Dr. Kelly Wentz
Dr. Kelly Wentz is a certified, accomplished, medical professional in her field of Veterinary Medicine with a focus in Equine. Pronounced /ekwīn/. For those not familiar with the scientific classification; Equine is any member of the genus Equus in the family Equidae that includes horses, donkeys, and zebras. Also, she is a long time family friend.
After graduating from The College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University she pursued an internship at Tennessee Equine Hospital. Upon finishing her internship she became an associate focusing on all aspects of horse care, from rudimentary to advanced. Despite working at a well respected, state of the art facility, she is currently moving to another practice to pursue an opportunity that will allow her to grow her skills as a respected authority in the field of Equine Veterinary Medicine.
Learning of Kelly’s passion and relentless pursuit of knowledge was the ultimate factor in the decision to conduct this interview. It is always interesting to see someone with so much drive and conviction pursue something they love. A certain energy fills the air and her enthusiasm becomes contagious after a few searching questions about her pursuit of happiness. I hope you enjoy this interview with Dr. Kelly Wentz.
1. Kelly, it seems like you are doing exactly what you have always wanted. Was there ever any doubt or was it part of the plan from the beginning?
“I decided when I was 10 years old that I wanted to work on horses for the rest of my life. My mother tried to discourage it by helping me get a job at an equine hospital cleaning and mucking stalls. It backfired – and only made me love the idea more. I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for anything!”
2. Not many people, myself included, understand the tasks and duties of an Equine veterinarian. Can you take us through a normal day at your practice and what sorts of things you have to encounter?
“What a question! The best part about my job is there is no normal day, and no day turns out even if you try to plan it. I usually start the day with a variety of appointments involving wellness examinations (vaccinations, dentistry, and general healthcare); lameness or performance examinations; and routine surgeries (tumor removal, castrations). Eighty percent of these calls are done on the farm (farm call) where I travel to the farm to see one or more horses. The others are seen at our clinic. Throughout the day clients call my cell phone with appointments to be made later in the week, and emergencies that need to be seen that day. The phone rings continuously. In between farms calls and phone calls I complete invoices, send bills, order medications, and complete blood/lab work to be sent to the laboratory.”
3. During your tenture with Tennessee Equine Hospital you looked after and cared for the horses of some of country music’s biggest stars. Are they as passionate about that lifestyle as they are portrayed to be as famous country music singers?
“Well, some of them are. The others I don’t know because they were never there! But, their farm hands were very passionate about their farms and animals! The music stars do not mind spending a dollar or several thousand if their horse needs it. Sheryl Crow and Clay Walker were probably the most involved with the care of their horses.”
4. PETA urges many to think twice about riding horse-drawn carriages, especially in urban environments. Citing cases that date back to 2007 they state that horses will inevitably develop lameness and hoof deterioration because of hard city streets, among many other issues. Is this a real concern? Would you urge us to hold our horses when it comes to riding horse-drawn carriages?
“It is harder on horses that have to work on hard surfaces. Just like athletes – people who run on hard surfaces may have more joint concussion and debilitation than those who run on dirt paths or grass. However, the horses that work in the cities pulling carriages, wear shoes often with pads to protect their feet and the people who own those horses rely on them for income so they take good care of the horses.”
5. As a doctor are you required to work all hours of the day? How often are you called into the “office” and what are the typical emergencies you face in the field?
“I work with one other doctor and we share the emergency call 50/50. Horses, unfortunately do not care what time it is or if it is a holiday so there are calls at all hours! The most common emergencies are lacerations or cuts that need to be cleaned and stitched up, eyes that have been scratched or ulcerated, and colics (which is just a broad term for abdominal pain – which horses love to get at like 10 pm..). There is also the occasional choke, very lame horse, or old horse that is down and can not stand.”
6. During your high school and even college days you kept your equine interests separate from aspects of your lifestyle not pertaining to education or work. Growing up it might have been a choice made out of necessity, but as time went on was it helpful to keep the two lifestyle separate? Is this decision habitual or out of perceived benefit?
“In high school I kept my horse interest separate because there were some boys at my school that made fun of me for having horses. They were greatly amused by neighing, snorting, pawing at me and calling me a horse. At the time I was very bothered by it, but if i saw them today I would probably neigh at them. I went to an agriculture college and everyone there had farm animals so I fit right in! Now my work and my life revolve around horses so it is all one.”
7. So far we have talked about all work and no play. When you are off duty, what types of extracurricular activities help keep you balanced? Do you like to spend that time with your own horses or do you step away from the field all together?
“Outside of work I spend time with my family at our farm, riding and caring for our own horses. A perfect weekend involves at least one day trail riding with my friends or family! I also love running, exercising, and spending time with my friends! I love to travel on long weekends as all of my closest friends live all over the country!”
8. Finish this sentence. I have learned the most from….
“MY MISTAKES! We all make them. I’ve never made the same one twice when it comes to veterinary medicine.”
9. Biggest fear?
“Failure. Isn’t that everyones? Failure for me would be not being the best veterinarian or not doing everything I could.”
10. Best decision every made and why?
“Best decision?!?! As far as my career – to do a labor intensive, stressful internship. There are terrible rumors (which are truthful) about the life of an equine intern. We worked long days and nights, no sleep, no time off, no pay. But at the end of the year I would have done it again. I learned so much in a year I can not repay the mentors I worked under.”
11. Daily habit?
“I love to vacuum. Well, cleaning in general. I wake up at 5am and vacuum. It’s weird – but it gets me going.”
12. Your inspiration?
“My mom. She is amazing. She puts all of her time, energy, and effort into her family while still owning her own practice. I just want to be a fraction of that good.”
13. These days, the costs for recreationally participating in the sport are climbing. To haul a trailer with horses over long distance costs time and gas. What would you say to those that are riding less? What keeps you going and what keeps you from burning out?
“People are not riding less, but they are traveling less. The clients with no financial restrictions are not bothered, they still show and spend lots of money on their horses. Others just do not go to shows or trail rides, and often make riskier decisions as far as not vaccinating their horses or getting veterinary care. I just read an article about the average cost to maintain a horse for a year is $2500 per horse and that does not include the cost of boarding it somewhere (which ranges from $250-500/month in this area).
Burn out? Well, I’ve only been at it for 2 years but….I freaking love my job. There are some things I am often frustrated with, like late night phone calls, leaving a hot date to go suture up a horse, or having to work on Christmas Eve. But the benefit I get from doing what I do – helping people help their horses far outweighs the negatives. Everyday is an adventure!”
It was amazing watching Dr. Wentz work and she certainly has a way with horses that would make Cesar Millan jealous. If you want to learn more about her and her current practice you can find the information here: www.tamobilevet.com.
Big thank you to Dr. Wentz for agreeing to this interview and allowing me to tag along. It was certainly interesting and I can’t wait to go on an emergency call.
All photos were taken by me. You can find my portfolio here: www.athesisinprogress.com
If you missed the last interview, you can find it here: Elizabeth “Chainsaw” Jones