Many vets know as children that they want to go into veterinary practice, and John is no exception to this!
It all started with John as an 11 year old lad, playing out in the snow with friends and his dog, sledging and enjoying the snow. He noticed his dog had become lame and when they went into a friend’s barn to warm up, he examined his dog’s paws, noticing ice in between the pads. He picked out the ice and thawed his feet before venturing out into the snowy fields. His dog was happily bounding around again in the snow. He realised that day that he had done a good thing, and so decided that he wanted to become a vet.
Of course, John was called up for national service in his youth, and applied to join the Veterinary Corps as he was due to join the Royal Veterinary College after National Service had ended. He was initially told that the Veterinary Corps had disbanded, but that was not the case. He had to undergo 10 weeks of Infantry training first and the Unit Selection Board decided that, with John’s High School Certificates, and his background in military cadets, he was suitable Officer material. No matter how much they tried to ‘sell’ the idea of being an Officer to John, he was certain about joining the Veterinary Corps.
It was during National Service that John learnt to ride horses, and began his interest in the care and health of horses.
After Vet School, John found his first job as a vet by accident! His family are from generations of farmers and butchers and one day his father found one of his cattle had been struck by lightning. In order to move the body, he needed a vet to blood test for disease. A vet was called out, and he spoke about John to the vet (KS Cochran) who had also been RVC trained. He offered John his first job!
When asked whether he thinks veterinary medicine has changed over the past 60 years, John said, ‘Not to a great extent’. The key things that have changed in his eyes are:
- There are far more female vets now: At University, there were just 3 women in his year of 75 students and that was a high proportion compared to some of the Vet Schools.
- Equine medicine in particular has become less dangerous: The choice of sedation has improved drastically. Now there are a number of options, whereas when John first started out, you gave a horse a mask full of chloroform and waited until the horse fell over! There were also the very obvious risks of being the vet administering the mask of chloroform- many became dizzy themselves!
- Back in the day, practices were not allowed to advertise themselves: They were allowed a small name plaque on the wall, which could not be illuminated. There was no self-promotion, and any vet wishing to move practice, could not work within 15 miles of their previous employer.
One thing that has not changed over the years is the value of a ‘thank you’. For John the consistently great thing about being a vet is the ability to treat animals and hearing a Thanks from a client.
His advice to anybody wishing to enter into equine medicine is that you need the following skills:
- A good basic knowledge of horses
- Be used to handling horses: in particular being a rider is a great benefit
- An affinity with horses. Horses know if you are a ‘horsey’. There have been many times when a general vet has dealt witha particularly awkward horse, but the horse has calmed down once a ‘horsey’ vet has arrived.
Congratulations to John for 60 years in veterinary practice.