Susan Johns, DVM, joined Virginia Equine Imaging (VEI) as an intern in the spring of 2002 following graduation from Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed her internship in sports medicine and diagnostic imaging with VEI, then stayed and earned her place on the team as a Senior Associate Veterinarian. She has worked closely with Sound-Eklin educating many veterinarians about direct digital radiology and completed much of the groundwork for the joint MRI department with the Marion DuPont Equine Medical Center and VEI.
Johns works extensively with national and international competition horses. She served as the United States Equestrian Team Veterinarian (USET) for the 2008 FEI World Singles Driving Championships in Jarantow, Poland, and the 2010 FEI World Singles Driving Championships in Italy. Johns currently serves as the Associate Treating Veterinarian for the USA Land Rover Three-Day Eventing Team.
Johns has a strong interest and dedication to the North American Young Riders (NAYRC) organization, after actively competing as a young rider in eventing for Area I. Over the past 10 years, Johns has been a Treating and Team Veterinarian for numerous areas at the NAYRC competitions.
Johns travels throughout Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina offering top-level ambulatory sports medicine, lameness, and diagnostic imaging services.
Susan is originally from Los Angeles, California, and competed to the one-star level in FEI Championships. When she is not working on equine athletes, she likes to spend down time with her husband.
Following are some questions and answers with Johns:
Q. What is your official title for your participation at WEG?
A. At the WEG, I will accompany the US Event Team as the Land Rover US Eventing Team Associate Veterinarian.
Q. Tell us a little about your personal and professional background that led you to vet school.
A. “I grew up in Southern California with a non-horse family. My father was very supportive of my interest in horses and drove me to Malibu weekly to take riding lessons. One of his clients was unable to pay an outstanding debt and re-payed him by giving their horse to me, and so the path to becoming an equine veterinarian was paved. I participated in the sport of three-day eventing throughout high school instructed by Debbie Rosen of Wild Ride Eventers. I leased an upper level event horse throughout college in Massachusetts and was actively involved with the North American Young Rider’s program. My mare sustained an injury during her last gallop prior to the championship at Young Riders. I was actively involved in her rehabilitation over the next year, and it cemented my desire to dedicate my career to the welfare of horses. I attended veterinary school at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and joined Virginia Equine Imaging following graduation. I have been at Virginia Equine Imaging since 2002.
Q. Why did you pick Virginia Equine Imaging for an internship?
A. I visited Virginia Equine Imaging as an extern my final clinical year of veterinary school. I had specifically targeted the practice because it was centered in a mecca of three-day eventing training farms, and Dr. (Kent) Allen had significant expertise with the care of these equine athletes.
Q. When did you start working as a USEF and FEI official?
A. I began working as an FEI Permitted Treating Veterinarian as soon as I started my internship at Virginia Equine Imaging. I participated in my first international competition as an FEI Permitted Treating Veterinarian at Burghley in 2004. I traveled to the World Championships with the US Singles Driving Team in 2008 and 2010. I began working with the US Eventing Team in 2013.
Q. Why did you decide to become involved in Young Riders and as a Team Vet for Driving and Eventing?
A. I thoroughly enjoy being part of the horse and rider’s support staff at their competitions. Dr. Allen actively encouraged my participation at the start of my career. I take great pride in helping sustain the longevity of their athletic careers often following them from their initial pre-purchase examination to their first international championships. I have always been involved in athletics and very competitive in sport, so being actively involved in these competitions was a natural fit for me. I love dedicating my time and energy to helping these equine athletes enhance their well-being and performance, and accompanying them to their events throughout the year is icing on the cake.
Q. What role did Dr. Allen play in those decisions and how did he mentor you in those activities?
A. Dr. Allen has been a tremendous mentor and motivator throughout my career. He without hesitation has provided me with the best equipment and support staff to carry out my duties as an associate.
Q. What is the toughest part of being a Team Vet?
A. The biggest challenge of being the US Team Vet is delivering the news that an equine athlete is not fit to compete because of veterinary issues in the lead up to a major championship. The teams behind these horses have dedicated so much time, energy and love into developing these partnerships, and it is gut-wrenching when a lameness or medical issue prevents them from realizing their dreams.
Q. What is the best part of being a Team Vet?
A. The best part of being a Team Vet is the exposure to the finest eventing athletes in the world. It is an incredible privilege to be responsible for the well-being of these elite athletes during their competitions, and I take that position very seriously. I love working with the support teams behind these partnerships, including the grooms, physiotherapists, veterinarians, farriers, owners, etc. It takes a village to maintain these athletes and to help their performance peak at critical times throughout their careers. The team position allows me to have tremendous resources and to collaborate with colleagues across the globe. I work by the motto, “Average is as close to the top as it is to the bottom.” This position constantly challenges me to provide top-notch, state-of-the-art veterinary care on a daily basis.
Q. What is your favorite thing to do as a practitioner?
A. My favorite part of being a veterinarian is being in the barns as a part of their support staff on a daily basis. I enjoy the challenge of working up a complex lameness, providing a detailed game plan for their recovery, and actively participating in their successful return to the competition field.
Q. What does your future hold as a veterinarian?
A. I hope to continue to provide the best care possible for the beloved equine athletes under my care.