Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Free Rein With: Tim Ober, DVM

Tim Ober didn’t set out to become a show jumping veterinarian for the U.S. Equestrian Team. But within nine years of starting his career, Ober went from treating Standardbreds and the occasional llama to becoming the man riders like Laura Chapot turn to when her horse Little Big Man landed in Brazil for the 2007 Pan Am Games with a displaced colon.

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Tim Ober didn’t set out to become a show jumping veterinarian for the U.S. Equestrian Team. But within nine years of starting his career, Ober went from treating Standardbreds and the occasional llama to becoming the man riders like Laura Chapot turn to when her horse Little Big Man landed in Brazil for the 2007 Pan Am Games with a displaced colon.

Ober first packed his suitcase as a team veterinarian in 1999, traveling to Europe with the USET Developing Riders Tour. Since then he’s accompanied horses to competitions around the world, traveling to Greece, Argentina, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Brazil and the Netherlands, among other places, to keep U.S. horses at the top of their game during team competition.

“I try to keep up with the [team] horses every day,” said Ober. “A big part of my job is developing a good rapport with their regular vets, barn managers, owners and riders. I try to keep the focus on the team throughout the year.”

In addition to keeping team horses at peak performance, Ober treats an appointment book full of regular clients around the country. The veterinarian—too busy to have any pets of his own—took a few minutes to speak to the Chronicle about the highs and lows of keeping the show jumping superstars ready for action.

Name: Tim Ober                  
Home Base:
Gordonsville, Va. and Wellington, Fla.                      
Age:
43 

What is the best part about your job?

The best part about being a vet in general is helping horses have a better life. The best part about being a team vet is the opportunity to help horses get to their most prepared state so they can compete at the highest level.

What is the strangest vet call you ever had?

I used to have to do llamas in the early days and that was always good for some excitement. The llamas that used to spit on me, that was great.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a USEF team veterinarian?
Getting Royal Kaliber out of Athens, Greece [after straining a tendon during the 2004 Olympics] was a huge accomplishment, in retrospect. It was the most intense, difficult experience in my career.

What word or phrase do you overuse?
Excellent.

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If you couldn’t be a veterinarian, what would you like to do?
I’d probably either be a human chiropractor or human athletic trainer.

What’s your favorite competition venue?
The atmosphere and electricity at Aachen [Germany] is a unique thing—there’s nothing else like it. It’s such a big event, and there’s such excitement in being there.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a day off?
Days off are precious. I have a small horse farm I’m building in Virginia I like to work on when I can. There are no horses there yet, but I hope to build a training facility and expect to rent it out to clients at some point.

What’s the last book you read?
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.

If you could give one piece of advice to horse owners, what would it be?
Educate yourself about your horse’s care. Too often horse owners expect us, their vets, to make a decision on their behalf when really they need to be stronger in their own convictions. Always work to improve your own level of horsemanship.

What three things are in your fridge at all times?

Superfood, iced tea, water.

What tools of the trade could you not live without?
My hoof testers are a very useful instrument.

What is your drink of choice?
Red wine.

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What’s the biggest problem facing the world?
Clearly nothing involving horses. For me, politics standing in the way of people getting basic necessities in life presents a huge problem, like the fact that countries like Burma won’t even let us help their people in need.

Jack Russells, yes or no?

No.

What quality do you admire most in a horse?
Intelligence and patience. It’s hard to separate the two, they go together.

In a human?
Patience as well, because I don’t have enough of it.

How many of your own animals do you have?
None! I’d love to get a dog when I slow down with the team, but right now I’m on the road way too much.

What’s your greatest self-indulgence?

I’m a little short on those at the moment.

What is the most ridiculous part of the horse world?
I think that it’s sad that some people seem to be involved with their horses for the social benefit more than the joy of the interaction of their horses.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
Right now I’m in Europe about 50 days a year and in Florida in the winter. Then twice a month or so I’m on two- or three-day trips. In 10 years I hope to spend more time here in Virginia.

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