Equine Veterinarian Holds Camps for Aspiring Youths


Many children express the desire to become veterinarians when they grow up because they are enchanted by fluffy bunnies or fascinated by slinky reptiles. Becoming a veterinarian takes diligence and dedication, and it isn’t always cuddly, fun, or easy, so a Florida horse doctor has created an opportunity for aspiring vets to learn first-hand the realities of the profession so they can make an informed decision about their future career choice. 

Dr. Liz Steele of Steele Equine Veterinary Services and Performance Horse Center in Zolfo Springs recalls an especially impactful experience during her training to become a vet, one that motivated her to establish programs for students to gain experience working directly with horses at her clinic.

“The inspiration for designing or even having these camps came a long, long time ago,” Steele recounts. “It was about 18 or 19 years ago, when I was in veterinary school. There was a veterinary practice out West that allowed me to come and spend two weeks at their practice. I was in college and didn’t have money to get out there, buy food, or have a place to stay, and this practice was so kind. They basically bought my plane ticket out there, they paid for a place for me to stay every single night, three meals a day, and they even paid me a little stipend at the end of each week.”

While enormously grateful for their generosity, she felt that she was not adequately contributing to the practice. The practice owner noticed Steele’s discomfort and assured her that there was a way for her to pay back the favor, and that was to pay it forward in the future when she could.

Steele never forgot that experience and when she opened her own practice, she committed to providing multiple students each year with a valuable educational adventure. 

“We were going to provide a fun, learning, engaging type of environment for students to come and learn,” she explains.

This goal is accomplished through the Youth Veterinary Camps, geared toward students ages 12 to 15, as well as by providing opportunities for high school and college students to shadow the vet techs and assistants at Steele Equine Veterinary Services. The clinic also welcomes junior and senior year veterinary students from all across the country to work with them for two weeks as an official clinical rotation toward their degrees. 

The camps were established in 2015. The introductory camp is for first-time attendees and is a two-day overnight adventure held during spring break. Returning students may enroll in the advanced session, which is held for three days and nights in June. More details and registration can be found at steele-equine.com/youth-veterinary-camps.

Students take part in wet labs to learn how to bandage a horse, how to operate an ultrasound, and much more. Veterinary lessons include topics such as horse anatomy, dentistry, and chiropractic care. Participants even get to observe Steele and her assistants, Brittany Mercer and Carrie Wells, in their interactions with visiting patients.

Steele finds this venture deeply rewarding for everyone involved and gladly shares her enthusiasm and faith with the students the clinic hosts. 

“Probably most importantly,” she says, “and maybe why these camps are so successful, is that we use it as a platform for Christ as well. We demonstrate devotion time at night, and in the morning we have a time designated for prayer and devotion. We give testimonies and little demonstrations. We also send them home with a little horse Bible, too. It’s such a blessing to be able to use veterinary medicine as a platform for Christ through these camps.”

2023 Camp Application Due Dates:

Session 1: March 13-14, 2023 (Intro) – Application due by February 13, 2023

Session 2: March 16-17, 2023 (Intro) – Application due by February 16, 2023

Session 3: June 7-9 2023 (Advanced) – Application due by May 7, 2023

Session 4: June 21-23, 2023 (Advanced) – Application due by May 21, 2023

Applicants will be notified 4 weeks prior to camp dates.

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