Horse sense

Horse-loving veterinarians thriving in Oregon.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

When veterinarians and friends Judy Batker, Laura Anderson, and Stephanie Miesen decided to leave a more generalized small animal veterinary practice in January 2017 to focus exclusively on horses, they were following their passions. For years, the colleagues had worked together at Country View Veterinary Service, an Oregon business Batker helped launch in 1999, until they started Country View Equine Clinic — an entirely separate operation — next door. Now they’re equal equine partners.

“We just felt there were bigger advantages to having a trained staff focusing on one species,” Batker explains. Each of the co-owners own several horses, in fact.

It’s different than owning a small animal, she adds. Horses generally suffer more scrapes and lacerations than do small pets because they live outdoors. Nutrition is especially critical, because horses perform and need to move well. On a frequent basis, owners must administer vaccines or de-wormers themselves.

Thankfully, most horse diseases can be medically or surgically treated, but leg issues can be deadly. “If there’s an upper-leg or bone issue, there’s very little we can do, unfortunately,” Batker says.

Horse ownership can be a lifelong commitment and investment. Healthy animals can live 30 years or more with good nutrition and dental care. In fact, some of the clinic’s clients are pushing the 40-year mark.

“There’s a saying that every horse deserves a little girl to love them,” Batker shares, but she advises anyone dreaming of being a first-time horse owner to either take lessons or lease one first.

There’s also a financial commitment to consider. Batker estimates that boarding, including food, might run between $300 and $350 a month on average, with preventive veterinary care for a healthy horse running around $550 a year.

However, horses can be prone to abdominal problems, she cautions, and colic surgery can run into the thousands of dollars. “We handle things like IV fluids or treatments or less-invasive field surgeries, but we refer colic surgeries to the UW–Madison veterinary school.”

In a typical week, the Country View Equine team may spend as much time on wellness work — dentistry, vaccines, and exams — as on lameness treatments. Lameness, Batker clarifies, simply means that a horse may have an injury that does not allow it to perform properly.

While plenty of vet clinics work with horses, Batker believes Country View Equine’s on-site facilities — which allow owners to bring their horses in for treatment — make it fairly unique and something she’s always dreamed of owning.

(Continued)

 

Later this year the co-owners hope to build and open a 9,600-square-foot indoor arena for rehabilitation, educational clinics, and lameness work. “Sometimes you can’t notice a problem with a horse unless it is being ridden,” states Batker.

The clinic is profitable and growing.Startup costs are under control, and when the two businesses separated, the women were able to retain not only their existing client base but also any related inventory and equipment they needed.

Now they serve 1,200 clients and employ a half-dozen workers. A fourth veterinarian will be joining in June.

Will the business remain women-owned? “That’s a good question,” Batker admits. “It all depends on qualifications, but the fact is there are fewer and fewer men in veterinary medicine.” She estimates that 80% of vet-school students are female, and the dwindling number of farms means fewer farm people are pursuing large-animal careers.

Speaking of large animals, Batker acknowledges another elephant in the room: student debt. “I’ve heard that the average new graduate leaves school with about $140,000 in student loans. Income is not growing but debt is. That’s why being a vet is not always a great financial decision.

“You go into this field for two reasons — the animals and the lifestyle.”

Country View Equine Clinic
1346 S. Fish Hatchery Road,
Oregon, WI 53575
(608) 291-0505
countryviewequine.com

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.