Love of horses leads student to vet program

Renae Zook, veterinary student

First-year veterinary student Renae Zook of Trochu, Alta. Photo: Debra Marshall.

Renae Zook has loved animals of all kinds from the time that she could talk, so a career in veterinary medicine just seemed like a natural progression for the Alberta student.

“I’ve never lost my fascination with animals, particularly horses, and veterinary medicine has always been my career choice,” said Zook who spent her junior high and high school years on a farm near Trochu, Alta.

During the next four years, Zook will have the opportunity to realize her career goal at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine where she’s a first-year student in the four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program.

Zook and her classmates received an official welcome to the WCVM and to the veterinary profession on Friday, September 28, during a white coat ceremony in Saskatoon, Sask. All 80 first-year students received personalized white lab coats and stethoscopes from representatives of national and provincial veterinary medical associations during the evening ceremony.

The new students, who will graduate from the WCVM in 2016, come from communities across Western Canada and the northern territories. The regional veterinary college accepts 20 Alberta-based students each year.

Although Zook has always loved horses, her relationship with them really took off when she joined the Three Hills 4-H Wranglers Club. Spending time around other horse-focused kids had a huge impact on her, and by the time she was 12, she had her own horse – and was totally responsible for his care.

“Our club was focused on showing horses with almost all of the high school girls starting young horses,” said Zook. “So I followed suit, starting my first young horse in Grade 10 and my second young horse after graduation.”

While Zook enjoys her involvement in light horse shows and rodeo events, training horses is most satisfying to her because of the relationship she’s able to develop with the animals.

“Their companionship is one of the most rewarding things,” she explained. “You develop a personal and intimate relationship with your horse on the ground, and that translates into the saddle.”

Before entering the veterinary program, Zook earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry at the U of S and gained animal experience by volunteering at a local veterinary clinic. She spent a summer checking pens on horseback at a feedlot and recently worked in a farrowing barn where she learned about pigs while acquiring practical, hands-on experience.

Now at the WCVM, Zook particularly enjoys her first-year anatomy class where she has the chance to “dive right in quite literally.” She’s still undecided about her future plans, but Zook is considering a focus on equine or food animal medicine.

Zook plans to continue her involvement with horses while attending the WCVM. She belongs to the newly revamped U of S Rodeo Club and is bringing one of her young horses to Saskatoon so that she can spend time with her whenever she gets a chance.

“I have the horse gene – or horse addiction, I guess you could call it,” said Zook. “Any day I’m without horses is a day I wish I was with horses.”


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