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Equine; My Decision to Specialise

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Dr. Aoife Byrne Med.Vet. Cert AVP MRCVS Veterinary Surgeon, Equine Veterinary Surgeon

Growing up on a small hobby farm in the Irish countryside my siblings & I were always surrounded by an assortment of animals. 

Over the years we had a changing array of ponies as we grew, from the Shetland pony aptly named Tiny right through to the pair who started my sister & I with our love of sidesaddle. Then there was my Mum's flock of Jacob sheep, an ever-fluctuating fowl population & at one point a pair of Gloucester Old Spot pigs which we named Holly & Ivy (they arrived close to Christmas). & not forgetting the continuous stream of dogs & cats with the added excitement of a pair of hound pups to 'walk' for the local hunt.  The most unusual pet was Polly the parakeet who for many years lived in the kitchen squawking defensively whenever the cats came too close.

I believe my desire to become a vet started with my earliest memory of our local vet attending to my Mum's mare Mandy who had colic. I was about 7 years old & the summer before had had my first experience of pony club camp. There I had learned the signs to look for when a horse has colic. So, when Mandy showed a number of these classic signs I told my Mum my 'diagnosis' who duly called the vet & confirmed my suspicions. I remember feeling so proud that my knowledge & action had saved a life.

Throughout school, I tried to see the practice as much as possible with various local vets. 

Then finally in the summer of 2001, my dream came true - I gained a place at university to study veterinary medicine. 

 

6 incredible years followed in the beautiful city of Budapest.

After graduating in 2007 I began the search for that elusive first job. At that point, my mind was open to a mixed practice type job so that I could gain experience with a wide variety of species before deciding if anyone, in particular, took my fancy more than the others. But as luck would have it that first job offer came to me quite by chance through a vet friend of a friend. An equine hospital on The Curragh in Kildare, Ireland was looking for an intern.

This job gave me an incredible chance to gain experience in all aspects of equine medicine & surgery including neonatal & critical care. I loved working there but sadly it was a set 1-year contract so I duly moved on to my first position as an equine ambulatory vet working in an area north of Dublin.

As part of this job, I had to undertake farm work as well as TB testing & learned to calve cows & perform Caesarian sections. I also had to do my share of small animal consults & minor surgeries. I really enjoyed the variety of the work but having the chance to work with other non-equine species made me realise how much my heart lay with horse work.

It was during the stud season there that I discovered a love for equine reproduction work & wanting to gain more hands-on experience I opted to leave Ireland to do a stud season beginning in Argentina before continuing at a specialist embryo transfer centre in the UK.

I could have continued like this indefinitely but for the winter months, I would have needed to hop hemispheres which meant leaving behind my fiancé for 6 months of the year.

He is also a vet & by this time had started working in Norfolk.

So, I began the job search once again, trying to find an equine only position as close to him as possible. Typically, I ended up as far west as I could probably get in Gloucestershire! But the job was great with the added benefit of getting to work alongside & learn from an equine ophthalmologist.

During my time there we got married at home in Ireland, so my fiancé became my husband & naturally we needed to find jobs in the same county or even better the same practice.

A job where he worked came up first, so I jumped at the chance & we've been working together for almost 4 years. We are 2 of a 5-vet equine team working from a purpose built equine clinic. Our veterinary interests are very different which is a perfect balance & means we don't fight over cases! But on the positive side, we always know exactly how the other one feels while on a gruelling weekend on call or after a long day at work.

While working in Gloucestershire & Norfolk I gained my RCVS certificate in advanced veterinary practice & my areas of interest are equine internal medicine, ophthalmology, dermatology & stud work.

I love my job as an equine vet especially the variety that each day brings  

It's true that no two days are the same & meeting lovely owners & their wonderful horses while driving around the beautiful countryside is to me the perfect job.

 

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