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Where Have All the Equine Veterinarians Gone?

Portrait of smiling female vet checking horse at paddock during sunny day

Didn’t we once all want to be veterinarians?

If you were a horse kid, at some point you more than likely told people you wanted to be a vet when you grew up. You get to work with horses and other animals all day, what is there not to love? 

Well, it turns out quite a bit.

Nowadays veterinarians are increasingly in short supply.

Dr. Erica Lacher is a veterinarian with Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic, plus author, blogger, and host of the Straight From the Horse Doctor’s Mouth podcast (I know, where does she find the time?!), with a passion for fostering future equine veterinarians. She’s determined to come up with long-term solutions to this shortage.

“We are an endangered species,” Dr. Lacher told Sport Horse Podcast hosts Nicole Lakin and Dr. Tim Worden. “It’s not just equine veterinarians that have become difficult [to find]… it’s also all the people around us: the hardworking technicians, the clinic staff that helps get it all done.”

Similar to other endangered species, the diminishing presence of veterinarians is affecting the entire ecosystem. With fewer vets, current vets are in higher demand, and their work-life balance is becoming more distant with each passing day. Part of the reason, hypothesized Dr. Worden, is the increase in urban living, with fewer people growing up as true “horse people” and being comfortable around large farm animals.

Smartphones may also be partially to blame, said Dr. Lancher. The emergence of smartphones has led horse owners to a completely open line of communication, meaning there are messages and photos coming through at all hours of the day and night. 

“We do understand that horses are seven days a week,” she said. “They are all the time and we all know that, but when it’s your job, it can be a little excessive when somebody thinks of something at three in the morning… Being aware of the fact that on the other end of that phone there is a person who doesn’t necessarily want to do this 24/7 with your horse, and being respectful of that time that we are able to take away.”

Dr. Lacher is determined to be part of the solution. In her role as an equine vet, she’s actively trying to foster young and upcoming equine vets, from pre-vet programs through veterinary school and beyond to be a part of the large animal vet community. It all comes down to the love of the horse for these individuals, and keeping that as their “North Star” is key to staying the course.

Like the majority of equine injuries, this is not an issue that can be easily fixed with a band-aid. We have to address the roots of the issue in order to work towards a world with more—and happier—veterinarians. It is a complex issue with a complex solution, but vets like Dr. Lacher are determined to address it and work towards a higher population of equine vets.

Listen to the full episode Sport Horse Podcast.

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