31 Oct A remarkable member’s story…
Ever wonder how other members have navigated their careers, stayed in the industry so long, or made an impact?Here’s a biographical article generously offered for publication by Lynne Hewlett, CHT, CHT-V, Technician Coordinator at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Her story is truly amazing!
Lynne Hewlett, AA, CHT, CHT-V
( Certified Hyperbaric Technologist, Certified Hyperbaric Technologist- Veterinary )
Hagyard Equine Medical Institute
BIO: Lynne has been an equine veterinary technician for over 33 years in a clinical setting with a focus on Neonatal Intensive Care. She is currently the Technician Coordinator in the Medicine Department as well as the Hyperbaric safety director. She is a charter member of the AAEVT , lives in Georgetown, KY with her husband Mark, and has 3 children, Teal, Natalie and Zachary.
Her Story: When I reflect back on my life, I tend to think of it in chapters pieced together to form the story that is me. Chapter one is from my birth in 1962 to high school graduation which although consisted of many great memories had nothing to do with horses. I constantly begged my mother for riding lessons because I knew this was my passion, yet she insisted we could not afford it, and I got piano lessons instead. My hometown is not only quite spectacular (located at the top of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland) but also inspired an owner of a very famous Thoroughbred to name his filly after Havre de Grace.
The next chapter involves a small private college nestled in the Bluegrass Mountains in Buena Vista, Virginia where I began riding, showing hunt seat, and received an Associates Degree in Animal Science. Southern Sem College was a great choice for me as it was very small, five hours from home and I could work with horses most of the day. As it turns out, the 1980’s started the Southern Seminary “ dynasty” during which this tiny college would win seven national team championships competing in the ISHA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association ). One of their most decorated students was Beezie Madden who has gone on to win many Olympic Medals for the US Equestrian Team. Just before I graduated I heard about an opportunity to move to Kentucky to work for the summer with sales yearlings, and in May of 1982 I loaded up a U-Haul with two friends and headed west to Lexington to work on Spendthrift Farm.
To be honest, I was not quite 20, completely fearless and very, very green. I actually had never been on a TB farm and had no idea what I was getting into. In the 1980’s Spendthrift Farm was in its glory and stood many of the top stallions in the world including two Triple Crown winners: Seattle Slew and Affirmed. Although I worked with yearling fillies, during lunch break we would walk up to the Stallion barn to visit the boys and even though I had certainly heard of the Triple Crown, I really had no concept of the royalty located in that barn. I may or may not have discovered that Fritos were Seattle Slew’s favorite snack, depending on who you ask. Our yearlings were taken to the Keeneland sale in July (where only men were allowed to show them, true story) and at this time I convinced the managers into letting me ride on the training side of the farm. As I turned 21, I found myself on a new journey of breaking yearlings. Although I was the perfect size, I had also only been riding for 2 years and was for the most part terrified for my life the entire first month. I remember studying the other riders, learning
to relax my hands and realized that each and every horse has a distinct personality, just like we do. Understanding this concept would help me greatly though out my lifetime. Spendthrift moved their yearlings to Tampa Bay Downs in Florida for the winter, and so off I went with them to ride on the track during the morning, waitress at night and lay on the beach all day. With this new love of riding came a succession of farm jobs in various locations, including Sagamore Farm in Maryland and eventually leading me back to KY to break yearlings for Stone Farm, Juddmonte, Saxony and High Hope Farm. My favorite employer was Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY as it was storybook beautiful, rich in heritage,and the staff was over the top nice. After riding in the morning we could go down to the Stallion complex and hang out with Secretariat. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world and had now had the opportunity to spend time with 3 Triple Crown winners by the age of 23.
It was during this time period that I met a native Kentucky boy and after dating a short time we married in 1986. We just celebrated our 32nd anniversary in August. In 1985 I spotted an ad in the newspaper classified section which caught my eye. The headline was FOALPATROL: Come and be a part of the equine neonatal nursing care team at Woodford County Animal Hospital. I applied, was hired part time and remember being extremely nervous. My very first day I assisted with a fetotomy. I’m guessing they were trying to weed out the faint of heart individuals. The following day I was placed in a small padded room with three neonatal orphans on beds and very little training. One of them pulled out his IVC, blood started flowing everywhere and I began to think maybe I had made a big mistake with this career. but after the first week I was hooked. In January 1986 I transferred with one of the doctors from Woodford to Rood and Riddle, when it first opened its doors. I was given the role of ICU supervisor under the supervision of Dr. Timothy Cudd, followed by Dr. Bill Bernard. I am forever grateful to these
two brilliant men for jump starting my career. My job description was very diverse and included HR, hiring, scheduling, organizing new barn offices, nursing care, ordering supplies and medications and even billing. ( I would take home the paper charts and add up the charges by hand while watching TV). Times were much different back then and I recall that when Dr. Bernard got the very first computer to do data entry I laughed and thought to myself that it was the most ridiculous thing ever.
This time at RREH strengthened my passion for equine nursing in a clinical setting and to this day I look back on those years with fond memories. I spent a total of nine years there before moving to Indiana due to my husbands’ employment. We stayed there a total of three years and my family was starting to grow. I had my first daughter in 1991, my second in 1995, and a son in 2002. During our time in IN, I discovered I was definitely not made to be a stay at home mother and in 1997 we returned to Lexington. My plan was to go to (human) nursing school to become an RN, but after one semester realized that not only did I hate being inside all day but that people smell really awful. At this point I made a call to my friend Gail at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute to inquire about any openings in the Medicine department. Without hesitation she welcomed me on board to work in the NICU and I have been here ever since. My role transitioned into Technician Coordinator many years ago and I honestly love what I do.
In the 21 years I have been working at HEMI, rarely are two days ever the same. I love a fast paced, high adrenaline atmosphere and of course the neonates are my passion. Having the understanding that all horses are unique and have a distinct personality helps me have great patience with treatments and procedures, and also helps me with the training of new technicians and assistants. I have seen roughly 10,000 foals in my career. Some have gone on to be worth millions and some are backyard pets, but all are equally important. I’ve worked with some of the most famous stallions, broodmares and racehorses of all time but every single horse that comes through the door gets the same detailed attention. I love teaching new technicians, seasonal undergrad interns and students, and watching them make huge strides in just a short period of time with not only treatments, procedures and communication but horse handling as well.
My advice to anyone in an equine health care career is this: Don’t let anyone ever tell you it is too difficult to have a productive career and enjoy raising children at the same time. Involve yourself with as many opportunities as you can with your employer and in your community- don’t be a robot. I joined up with the ambulance team for 10 years, worked TB horse sales for over 30 and became a Certified Hyperbaric Technologist for both humans and animals to keep things interesting and make extra money. Spend time investigating activities that make you happy and keep absorbing new concepts. Learn to relax. This profession can be exceptionally stressful so discover yoga, meditation, read a good book, travel if you can, go for a hike or a ride, cook, make time for yourself. Learn how not to burn out. Don’t ever burn your bridges. Do beyond what is expected to make yourself stand out, and remember every expert was once a beginner.
Finally, I believe it is vital to stay informed and involved in this industry though organizations like the AAEVT. I am a charter member of the AAEVT and vividly remember how excited I was when I met Deb Reeder and heard of the exciting group she was planning to put together. I simply couldn’t believe we would finally have a voice and am forever grateful because I remember when we didn’t. Make the most of it, be pro-active , run for a position on the board, give a presentation, record a case study, host a CE event. Step outside your bubble and be brave, you won’t regret it.
Life is either a great adventure or nothing ~ Helen Keller