‘Why do you want to be a vet?‘
It’s a question that has universally and repeatedly popped up since deciding upon my career path.
And it’s totally valid; what with the extended, insanely expensive education, the difficulty of said education, student debt, long hours and a massive imbalance of income, emergencies, euthanasia…it’s not surprising that this question is an inevitable hurdle whenever the topic of what I’m doing with my life comes up in conversation. From friends and family to professors, acquaintances, bosses, peers, perfect strangers who notice a veterinary logo on a polo, I’ve had to learn to answer this question.
When this question comes from a veterinarian, however, it always gives me pause. The cookie-cutter, ‘because I love animals’ works for the cashier who reads my AAEP polo at the supermarket. But, obviously, the vet who asks that question *knows* that I love animals. Of course, I love animals. Lots of people love animals – not all of them become vets.
Through all my externships, just about every vet has asked me why I am becoming an equine vet. And I’ve stumbled over the question quite a bit trying to rattle around an idea that didn’t sound so simple or overly cliche leaving my mouth.
I think about the vets that influenced me, that got me interested in the field. The veterinarian my mom worked for who was also the vet for our zoo and shared stories of caring for big cat litters in the barn on his property to elephant necropsies to turning his own land into a bird sanctuary. My vet growing up who helped my family take on behavioral and urinary tract problems in my childhood cat; the vet who diagnosed our young Australian Shepherd with lymphoma after I found a mass on her abdomen and handled her palliative care and eventual euthanasia with such grace and compassion. The vet we started using after I shadowed at her clinic who I watched balance her job and family life with skill and took on her appointments each day with both a sense of humor and dedication. My veterinary professors in undergrad who made learning about veterinary medicine so enthralling that it barely felt like learning at times.
But why did *I* want this career? What was driving *me* to be a vet?
For me, it always comes back to the horses.
While my mom and grandma had jobs in the equine industry at a large Arabian breeding farm, I wouldn’t necessarily call anyone in my family particularly ‘horsey’, but I was drawn to them at a pretty young age, having been bitten by the horse bug. I begged for lessons and spent a good bit of my childhood and teen years working any job I could to pay for lessons and shows.
The barn became my refuge, the horses swept away my problems time and time again, and the people at the barn became a second family.
I am the person that looks for any excuse to attend an equestrian event. I have more than once spent a lecture with a showjumping or eventing live stream on another tab while I’m taking notes. I still crane my neck to look at horses while I’m in the car. I am as infatuated with my own mare as the first day I saw her. Horses have given my life so much meaning, have taught me so much, have brought amazing people into my life, and continue to do so. And my own mare has saved me time and time again from literally any stress that you can imagine.
So, why do I want to be a vet?
I want to be a vet because I am passionate about horses; I want to be the person who can help them when they need it and I want to be the person who can help that horse’s person. I want to be the person who is able to make the difference for that horse. I want to be the person who is able to provide the gift of euthanasia to a horse that is in unrelenting pain or suffering, who can give a soft end to a golden oldie and comfort their owner through their decision.
Horses have given me so much that I cannot even articulate what I have gained from being with them; I think it is only fitting that I join a profession that I can spend the rest of my life giving back to them.