New equine sports performance complex dedicated

By Sarah Carey


From left to right are Dr. Jack Payne, Dr. Suzan Oakley, Dean Jim Lloyd (cutting the ribbon), K.T. Steward and Dr. David Guzick. (Photo by Jesse Jones)

With a cut of a ribbon on the afternoon of a hot summer day, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine celebrated the official opening of a new equine sports performance complex during a grand opening ceremony at 4:30 p.m. June 6.

The $600,000 venue, funded through a combination of state and private dollars, will aid UF veterinarians in diagnosing problems that are often difficult to pinpoint in performance horses without direct observation of the horses under saddle.

The college’s dean, James W. Lloyd, D.V.M., Ph.D., greeted attendees, saying one of the key reasons for his interest in becoming dean was the college’s renowned equine programs.
Raised around horses, Lloyd grew up riding trails and competing in the 4-H show ring. When he worked in private veterinary medical practice, horses were a large part of his job.

“So I’m thrilled to be able to lead a college of veterinary medicine that is right next to one of the true epicenters of the North American horse industry – Ocala,” he said.

Attendees of ribbon-cutting for equine sports complex

Attendees of the ribbon-cutting heard several speakers address why the new venue is significant for UF, for horse owners and for the equine industry. (Photo by Sarah Carey)

Lloyd added that the day’s timing, which immediately preceded the Belmont Stakes race in the Triple Crown, was impeccable also because the ceremony signaled the college’s commitment to helping the Florida horse industry consistently achieve exactly that level of preeminence, whether it involves race horses, hunter-jumpers, show horses or other instances of the horse as an athlete.

“This equine sports performance complex will help us bring the latest in cutting-edge biomedical and clinical services to the Florida equine industry and the Florida veterinary medical profession,” Lloyd said. “We will build on a solid foundation of translational, or clinical, research, in partnership with the rich core of researchers on the UF campus, whether that involves the UF Health Sciences Center, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the College of Engineering or some other innovative scientists on campus.

He added that UF will share its experience and expertise in research with world-class equine athletes as a model for considering similar conditions of importance to the human athlete.

In addition, the new complex will provide a rich educational experience for the next generation of equine practitioners and biomedical/clinical scientists, and will enhance clinical services.

“Our unique portfolio of strengths in surgery, medicine, imaging and other diagnostics will be developed specifically to complement and augment those services available in the private sector,” Lloyd said. “Working hand-in-hand with the Florida veterinary medical community, we want to be a readily accessible resource of faculty expertise.”

Drs. Oakley, Morton, Mackay

Drs. Suzan Oakley, Ali Morton and Rob MacKay, all large animal clinicians, visit prior to the ceremony. Oakley is president of the Florida Association of Equine Practitioners and was on hand to participate in the ribbon cutting. (Photo by Sarah Carey)

Other speakers at the event included Jack Payne, Ph.D., senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at UF, David Guzick, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF Health, Suzan Oakley, D.V.M. (’91), president of the Florida Association of Equine Practitioners, and third-year veterinary student K.T. Steward, president of the student chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Payne noted that for the 440,000 Floridians involved in the equine industry, “horses are their co-workers.”

“This facility says we care about our co-workers,” Payne said. “It also reminds us that in Florida, horse health means economic health. We have half a million horses in the state; that’s more than Kentucky has. They help us produce $2 billion in goods and services annually.”

That IFAS and UF Health both have a hand in the College of Veterinary Medicine is no accident, Payne said.

“It reflects our awareness that medicine, on the way to saving millions of lives, has overlooked one of its own maladies – the tendency to divide itself by the species of patient,” he said. “Here is one place we integrate what we learn about medicine, whether it comes out of veterinary or human health.”

Veterinary student Steward offered remarks on behalf of the student body.

“Thank you to the donors for believing in us, to the college for molding us, and to the future clients for entrusting us with the care of your equine athletes,” Steward said. “With the introduction of this facility, we, the students, will be shaped into the top doctors, and dare I even say specialists, of the future of equine performance medicine.”

Located behind the main Large Animal Hospital building, adjacent to existing barns, the new complex is large enough for most performance disciplines, such as show jumping, dressage, Western sports and driving.

For more photos from the ribbon-cutting on Facebook, click here.

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