Brooke Braskamp: A love of horses turned into a career
July 1, 2013
Brooke Braskamp, DVM, has a passion for the equine species. A veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota, Braskamp specializes in both small animals and horses. Her love of horses translates to high-quality care for them in her professional life.
She grew up on a cattle ranch near White River, SD and started riding horses at age five. She fell in love with horses and her youth was spent competing in 4-H and high school rodeos. As a freshman at South Dakota State University (SDSU), she competed on the collegiate rodeo team. While at SDSU, she focused on her studies and earned her way into vet school. In 1998, she attended Iowa State University, where she spent four years studying her trade.
An internship at Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hospital in Oconomowoc, WI, helped hone her skills with horses. The internship turned into a three-year position as an associate. The clinic is one of the largest and most-respected equine practices in the nation, specializing in horses, so Braskamp had the opportunity to work on all breeds of horses – even Olympic-level jumping horses.
"This was my first chance to work with a wide range of horses," she said. "I appreciated the opportunity to work on more than just the Quarter Horses and work horses that I was used to being around back home."
During her time in school and in Wisconsin, Braskamp sharpened her skills in preventative care, lameness treatments, eye examinations, surgeries, emergency care and dentistry. She expanded her skill set by spending some time in equine veterinary clinics in Oklahoma, Michigan, Arizona and Colorado, where she was offered advanced training in these areas.
At Twin Lakes Animal Clinic she enjoys her small animal preventative care and surgeries, but she is hoping to expand her equine practice and do more artificial insemination and dentistry on horses.
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"We do a lot of performance floats and geriatric work for any horses in their late 20s and 30s," she said. "We try to balance their mouths, so they can keep up their nutrition and make it more efficient for the horses to eat. I also advise people how to feed their performance horse for optimal performance or to better care for their geriatric horses."
Although she spends two days a week in the clinic, most of her work is done at her own place or traveling to the client. Currently, she travels up to 60 miles away for clients, but she would travel further, if there was the need.
"Although sometimes folks don't think equine dentistry is necessary, we can really help the horses quickly and make a big difference for them," she explained. "Horses need to have their teeth floated every year, and a lot of people don't realize that. The horses that need their teeth fixed the most are those under five years old. Their baby teeth are falling out, and their adult teeth are coming in. Those horses are changing a lot during this time. I recommend getting those younger horses checked out every six months. If a horse gets thin or run down, it might be because of their teeth, so keep that in mind. Older horses need to have their teeth floated each year. The teeth of a horse naturally get sharp edges as they eat, so we try to balance their mouth, so their teeth can wear in a balanced way. It's just as important as having a horse's feet trimmed. It's part of the routine stuff done that needs to be done to maintain a horse."
Braskamp explained that she uses the least-invasive method for the dentistry work, so the experience is pleasant for both the horse and the owner.
"We can do a better job with the better sedation we have available today. Plus, we can look and see exactly what is going on. If people haven't been trained how to perform a correct dental, it might be an unpleasant experience. With newer methods, we can really take a good look at the horse's mouth and quickly identify and correct potential problems."
With Braskamp's skill set, she could easily practice veterinary medicine anywhere she chooses, but South Dakota is lucky to have Braskamp call this state home. The move to Madison was fueled by family living near. Braskamp's husband, Corey, has family in the area, and they are involved in the family operation. Corey works as an electrician at Dakota State University. The pair met competing in high school rodeo together, and today, they maintain 16 horses at their place.
"We moved back to my husband's hometown in 2006," she said. "We live on the family farm where he grew up. We mainly came back to be close to our family. We have a great love of South Dakota and the family-feel that this state has. It was a great opportunity to start working at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic, and I have worked really hard to expand the equine horse work we do at the clinic.
Family is certainly an important part of Braskamp's life. They have four children: Brayden (7), Tyan (5), Livya (3) and Lane (1). She hopes that one day her children will have the same passion for horses that she and her husband have. They work hard to instill a love of agriculture in their children. In addition to the horses, they also keep a few chickens and lambs around, as well as putting up some hay – all projects the kids can get involved in.
Braskamp also takes time to be active in the community. In addition to hauling her kids to all of their extracurricular activities, she is involved in a Women's Bible Study that meets once a week.
Without a doubt, balancing a career, marriage, kids and all the extras can take a toll, but Braskamp has achieved success balancing it all.
"When I first graduated, there weren't as many women veterinarians, but today, there are more female equine veterinarians in the field," she admitted. "When I first graduated, I was very young and a woman, and for some people that was difficult for people to understand. I credit a lot to growing up with three brothers in a ranch community, so I understand how things work. For some people, I had to earn their respect through time. You definitely have to be comfortable with the horses and be able to read them, as well as communicate with the owner to try to help them figure out a way to fix their horse. For me, it's also important to keep up with new treatments and new ideas as people and the industry changes. I have to adapt and keep up, so I can offer my patients the best care possible."
Her advice for others considering this field is to really explore the options through job shadowing and internships.
"Be sure that this is the area you want to work in. It's a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of schooling. It's not a glamorous job. It's physically demanding. It's not the ideal job when you're trying to have kids. My advice is to get as much experience as you can to make sure that it's what you want to do, especially if the individual is interested in being a veterinarian. Get the most experience you can in that field. Have a hard work ethic. Be persistent and keep trying."
As for Braskamp's love of horses – it only strengthens with time.
"It helps that I grew up with horses and have been around them my whole life," she said. "I know how much these animals mean to the owner, and I can connect with them that way. We definitely have some great horses in South Dakota, and I'm happy to be able to work with great people, too."
To contact Braskamp for animal health care, horse owners can call 605-256-0123 at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic, Madison, SD.