Michelle Ledger - Raceday Vet
I grew up in South Africa and was fortunate to travel extensively as a child. Being the step-daughter of an engineer; we always went where the next contract was. I attended 14 different schools and learnt to adapt quickly and make the most of where I found myself. We lived on a farm bordering the Kruger National Park for some time and this gave me plenty of exposure to all kinds of wildlife and my mother was always rescuing or fostering something. It strengthened my love for all creatures and certainly I could not grow up afraid of large animals, especially when the elephants would regularly visit our garden and drink from the pool.
I started riding very young, my mother always had horses and her great Aunt was married to a racehorse trainer so we watched the big races on television from as early as I can remember. Racing is in my blood, it was certainly part of my early childhood and I visited the races for the first time when I was 12 years old.
When I qualified from Vet School, I began in racetrack practice. I was not suited to this and soon left to join a sporting horse practice. After a couple of years of living in my car, I then went into Emergency and Critical Care after hours work. After three years of working in small animal practice consulting and performing emergency surgeries I decided to open my own practice and again soon had quite a few equestrian clients. As the practice grew, I found myself spending very few hours at home and with my young son starting school, I decided I needed a more structured working life with fewer after-hours calls. I went into racing regulatory work in South Africa in 2008. I haven’t looked back.
I moved to Australia and began at Racing Victoria in 2013 and the adventure continues
About the Job:
The job is interesting and varied. It combines the love of the outdoors and horses in race-day veterinary duties as well as exercise physiology, veterinary medicine and analytical testing. There is never a dull moment in this industry as is true of most professional sports. We are always striving to understand how to improve the safety and welfare of horses competing in the industry and in every situation we discover new challenges and the opportunity to learn and grow, which I love.
One day may involve researching prohibited substances, or writing briefs for the Integrity team; visiting stables to perform testing; or writing reports and learning about injuries, track surfaces, new training methods; speaking to trainers about treatments for their horses; or giving them advice regarding diseases or travel or how to understand aspects of the Rules of Racing.
Another day may find us catching a small plane to attend a race meeting in the country or attending a big city race meeting. We are always on hand to assist the Stewards with veterinary aspects of their decisions and investigations. Whatever we are busy with, the focus is always on what is best for the horses involved.