Kristen Lloyd: From Santa Maria to Equine Vet Surgeon in China

Kristen Lloyd (2008) currently lives in China and serves as an Equine Vet for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. She graciously answered a few questions for us about her experiences since leaving the College. Below, she shares her story and provides some valuable advice for those considering a career in veterinary medicine.

Tell us a bit about your path from Santa Maria student to Equine Vet Surgeon for the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Out of Santa, I went straight to Murdoch University. I didn’t get straight into Veterinary Science. I had to do a year of Animal Science and then transferred into Vet. A quick six years later, I graduated and moved to Victoria where I did a 12-month internship at Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital. From there, I found my passion for surgery and did my specialist training (Fellowship in Equine Surgery) at the University of Melbourne. Finally, after 10 years of study, I passed my boards and could relax! Since then, I have worked in Melbourne and Perth, and my job has taken me to London and Birmingham, Seattle, Hong Kong and now China – it really has been a whirlwind adventure!

What inspired you to specialise as an equine vet surgeon?

Funnily enough, I actually wanted to be a sheep vet when I was going through university. I grew up on a sheep farm down in Esperance (I was a boarder), and it wasn’t until my equine rotation in my final year that I found my niche. I had always had horses growing up but didn’t think I wanted to pursue a career with them until then! I just love the ability to work up each individual case thoroughly and see it all the way through until discharge. There was nothing worse than having to refer something to another vet for surgery early in my career – now I do it all myself! And the fact that surgery is challenging and very rewarding.  

How did you come to be working for the Hong Kong Jockey Club?

I have to say, it really is all about who you know! One of my mentors from my residency in Melbourne is now one of the Principal Racing veterinarians over here in Conghua, China. They were in need of a second specialist, and she reached out wondering if my fiancé and I would be interested in a trip abroad! So, we are both here for the next 12 months, working and exploring Asia on my weekends off – it really has been a fantastic opportunity. 

Can you describe a typical workday?

It’s a very early start here most mornings, with the alarm set for 3.45 am for track work. Don’t let that deter you, though – there is nothing better than sitting with a cup of coffee, watching the racehorses on the track with the sun rising over the mountains. It really is beautiful! Then it’s off to the stables for rounds where I would do anything from scoping, lameness workups, medications etc. If there are any surgeries for the day, we would then all head back to the clinic, which could be an arthroscopy or an airway surgery for example. We do stable rounds again in the afternoon, and then if you were on track work, it’s an early knock-off at about 2.00 pm – time for an afternoon nap! 

What do you love most about your job?

That is actually a very difficult question. I am not sure I could choose just one thing. I love being out and about, not stuck in an office – and every day is different. You never know what cases you will see. Obviously, I love working with horses, but the people here at the Jockey Club are what make it for me. Everyone from the trainers, the stable staff, the vets, and the stewards – everyone is so friendly, and it makes it such an enjoyable work environment.  

What do you find most challenging?

About being a vet in general, it would have to be the after-hours. I don’t do much of that here in China, luckily, but in Australia, it is very fatiguing being on call. Being a vet is a lifestyle choice, not just a job, and you need to surround yourself with friends, family and partners who understand that. Fortunately, my fiancé is fantastic and very supportive, which makes it much easier. Again, not a problem so much here at the Jockey Club, but back at home, the other challenge is dealing with clients and money. Veterinary procedures are expensive. We don’t have Medicare for pets! I still find it difficult sometimes to help clients navigate the financial decisions regarding care for their animals, which, unfortunately, is a big part of our job. 

What do you like to do in your downtime?

At the moment, it is exploring China! We are planning to see the Great Wall in a few weeks, and I love exploring the markets on the weekends. At home, it is spent riding and competing with my own horse (dressage by day, barrel racing by night) or taking my fur child Toby the Goldy to the beach. We also have a boat at home, so any nice day is normally spent on the water (dog included!). 

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career as a veterinarian?

Be prepared for years of study and a career that takes constant hard work. If you are not driven and passionate, this might not be the career path for you! But if you are and you can throw yourself into this profession wholeheartedly, what you will get is an incredibly challenging yet rewarding job where no two days are the same and one that can take you literally all over the world. You don’t need to get the marks straight out of school (I didn’t), but keep at it and explore other avenues. And network – you can never have too many friends. So, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. I have a lot of spare time to reply to emails while drinking coffee at track work!

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