That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Lucia Dawson-Stanley (27) in this week’s Ireland’s Vets series. In part one of the interview, the Westmeath native, who studied veterinary medicine in Poland, discusses her equine background and her current position as an equine sports medicine and lameness veterinarian at the stables of Paul Schockemöhle in Germany.
“I grew up near the small village of Glasson, Athlone, County Westmeath and am currently living in Oldenburg, Germany, where I practice as an equine sports medicine and lameness veterinarian at the world-famous stables of Paul Schockemöhle.
As a young child, I spent a lot of time on the road with my father, who is an expert remedial farrier. Growing up, I also had many successes in both ponies and young rider show jumping classes.
I do not remember a time when I did not ride horses, and I am pretty sure I rode horses before I learned how to walk. We kept horses, sheep, chickens, donkeys, dogs and cats, so I spent my entire childhood with animals. We were raised outdoors.
I have always had a good way with every animal and wanted to be a vet since I can remember. They were my superheroes. I was very lucky that my parents had a close friend who was a vet, Aidan Finnon.
He really helped and encouraged me to follow my dreams from a very young age. He spent a lot of time explaining everything he was doing with me and letting me assist where possible.
I never wanted to be anything else other than a vet. I always felt I was quite lucky that I knew what I wanted to be from such a young age, and every educational decision I ever made was towards my greater goal to become a vet.
I graduated with a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland, in December 2020.
With places in Ireland’s only veterinary college few and far between, I decided to branch out and look at other options even before I sat my Leaving Certificate.
I knew a final-year student who was in Warsaw, and she gave a good review of the university and the course. The opportunity to study and travel really appealed to me.
Before I settled into the five-and-a-half years of student life in Warsaw, I took one year to make connections in the showjumping world.
The first half of the year was spent in stables such as Dietmar Güggler in Germany and the second half, in the US, with world number 3, McLain Ward.
Here, I developed my riding and grooming, and it has been a great key in my work as I respect the opinion of the grooms and riders and know that they have the best knowledge of the horses in their care.
I graduated at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was disappointing as many of my internships were then cancelled due to restrictions on travel and clinics not being in a position to take on extra help.
Because of my experience in the sport, I was invited to come to Germany to the clinic and stables of Paul Schockemöhle, as their resident vet had returned home to Columbia due to Coronavirus.
I felt I did not have enough experience to take on this huge role; however, after two weeks there, they felt different and offered me the position of a resident vet. With over 300 horses in my care, I learned fast.
My main roles were emergency care, pre-purchase exams, lameness, X-ray requests for buyers and export samples for the sales horses.
Thankfully, they also had an excellent sports vet, Dr.Ugo Carozzo, who would travel from Italy for two days a week to treat and check the horses with me.
Ugo is a wonderful teacher who takes his time to assess each horse and has taught me everything I know so far. We still work together to this day, and I am very grateful to have such a wonderful mentor.
Two years on, and I am still working at Paul Schockemöhle stables and loving every minute of it.
I absolutely love my job, and it has exceeded every expectation for me. I am so passionate about my work, and this drives me to work harder and better my skills daily.
A competent vet is a leader, can handle situations with ease and understanding and will always put the animals first.
My phone never stops ringing; there are always unread messages and emails to reply to.
This can be a lot of stress as you always feel like you are trying to play catch up to get back to everyone.
It is very important to be able to take some time for yourself also and select what is urgent and what can wait until tomorrow morning.
My biggest passion is equine sports medicine. I have a great fondness for the sport and its future.
The sport itself has gotten some bad publicity over the years but as long as our number one goal is the health and happiness of the horses, welfare will never be an issue.”
Part two to follow on That’s Farming
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