UC Davis undergraduate student Samantha Gentille and CEH herd horse April.

UC Davis Equine Student Attends Inaugural Pre-Veterinary Experience Day in Kentucky

UC Davis undergraduate student Samantha Gentille and CEH herd horse April.
Samantha Gentille and CEH Teaching Herd Horse April.

UC Davis undergraduate student Samantha Gentille recently checked a box on every equestrian’s bucket list - a trip to Kentucky.

Gentille traveled to the Bluegrass State to attend the inaugural Pre-Veterinary Experience Day presented by the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Pre-Veterinary Advising Program in conjunction with UK Ag Equine Programs and the Kentucky Horse Council. The daylong event was open to all college students with an interest in veterinary medicine and designed to offer insight into current veterinary medicine issues, addressing topics such as student debt, mental health, and work-life balance. Career focus options included companion/small animal, livestock, equine, or government/academia with each tour allowing attendees an opportunity to view a veterinary facility and learn from professionals in their area of interest.

An aspiring equine veterinarian, Gentille chose the equine track, which included an afternoon visit to Spy Coast Farm, a premiere sport horse breeding, training, and rehabilitation facility adjacent to the Kentucky Horse Park. She attended an informational panel with three of the Spy Coast veterinarians and toured the farm, visiting with their stallions, mares, and foals.

Spy Coast Farm in Kentucky
Spy Coast Farm in Kentucky.

“I hadn’t realized how broad the field of equine veterinary medicine is,” said Gentille. “It was great to learn about various specialties such as ophthalmology and oncology. That is now something that really interests me.”

Horse crazy from an early age, Gentille has tried her hand at a variety of riding disciplines, from jumping to barrel racing. When she was nine years old, she attended a summer camp that introduced her to some basic veterinary skills, inspiring her to want to become a veterinarian. She became interested in research in high school, which has helped her refine her career path, and is now participating in equine research projects as an Animal Science major at UC Davis.

Students touring inside the barn at Spy Coast Farm in Kentucky.
Equine students touring Spy Coast Farm.

“I haven’t fully decided if I want to be a practice-based veterinarian or a research veterinarian, but I know that I definitely want to do something in either of those areas,” she said.

In addition to research, Gentille has been working as a student employee at the Center for Equine Health (CEH) since last April, where she is a valued member of the team.

“Working at CEH has taught me practical skills such as how to bandage horses’ legs and draw blood,” she said. “It has also taught me to be more self-sufficient. I have freedom and feel trusted. It is a very welcoming environment and I really appreciate the opportunity.”

Collectively, these experiences helped her get the most out of her trip to Kentucky. Although she was the only student from California to attend the pre-veterinary event, she found the other students, most of whom were from Kentucky, to be very welcoming.

“Everybody is a horse person in Kentucky,” she observed. “You can talk about horses with just about anyone. It creates an instant connection.”

According to Gentille, common concerns about careers in veterinary medicine voiced by the participants, regardless of their home campus, were work-life balance and student loans. She reflected that the program provided useful information and resources for the students to navigate these challenges successfully in the future.

“One of the things that we talked about was how to set boundaries, and that it’s okay to set boundaries,” she said. “It’s not something that we see often in veterinary medicine, but it is important to avoid burnout.”

Gentille is glad to be back home to California weather, but was inspired by her trip and looks forward to continuing to pursue a career in equine veterinary medicine.

Support for Gentille’s participation in this program was provided thanks to University Partnership Program funds provided by Aurora Pharmaceutical.

“I would like to thank the UC Davis Center for Equine Health veterinarians and staff for encouraging me to attend this experience, and for guiding me through the planning process,” said Gentille. “I would also like to thank Aurora Pharmaceutical for sponsoring my trip and continuing to support UC Davis students in their pursuit of academic excellence and memorable opportunities.”