Learning the ropes

Published on April 30, 2014
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Student AVMA President Ricci A. Karkula admits she talks about horses all the time. But that’s understandable for someone who could ride one before she could walk. Karkula, who became SAVMA president during the 2014 Student AVMA Educational Symposium in March, is a third-year student at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Originally, she’s from Sanger, Calif., a small town outside Fresno.

Ricci A. Karkula (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Karkula moved to Texas because she received a rodeo scholarship, and, well, “Texas just sounded fun.” She attended Weatherford College in Weatherford, Texas, for two years and finished her remaining two years of undergraduate studies at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, where she also obtained her master’s; both degrees were in animal science.

Karkula competed in rodeo events up until entering veterinary college, specifically, barrel racing, goat tying, and breakaway roping in the Southwest region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, which is one of the most competitive regions. She participated in about 10 rodeos a year for the first four years of college, and then during graduate school, she continued barrel racing and rode as much as she

Both of Karkula’s parents, Rick and Leah, had participated in rodeo when they were younger. In fact, Rick had coached the rodeo team at Fresno State University for years.

It’s been an adjustment for Karkula not to have a horse and live in a residential community since attending veterinary college; however, she says she’s glad she doesn’t have horses now because she wouldn’t have the time to care for them.

Karkula knew she wanted to be a veterinarian from about age 8. That’s when she dressed as one for Halloween, complete with a white coat and printed name tag made by her grandmother. “That put everything in motion,” she said. “I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian since then. The dynamics of the performance horse has been fascinating to me.”

Ricci A. Karkula, Student AVMA president, competed in barrel racing during high school and college. (Courtesy of Ricci A. Karkula)

Karkula says after graduation, she’d like to obtain an equine internship and then possibly complete a residency in equine sports medicine. “I think I would definitely be happier working with horses every day,” she said.

Karkula first got involved with SAVMA when she was elected as the junior delegate from Texas A&M during her first year of veterinary college. Later, she served on the SAVMA Public Health and Community Outreach Committee and the SAVMA House of Delegates as the senior delegate, and then ran for president.

“Part of the reason why I ran is I like to be active and involved and make a difference. I felt the best way to do that was to be the president,” Karkula said.;

With the possibility of the AVMA governance structure changing, she says her goal is to ensure students still have a voice in the AVMA House of Delegates and on the Executive Board. She’ll also continue to advocate for student programs and seek feedback from students.