The Doctor Is In: Hard Work, Perseverance Pay Off for Tate
Though she didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, owning an assortment of accident-prone horses gave Charlotte Tate the foundation she needed to become an equine veterinarian.
“I became pretty good at doctoring them,” the former Southern Pines resident said, flashing a dimpled grin.
Kody, Zeke, and Eve weren’t at Tate’s graduation last month from the University of Georgia Veterinary School in Athens. But without them, Tate might not have pursued her dream.
At 37, Tate is a tad older than most vet school grads. But the 1992 O’Neal School graduate, who didn’t start vet school until January of 2007, trumps her younger peers in determination and focus. It took 19 years from start to finish, but Tate says it was worth it.
“There were a lot of hoops to jump through, but I’m glad I did it,” she said.
On July 5, Tate will begin a one-year rotating internship at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, one of the premier equine hospitals in the U.S. Tate was one of seven applicants accepted by New Bolton, which gained notoriety for its most famous equine patient, 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who spent close to eight months at the hospital before succumbing to laminitis.
Tate was born in Turkey — her father, Bob, is a retired Navy Commander — and moved with her family to Southern Pines in 1978. Her paternal grandmother, Lizzy Tate, was a riding instructor who lived in Wilmington and provided young Charlotte with a succession of ponies. The first was Busy Bee, who, despite a less than ideal temperament, taught Tate how to ride.
“That is, when she wasn’t stopping and dumping me into a jump,” Tate said.
She began eventing through Pony Club; her first “big-time” horse was Kodachrome, a Hanoverian/thoroughbred cross.
Tate rode up through preliminary with Kody, and competed in the one-star at Bromont. When Kody punctured the deep digital flexor tendon in a hind leg, Tate got a crash course in veterinary care. “It had to be cleaned, flushed, wrapped,” she said. “He needed antibiotics. It was a lot.”
After Kody came Pathfinder (Zeke), who took Tate up to intermediate before suffering a career-ending injury, and Evita (Eve) who got up to preliminary before injuring herself in pasture. Eve also gave Tate experience in the treatment of EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis); the mare recovered from the neurological disease after being treated with nitazoxanide.
Tate competed all of her event horses during the traditional “long format” years, in which "cross-country" encompassed roads and tracks, steeplechase, and cross-country jumping. Roads and tracks and steeplechase were dropped from cross-country in 2004 to appease the Olympic Committee – which was considering dropping eventing from the Games – and the modified, or “short format” was introduced. The short format has become the standard in eventing competition, though a handful of venues occasionally offer the long format option.
“I feel the degree of fitness for the long format was better,” Tate said. “People had to do a lot of trot sets and galloping to get their horses fit enough. Some of the riders I’ve seen out there don’t look very comfortable with galloping, because they’re just not doing it very much.”
After graduating from N.C. State with a degree in mathematics in 1997, Tate began working for a sports marketing firm. Vet school was very much in her plans, but she worried her grades weren’t competitive enough to get in. She went back to N.C. State and took two years of science to fulfill prerequisites for vet school, and began working in the Developmental Neuro Toxicology lab at Duke University.
She took a job with a small animal vet in Raleigh – hoping it would help her vet school application stand out – and applied to N.C. State Vet School in 2005. She was rejected, and tried again the following year.
Finally, Tate was accepted at Ross University in St. Kitts. The West Indies proved to be an excellent place for a first-year vet student to study.
“I wasn’t convinced I could still learn anything,” Tate said, laughing. “But being on an island, you really had nothing else to do but study. And there was a lot of material that first year.”
Tate transferred to UGA in 2008 as a sophomore. During her senior year, she did an externship with Dr. Jim Hamilton of Southern Pines Equine Associates. “Going out on farm calls gives you an opportunity to see the day-to-day issues,” Tate said.
During the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, Tate was among a handful of vet students enlisted to help with the quarantined international horses. She was one of seven interns selected by New Bolton, and while she has not settled on a specialty she is leaning strongly toward diagnostic imaging.
Tate has been without a horse for several years, but hopes to acquire an off-the-track project while working at New Bolton. “Although if you’re a vet, it’s Murphy’s Law that your horse is going to have problems,” she said.
Tate’s two Corgis, Bridget and Chester, will join her in Kennett Square; her 12-year-old black lab, Bosum, will stay with her parents in Southern Pines.
“Anytime I’m walking into a vet hospital, I know it was the right choice for me,” Tate said. “Even with all the hoops I had to jump through.”
Contact Stephanie Diaz at MediaPlan88@aol.com.
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