My Mothers Dream
Mar 8, 2011
How My Mothers Dream to Own a Horse Shaped a Young Man and Veterinary Hospital
I need to start this story by skipping to the end and introducing myself. I am Robert H Koontz DVM (Rob). I am a graduate of Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. I am an equine practioner. My clinical interest include; reproduction, lameness and performance medicine. I am a founding partner in Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital. I am also the Chief Executive Officer. This is the story of how one woman's dream shaped a veterinary career and eventually grew into a veterinary hospital.
I guess I always knew I would be a veterinarian. I remember telling adults at a very early age that I was going to be a veterinarian. But unlike most kids that actually become veterinarians, I did nothing except express my desires. I did nothing to find out what veterinarians actually do. I did nothing to determine what kind of veterinarian I wanted to be. I had no idea the educational requirements involved. I didn't know that Purdue University was the only veterinary school in the State of Indiana and one of only twenty six veterinary schools in the country (I was an Indiana University fan). That all changed with a series of events initiated by my mother.
When I started high school I was living in a large subdivision in the suburbs of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I lived there with my Dad, Mom, and two younger brothers. We were normal suburban kids, we enjoyed sports, hanging out with our friends, and doing as little work as possible. One day my mother came home and declared; "I bought a horse".
We thought Mom had gone crazy. She had never expressed a desire to own a horse. We certainly did not want a horse. Nobody in my family knew anything about horses. Where was the thing going to live; my garage?
As it turned out it was my mother's dream to own a horse. Our horse's name was Star, she did not live in the garage but was boarded in a barn down the road, and to my surprise I really enjoyed learning about her. It was fun to go to the barn, it was fun to ride, and it was even fun mucking stalls.
I was another kid in the suburbs with a boarded horse and that's where the story would have ended if not for Mom's next revelation. One day she came home and announced; "we are moving to South Whitley". South Whitley is a small Indiana farming community. We were a suburban family; there was no way Dad was going to let us move to the "boon docks". Sure he was going to look at the small horse farm that Mom had found but he would nip this insanity in the bud.
Returning home from the visit to the "boonies" my Dad looked at his three sons and stated; "Boys, we're moving to South Whitley". We moved to a small family horse farm. It was there that I learned to love the country and learned about horses. We went trail riding in the woods. We cut wood to heat the house. We made hay in the summer. We mucked stalls in the winter. I learned to ride and even do a little training.
I was still telling people that I was going to be a veterinarian. I still was doing little to actually become a veterinarian. Mom stepped in again. She set up a day for me to ride with our farrier Dennis Wertenberger. Now there was nothing less appealing to me than spending the day with a farrier. Bending over and holding a horse on your back looked hard. Dennis was always sweaty and dirty. I could see very little that interested me.
I was wrong! From the first day I loved being a farrier. I loved the challenge of looking at a foot; diagnosing problems, coming up with a plan, and implementing that plan by putting a shoe on the foot. Dennis took me under his wing as his apprentice. Soon I had graduated from Kentucky Farrier School and was working as a professional farrier. I would have stayed a farrier except something that Dennis told me; "you see a lot of old veterinarians, you rarely see an old farrier".
I looked at him and I knew he was right. He had taught me so much, but he paid for that knowledge with his body. At 45 years of age he looked 65. He walked with a limp, and nearly every joint in his body hurt. I also started to realize that there was much more to the horse than the feet. There were whole body systems in which I could diagnose problems, develop a plan, and implement the plan to improve a horse's health and performance.
I am convinced that the only reason they let me into veterinary school is my experience as a farrier. In fact I continued to shoe horses until the day I graduated. It was these earlier experiences that shaped my professional life. In the years to come I would work for other veterinarians' as an associate. Eventually my wife Susan and I would build a successful solo equine practice together called Indiana Equine Veterinary Services (IEVS). Twelve years later IEVS would merge with Dr. Conley to form Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital.
Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital is a full service equine hospital with the mission to provide the highest quality equine medical and surgical service for our patients to benefit the caring horse owner. Bringing an equine hospital to the horses and horse owners of northeastern Indiana was one of my professional goals. Untold number of horses will be helped at this hospital. To think, the whole thing started with the fulfillment of one woman's dream, to own a horse.
Note to readers: You must be very interested in horses and veterinary medicine or married to the writer if you have read this far. In future posts you can expect stories about my experiences as an equine veterinarian. Some will be more clinically oriented and contain helpful information. Some posts will have heavy doses of my personal opinion from a veterinarian's perspective. Some will just be (hopefully) interesting anecdotes. Thanks for hanging in there and I hope you will be back to read future installments of Thoughts from the Passenger Seat: My Life as an Equine Veterinarian.