working equids of the poor through the Equitarian Workshops in Veracruz, Mexico. Veterinarians from The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and Mexico City’s veterinary college–Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia–team up to give veterinarians a great introduction to an effective model for the delivery of health care and education at the village level. Where else might one get a chance to see 10 donkeys with subcutaneous tuberculosis in a single day?

So go ahead, make a difference in someone’s life by sharing your expertise and passion. That person will perhaps then make a world of difference to both horses and those who depend on them

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