What makes a busy, young veterinarian aspire to become a Team Veterinarian for a USEF sport as well as a Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) permitted Treating Veterinarian? Why would the long hours and hard, sometimes heartbreaking, work with little to no pay be attractive to an up-and-coming equine practitioner? Usually it is because the veterinarian is passionate about horses, about horse health and welfare, and about learning more to be a better practitioner to all his or her patients. And at the beginning of it all, there usually is a person or persons who influence that young veterinarian to give more back to the industry. Such is the case with Cricket Russillo, DVM, who was appointed as the US Dressage Team Veterinarian in 2017.
Russillo graduated from the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2001. Following graduation, she completed a Large Animal Medicine and Surgery internship at Texas A&M University and realized her desire was to work on elite sport horses. After 13 years of practice at Fairfield Equine Associates in Newtown, Connecticut, focusing on high-level show jumping and dressage horses, she joined the Virginia Equine Imaging practice of Kent Allen, DVM, Certified in Equine Locomotor Pathology (ISELP), in June of 2015. Russillo is a Senior Associate Veterinarian.
She relocates to Florida every winter to support clients and patients in Wellington and the surrounding areas. She is a member of the International Society for Equine Locomotor Pathology and plans to attain Certification next year.
Russillo emphasized how essential Allen has been in her growth as a veterinarian. “Dr. Allen is an extremely supportive mentor,” she said. “He always makes time to answer my myriad questions or review cases with me. With his guidance, I have continued to elevate my skill set and level of practice.”
During her 13 years with Fairfield Equine, Russillo said she worked closely with practice founder Rick Mitchell, DVM, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVSMR. “He was the most recent dressage Team Veterinarian and was the show jumping Team Vet before that,” she said. “It was he who actually introduced me to Dr. Allen.
“I met Dr. Allen through Dr. Mitchell at an ISELP seminar in Kentucky where Dr. Allen was an instructor,” recalled Russillo. “It was actually at that seminar that I approached Dr. Allen about the WEG. We were in line for Starbucks, and I casually said, ‘If you need any extra help at the WEG, please keep me in mind.’ It was a few weeks later that he called and asked if I could serve as the Overnight Treating Veterinarian.
Russillo worked alongside Allen at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games as the primary after-hours treating veterinarian. She had contributed time during a few summers for the show jumping Developing Riders tours (2006, 2007, 2008). Then in 2008, she was the Team Vet for the Dressage Team competing at the World Cup in ’s Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands. In 2015, she was the Team Vet for the Dressage Team competing at Rotterdam, then was appointed as the official US Equestrian Dressage Team Veterinarian in February of 2017.
“My current contract is through 2019, but the expectation is I will serve in my current role as least through Tokyo 2020,” she said.
“Dr. Mitchell helped me gain a foothold in the industry, and exposed me to the Wellington marketplace, which is such an incubator for sports medicine veterinarians,” said Russillo. “Having the opportunity to work there alongside other experienced veterinarians, such as Dr. Mitchell and his then-business partner Dr. Carolyn Weinberg, as well as other Team Veterinarians such as Dr. Tim Ober, is what lead me into my current role.
In addition to her busy schedule of sports medicine, Russillo enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and daughter. She has competed through 3rd Level in Dressage and loves to play tennis. She and her family are excited to be a part of the Virginia Equine Imaging team, and they love living in Northern Virginia.