Western Careers – Equine Veterinarian

Not many people have the gumption to give up a successful career and start into post-secondary schooling again. Yet, that’s exactly what this cowgirl did. Here’s why she’ll never look back.

 Interview by Jenn Webster • Photograph by Deanna Kristensen

Erin-Shield

My great-grandfather homesteaded in Millarville, AB, in 1902. My grandmother was part of the very first University of Calgary graduating class. Being born and raised in the Calgary area meant I was always around horses. They were a part of my DNA. I remember how I used to get so excited if a veterinarian came to our place.

When I was younger, I started riding and training with show jumper Jonathan Asselin. At his barn I saw many interactions with vets and other equine personnel. The first time I ever observed a horse receiving acupuncture, I became immediately intrigued by sports medicine and its application to horses.

I went to school to be a human chiropractor for four years and later practiced with a big sports medicine practice in California. Our clients included the San Franciso 49ers and the San Jose Sharks. I got the opportunity to work with many injured players.

I met my future husband Dave while I was in California and ironically, he was also originally from Calgary. We knew we wanted to settle back in Calgary but if we wanted to travel, then was the time. So next we found ourselves in Ireland and I ran a locum Chiropractic practice there for two years.

I enjoyed what I was doing but I craved to work with animals. After Ireland we moved back to Calgary and the new University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine was opening. Hundreds of students were applying but I sent my application in and was lucky enough to be chosen. I’ve never looked back.

I graduated with distinction as a member of the first graduating class from the U of C’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. During my time as a vet student, I won a scholarship for leadership and excellence in equine veterinary medicine. The award is offered by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (which represents 63 countries). Every school has an internal competition to compete for this scholarship and my name was put forward by my teachers. Then you compete against all the other schools. Only four people win.

My next adventure has already begun with further studies in the field of Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. I am enrolled in graduate studies through the UCVM and Moore Equine, and hope to be one of very few individuals to become boarded under the newly formed American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation through a local residency program – one of only three programs in the world.

My mother gave me a custom-made, felt cowboy hat when I graduated as a veterinarian. Inside the headband she had it embroidered to read, “I can do this…”

I work with Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Balzac, Alberta, and honestly, this is my dream job. I am in horse heaven. It is the busiest equine referral hospital in Canada. With events such as Spruce Meadows and the Calgary Stampede, we’re really in the heart of the most elite performance horses in the world.

In 1998, I was a Calgary Stampede princess. Last summer, I was honored to serve as a Stampede veterinarian on the sideline. I estimate there to be 400+ horses there this year. Vets at the Stampede do everything from drug testing to caring for parade horses, to colics, minor lacerations and lameness exams. We’re also intimately involved in the Stampede’s Animal Care Advisory Panel, overseeing all animal welfare policies and codes of practice. They were long days but I loved every second of it.

Children are not in my plans for the immediate future but Moore is very supportive of women in veterinary medicine. If Dave and I do decide to have kids it’s nice to know I am in an environment where I can balance a family life and my career.

Surfing is my passion outside of veterinary medicine. Whenever my husband and I go on a holiday, it must include a surfing destination.

The logistics of stopping what you are currently doing and spending money to pursue a dream means a lot of people can’t do it. I feel very lucky to have been able to change career paths. I worked my butt off because I knew I was lucky to be given another chance.