By Jennifer Moonsong
Regional Manager/ Central Division
When Dr. DeAnn Hughes was still just a girl, she already knew she wanted to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
“I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else,” Hughes said.
A lifelong love of horses
In Harrisburg, Illinois where she was born and raised, young DeAnn would visit the local veterinary clinic after school.
“I’d just go there and hang out,” she said. “They were really nice to me.”
More specifically than knowing she wanted to be a veterinarian, Hughes knew she wanted to help horses.
“From the age of twelve, I showed horses and my grandparents kept a horse for me,” she said.
In Jr. High, thanks to a gifted class that allowed career shadowing, she was able to spend some of her time shadowing a veterinarian. The experience only deepened her drive to follow her dream.
A dream becomes a reality
As a young adult, she went to Murray State for undergrad, and then to the University of Illinois for four years of veterinary education.
In 2005, while attending the University of Illinois, Hughes, who was Queen of the Illinois Quarter Horse Association, met her future husband.
“Tom used to chase me at the horse shows,” she recollected. “I blew him off for six months, but several friends in the association encouraged me to date him. So, we went on a lunch date.”
Hughes jokingly calls that first date the beginning of the end. She fell in love with Tom, and the two eventually married and moved their lives to Kentucky where Tom was born and raised. Fortunately for Hughes, Kentucky is well known for its horse culture.
Southern Equine Veterinary Services
A decade ago, after moving to Kentucky and doing an internship in Simpsonville, Hughes knew it was time to open her own practice.
The result was her now thriving business in Knob Lick, Kentucky, Southern Equine Veterinary Services.
In the beginning it was a challenge. DeAnn and Tom’s first daughter, Hallie, was only a few months old.
“Starting a new business with an infant is not easy task,” Hughes said.
However, with time, knowledge and a special touch with horses, Hughes built a loyal and steady clientele across South Central Kentucky.
“I often travel up to 40 miles in every direction,” she said. Although the clinic is easily accessible, and built for horses, Hughes says that only about 5% of the horses she sees come there.
“Most of my work is farm visits,” Hughes said.
Knowing your patients
“I know horses,” Hughes said. “I know what they do and I know why they do it. Horses are straightforward and honest.”
Hughes says that a person can read certain animals, and she certainly has a special connection to equine.
In addition to maintaining horse health through vaccinations and deworming, she has treated many things through the years. Health concerns such as colic and hoof abscesses are fairly routine, but she has often put her extensive knowledge to work with less usual ailments.
“One of the most bizarre things I ever saw was red Maple leaf toxicity,” she said.
As it turned out, the horse she was treating was in a field next to an embankment of maple saplings which had been sprayed with herbicides.
“When the leaves are wilted they omit a toxic substance poisonous to horses,” she said.
“He was breathing hard, and we didn’t know what was wrong. The whites of his eyes were extremely yellow.”
Hughes figured out what the problem was and gave the horse a blood transfusion. The horse lived, and has a happy and healthy existence.
“Sometimes it’s about knowing the environment the horse is in, where it lives, what it eats and so forth,” she said.
Advancing horse healthcare
Just this winter, Hughes added two new machines to her practice, which she is proud of because of the ease of access it adds for helping horses in need.
“For a lot of years ambulatory rural practitioners had to send bloodwork out to a lab, and that was not the most convenient thing,” said Hughes.
“Often times in a rural practice you use what you have at your disposal, even if it’s not everything that you need. This allows me to get results quickly,” she said.
“Now with this right at my fingertips I’m able to treat horses as soon as we know what the problem is.”
The two machines are a hematology machine, which measures 24 properties in the blood, and a serum chemistry analyzer which indicates 14 values.
It takes only about 11 minutes to get a full blood work-up a horse.
“If a horse came to me on a weekend, it would sometimes take two or three days to get results. I did blood work on a horse over the holidays and within a half hour I was able to detect the problem,” Hughes said.
She added that although the machinery itself was costly, per test, it is more economical for herself and the customer.
Looking to her future, Hughes is excited to offer horses and their owners these services.
For more information, you can visit the location at 6478 Sulphur Well Knob Lick Road in Knob Lick Kentucky, or call 270-261-1177.
She can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org