LEXINGTON, KY. — For the last five years, Dr. William A. Rood, co-founder and director of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, has been doing some
proselytizing — seeking to convert as many young veterinary students as he can to the practice of equine medicine.
It seems to be working.
Over Labor Day weekend, 528 third-year students from 34 veterinary schools across North America and the Caribbean attended
Rood & Riddle's fifth annual Opportunities in Equine Practice Seminar (OEPS). Most received all-expense-paid trips to Lexington
to hear leading speakers on equine medicine, meet practitioners, visit horse farms and tour veterinary hospitals and Keeneland
Rood, DVM, JD, came up with the idea five years ago as a way to help address the shortage of equine practitioners. The first
OEPS in 2003 drew 300 students. Last year, attendance reached 480.
Checking out job leads: Students attending the Opportunities in Equine Practice (OEPS) seminar look over exhibits from 41
practices. (Photo courtesy of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital)
Attendees must be third-year students and members of their school's chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners
The culture in veterinary schools tends to encourage students toward companion-animal practice and away from equine medicine,
Rood says, adding that "some professors openly preach to them that life will be better on the companion-animal side — fewer
hours, better starting pay, less likelihood of getting hurt and so on."
So Rood started OEPS to paint a different picture for students, pointing out that "equine practice has changed a lot in the
last few years. Long hours? That's not necessarily so. It just depends on how much you want to work. Starting pay as an equine
vet could be a little less, but the AVMA's latest study shows equine practitioners earn more than small-animal vets after
about the fourth or fifth year."
Opportunities knocking: About a third of these veterinary students listening to OEPS speakers are undecided whether to pursue
a career in equine medicine. Rood & Riddle officials hope to bring them into the fold by showcasing a variety of opportunities.
That's part of Rood's message, and he's making converts.
Of the first-year OEPS group, now graduated, 57 percent are still AAEP members and 52 percent of the second-year attendees
are still in the AAEP. "That's perhaps 200 to 250 new equine practitioners," Rood says.
Rood is particularly pleased with this year's turnout. The 528 third-year students at OEPS represent the third-largest veterinary-student
gathering in the country, after the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA) and those who
meet at the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC).
"It really says something that representatives of 41 practices (nationwide) put forth the effort to come here, — some from
as far away as California, Arizona and Canada — set up exhibits like a job fair and meet the students," Rood says. "That just
shows how much new equine doctors are needed. Another indicator is that the AAEP now has 226 jobs and 124 resumes on its Web
With Rood & Riddle organizing the OEPS, some 102 sponsors — about half from industry and half from private practices — covered
travel and hotel expenses for up to 15 students from each school. AAEP student chapters could register additional members,
but at their own expense for hotel and travel (they were covered for meals, tours and lectures). Some schools with more than
15 attendees divided the money equally among their group and either raised funds for the balance or had the students pick
up the difference.
Down on the farm: One group of OEPS attendees visits Shadwell Farm, one of three horse farms on the seminar tour schedule.
(Photos courtesy of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital)