Sunday, October 22, 2017

Reg Pascoe, Australia's Legendary Equine Veterinarian, Has Died

In Australia, and almost any part of the world where horses are raised or raced or bred, you could be forgiven for thinking that there's a secret word that seasoned horsemen and veterinarians all seem to know. "Pascoe" certainly must be synonymous with "horse vet".
But it didn't refer to all horse vets, it meant only one. His reputation preceded him, and his name was known to all.

"A great gum tree has fallen in the forest." That was the introduction Oakey Veterinary Hospital in Queensland, Australia used to announce the death of its founder last week.

Reg Pascoe, MVSc, MRCVS, a world leader in equine veterinary medicine, died at the age of 88. He helped build equine medicine as we know it--and too often take for granted. Years ago, someone had to put the wheels in motion and someone had to look around and say, "Well, why not do it for horses?"

Reg Pascoe not only established one of the first private equine hospitals in Australia, he built it into an international destination, where future top veterinarians cycled through on internship or residency rotations beginning in 1959. It was a long way to go to Australia, but they went, and carried what they learned back to the rest of the world.

“Send him to Pascoe." A trainer knew he was in trouble when the local vet gave that advice. The tough cases went to Oakey. Unlike other vets, Reg Pascoe's interest and skill crossed from reproduction to dermatology to surgery--and filled in many places in between.

Vet school was very different in the 1940s than it is today, and the University of Queensland's vet school catered to returning war veterans much older than Reg Pascoe when he enrolled. Much of his pioneering work was done when there were only a handful of veterinary journals to publish it, and even before the establishment of the Equine Veterinary Journal in 1968.

But the world beat a path to Pascoe's Oakey Veterinary Hospital in northeast Darling Downs, Queensland. It began as an extension of his garage.

In 1999, he designed and implemented the Oakey Veterinary Hospital Equine Teaching Unit for training final-year University of Queensland vet students in equine subjects.

Among the international veterinarians who spent time at Oakey was Jonathan Pycock, BVetMed, PhD, DESM, MRCVS, current president of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). Today on Twitter he posted:

Some of the text/reference books authored by Reg Pascoe:

Equine Dermatoses
Equine Stud Farm Medicine & Surgery
Pascoe's Principles and Practice of Equine Dermatology
Knottenbelt and Pascoe's Color Atlas of Diseases and Disorders of the Horse
Manual of Equine Dermatology
A Colour Atlas of Equine Dermatology

In the last decades, Reg Pascoe expanded his reach outside veterinary medicine and applied his passion to campaigning on the environmental front to save his beloved part of the world in the face of the coal mining industry's activity there. The hospital wrote, "He never thought that, at the age of 82, he would be standing out on the freezing plains in winter holding up placards at an anti-mining protest, trying to protect one of the nation's great food bowls (region), but he stood there, determined and defiant to the very end. Reg remained involved, productive, active and intellectually curious until the very moment of his passing."

Once when he was toasted for saving the life of a client's horse, he brushed it off, saying, "Tonight we’ve heard a lot of praise for the vets and the nurses and the medicine but we must not forget that we are here for the horse and we are here to honor the greatness of the horse.”

Many people in the horse world are strive to stand where they believe they belong: on the stage and in the spotlight. But there was a time when there was no stage and no spotlight, not even in people's imaginations. Equine vets received little credit or recognition and few honors. It took determination and perseverance and probably no small sacrifice to help build the veterinary profession in the second half of the 20th Century but the visionaries of the day built it anyway. Someone had to build it, someone had to have vision.

Could you do it? Would you know where to start?

People like Reg Pascoe rarely have a spreadsheet master plan or even a concrete vision of how far their dreams can go because they don't know where the limit is--or if there is one. They just start building, one case at a time, one conference at a time, one article or book chapter at a time, one intern or assistant at a time. It's how true leaders have always carried their passions and their visions forward, improving thousands of horses' futures and people's careers as they go.

Thanks to Maryanne Leighton, author of Equine Emergency Rescue, A Guide to Large Animal Rescue (2010), which opened with a foreword written by Reg Pascoe. Maryanne kindly provided photos of Reg Pascoe seen in this article. The Hoof Blog highly recommends that you read a very inspiring article Maryanne wrote summarizing Reg Pascoe's career in Outback, the magazine of R.M. Williams.

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