A bucking-bull veterinarian in the making

Published on July 18, 2012
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When Dr. Gary D. Warner asked his daughter Kelly why she wanted to be a large animal veterinarian over anything else, he wasn’t necessarily trying to steer her down a different career path. He wanted to know whether Kelly understood what she was getting herself into.
This was a few years ago, when Kelly was enrolling at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. She understood better than most the demands on a large animal veterinarian: long hours away from family, working with dangerous animals, and so on. Kelly learned these lessons from her father, who had been treating cattle and horses in central Texas for more than 30 years and is arguably the most sought-after bucking-bull veterinarian in the world.
“When he asked me that, I said, ‘This is all I’ve ever known. Why would I do anything else when I love veterinary medicine so much?’” recalled Kelly, soon to enter her fourth year of college.

Kelly Warner, a student at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences​

Dr. Warner imparted his passion for the profession not just on Kelly but also on his daughter Jenna, a small animal practitioner, and Jacob, his teenage son, already planning on a career as a veterinarian. “I love my family, but my life is veterinary medicine. I guess they saw that excitement,” Dr. Warner said.
Kelly entered veterinary college intent on working in equine sports medicine. Her career plans changed, however, the more she helped her father look after bucking bulls competing at various Professional Bull Riders events. “I just fell in love with the bulls,” Kelly explained. “They have a whole different type of athleticism than horses do and need a different kind of care.”
The proposal for Kelly’s study concentration as a fourth-year student, “Large animal sports medicine and integrative therapies,” focuses on horses as well as bucking bulls. Kelly will spend part of the school year studying sports medicine at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and learning acupuncture at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
As president of Texas A&M’s student chapter of the AVMA over this past year, Kelly met veterinary students from across the country. When her interest in working with bucking bulls came up, the discussion often turned to the subject of rodeo animal welfare. Kelly understands the squeamishness over cattle roping but thinks rodeo’s negative image is unfair and based on a lack of understanding.
“If we’re using animals with responsible husbandry skills and in a proper way, I don’t think those cattle are being harmed. If you’re not using responsible husbandry practices with your cattle, you won’t have a good product at the end of the year,” said Kelly, who grew up showing cattle competitively.
“I realize that these bulls are getting the best care possible, just like any other professional athlete,” Kelly continued. “To be the best bucker, they must receive the best nutrition, athletic training, and veterinary medical care.”