A career as an equine veterinarian

03 Aug 2021
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Growing up in suburban Melbourne but with family connections to horse racing, a love of horses was instilled into Dr Steve Dennis from a young age. Having an appreciation for the equine form, Dr Dennis subsequently pursued a career as an equine veterinarian, which has seen him work in several states and overseas whilst raising a large family.

“My mother was born and raised in a one-horse town in the high country of Victoria and grew up in a saddle, and my father was a stadium caterer who had the contract of running the catering at Flemington racecourse from the middle of the ‘60s for about twenty years, very much my formative years,” said Dr Dennis.

“I’ve got great uncles that have been bookmakers, a cousin who was a jockey, a trainer and then a steward, so I got this mesh of either genes or environment but it made me very interested in horses just as animals – and I found myself always wanting to get out of the city and into the countryside the minute I could. I just loved the animal, more so to work with them on the ground than to get on their backs!”

Equine medicine and reproduction work

After graduating from the University of Melbourne, Dr Dennis started working as a veterinarian in 1985 with stints in rural Victoria and the United Kingdom. Upon returning to Australia, he worked at Ballarat Veterinary Practice for eleven years, during which time he developed an interest in equine medicine and reproduction work.

“I did my Membership examinations in equine medicine, and had a young family and a wife who was very supportive of the idea of going on an adventure - so with five kids, we packed everybody into a camper van and started on a round-Australia trip. That involved three stud seasons in Bunbury, and exploring Western Australia in between.”

“After doing that for a few years, and our family was expanding as well, it was pretty important to find somewhere to live again, and on holiday in Queensland, we saw a property we really liked and jumped in and settled in the Sunshine Coast hinterland,” said Dr Dennis.

Locum work and further study

He then worked for several years in Gympie followed by Kenilworth, with both roles offering the opportunity to develop the equine side of the practice before Dr Dennis branched out into working as a locum veterinarian.

“The main locum work I was getting was people going on holidays, but when COVID-19 started, people weren’t taking holidays anymore and a close friend of mine mentioned to me that the University of Melbourne were looking for someone to do a PhD into equine strangles disease – and the idea of studying partially from home was very appealing, so I started that in February this year,” explained Dr Dennis.

Giving back to the profession

Dr Dennis is the President-Elect of Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA), a special interest group of the AVA.

“The longer you’re in the profession, you appreciate more and more having a professional body to represent the profession and advocate on issues affecting equine veterinarians. I really value the opportunity to contribute through this role,” said Dr Dennis.

A musical passion

Music and performance have been a passion for Dr Dennis throughout his career, something he has looked for opportunities to participate in wherever he has worked, and a hobby he still enjoys with his family.

“When I was at Ballarat I became involved with an amateur theatre company and performed a couple of shows including Les Misérables and Jesus Christ Superstar. My wife and I play music now still. We have a small music ensemble that we get together with every week. Having a passion that you can just disengage from the stresses of your work is to me really critical,” shared Dr Dennis.

Check out the Vet Voice website for more information about a career as an equine veterinarian.

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