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Paloma, Former Pupil

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Girls Learn What it Takes to Become an Equine Vet

Friday, 20 January 2017

  • Equine Vet Claire Sawyer
  • Equine Vet Talk

Pupils from across the year groups at Bolton School Girls’ Division learnt what it takes to become an equine veterinarian from Claire Sawyer, a Recognised Advanced Practitioner in Equine Surgery (Orthopaedics) at Avonvale Equine Practice, Oxfordshire. In her absorbing lunchtime presentation, part of the School’s Café Scientifique lecture series, Claire told the girls that they need to be robust, not too squeamish, clever, flexible with their social life, not someone who gets tired easily and hard working! 

Offering a quick overview of her career, she illustrated how you have to be prepared to move around – originally from Swindon, she graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2007 as a trained vet. She started work at Shepherds, a vets in Bridgend, Wales and then, after 18 months, moved to the University of Liverpool to become a junior equine hospital vet for a year and then moved to Wright & Morten’s in Cheshire for four and a half years, before moving to her current workplace, Avonvale, where she is a Director and is currently learning how to run a business! Much of her current work focuses on Orthopaedics and lameness investigation in horses, trying to work out why a horse is limping or in pain. Her work sees her often attending Warwick races and she explained how it is a legal requirement to always have at least 3 vets at a horse racing event. She did impress upon the girls that even though racehorses are “commercial entities” they are very well looked after and many go on to do other things after racing. 

Claire said she also enjoyed working in the surgery, although this was not every vet’s “cup of tea” and is certainly not for the faint hearted. She told the audience how a vet’s life can be gruelling as you work all day and are on call all night during the week or, if you work the weekend shift, you can be on call all weekend.  She said you need to be pretty tough too as most equine vets she knows have been kicked or trampled and there will certainly be dangerous situations.  She recalled how she had nursed an injured horse, whilst being hoisted over a river by the fire brigade! 

Answering questions, Claire said she had started to think seriously about becoming a vet when she was 15 years of age, during a two week work experience and after realising she was good at Science. She knew it was hard to get into vet school and that the course would be difficult – but she has always enjoyed a good challenge!  She said that you did the job for the love of it, as remuneration was adequate but would never make you “big bucks”. She told girls that it would be good to get some work experience on a farm or in a local vet’s practice to help them apply to university. Her favourite horses to deal with are competition ones – those involved in racing, dressage and show jumping. There is a great buzz to helping them return to full fitness. She rounded off by saying that she does love the job and finds it very rewarding with different things happening every day. One of the perks of the job, she said, that along the way you do accumulate a number of pets of your own!

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