Horse dismay as vet calls it a day

THE only dedicated equine veterinarian clinic in the north of the state will close at the end of June leading to a massive depletion in specialist care for the local racing and horse breeding industry and the broader equestrian community.

Longford Equine Clinic founder and vet Michael Morris said he was saddened to confirm that attempts to both sell the clinic and employ new vets had failed, forcing its closure. Major clients such as Armidale Stud at Carrick, Alva Thoroughbred Stud at Hagley and Brooklyn Park at Evandale, which rely on year-round reproductive services offered by the clinic, have been left reeling.

Brooklyn Park’s Cameron Thompson, who also trains horses at his Cressy property, said foals could die before a vet from further afield, such as Deloraine, arrived at the scene of an emergency birth.

“Having an equine specialist nearby is critical to our service – this is a real blow to the industry,” he said.

Dr Morris, 68, recently stepped away from clinical work and is set to retire, as is long-time partner Chris Cornes.

The clinic’s Jade Franklin will soon go on maternity leave, leaving Isobel Collier with an impossible task to keep the practice open.

“We’ve been advertising for vets for the past two years and in that time not one single inquiry has come through from anyone in Australia,” said Dr Morris. “There are very few equine vets, and I doubt that’s going to change until it becomes easier to qualify to do a veterinary degree and incentives are in place to specialise and work in rural areas.

“In the past, the gender intake has been around 95 per cent male and incredibly that has now almost reversed – but females are not being retained in the industry because it’s hard to make it work around raising a family.”

Dr Morris opened the practice in 1986, next to the Longford Racecourse to service the local racing industry. After working alone for about 15 years he partnered with Dr Cornes, who previously had a practice at Hagley. Over time the practice has bought in more specialists and offered new and improved services for horse owners.

“This is not what I envisaged, it’s sad for me and sad for the hundreds of clients on our books,” Dr Morris said. “I feel like I’m letting down and betraying my clients but we’re at a loss as to how to get their needs met going forward – every friend I’ve got started out as a client so it’s been a difficult decision to make.”

Alva Stud farm manager Tracey Rothall said: “This is a very big loss – I can’t even see how other local vets would be able to fill the void.”

“Apart from the amazing service they’ve provided, whether it’s a family pony or a top stud mare, they’re all wonderful people and they will be missed.”