It’s a sad realization for me that while I lose patients on a somewhat regular basis due to old age and sickness, I also lose clients to the same causes. Veterinarians I think are more accustomed to patient, not client, loss. After all, our profession has the benefit of euthanasia to end suffering of our sick pets. Losing a patient a few times a month, while sad, is standard business. But losing clients to death as well? This was a topic not mentioned at vet school.


Perhaps large animal vets are slightly more exposed to this type of raw loss than small animal vets. We farm vets are regularly on our clients' land, in their barns, and having coffee in their kitchens. We know their families, what cars and trucks they drive, and have a general sense of how they live. For this reason, we get attached to many of our long-standing clients. They become, if not friends, close acquaintances. All of this makes it harder to deal with the loss of such a client.


A few years ago, my clinic seemed to have a spike in client loss due to death, or perhaps it just seemed that way to me. My boss informed me of a few clients who were sick and we both watched a longtime client battle bravely through breast cancer until we found out from a neighboring dairyman that she had finally died. A middle-aged woman known for her love of horses with two older children who were tending to her equine collection with stoic determination, this woman left behind not only a kind family but a beautiful barn that sits on a main road where I frequently drive. This barn sits quiet now, empty, and I am reminded of her every time I pass it.


A few weeks ago, flipping through one of the many horse magazines that come in the mail, I noticed an ad for Ride for the Cure. I know many breast cancer charities have walks and runs to raise awareness and money, but this was the first time I had heard of a horseback ride for the same cause. But as I started to think about it, why not? Just as sponsored 5K runs and marathons are a great way to get people out, be active, and do something they enjoy in the name of charity, a horseback ride could easily achieve the same thing.


Upon further research, I quickly discovered more organized horseback rides that are occurring for charity. Interestingly, many are held in the U.K. and are sometimes referred to as “riding challenges.” On this side of the pond, there is the occasional intrepid rider who decides to simply take things into his or her own hands, like the Texan in 2011 who rode 1,500 miles from Dallas to New York to raise money for the fight against childhood cancer.


I tore out the ad for the Ride for the Cure in my area and will keep it in my files. I don’t currently have my own horse and rarely actually get into the saddle of someone else’s, but in the future that will change. And when it does, I’d like to try a charity ride, for if nothing else, to honor my lost clients.


Dr. Anna O'Brien


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