Class of 2023: Early love of horses blossoms into promising career in veterinary medicine

Grad Sara Toner came to love the strong sense of community among classmates, faculty and staff in UCalgary program
Sara Toner
Sharing her skills with others, Sara Toner teaches children how to ride horses. Sara Toner photos

Growing up in Carlisle, Ont., Sara Toner always had a fascination with animals, especially horses. Her childhood hobbies included hunter/jumper equestrian riding and, later, working as a barn hand, grooming horses.

Eventually relocating to Alberta, Toner volunteered with a therapeutic riding society, teaching disabled children and adults how to ride.

She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S. with a double major in biology and sociology, and social anthropology.

Prior to being accepted at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), she worked at Moore Equine as a technician assistant, mainly in the MRI unit where she developed a deep appreciation for diagnostic imaging.

Once accepted to UCVM, Toner learned to love the community the program provided.

Sara Toner

Sara Toner

Strong sense of community

“You have classmates, faculty, and staff all coming together with different experiences and perspectives that you can learn from. With our smaller class size, we were able to get to know each other personally and professionally, which is not always the case in other programs where the class size is three to four times larger,” says Toner.

During her time at UCVM, she maintained employment in equine clinical practice on the weekends as well as being involved in a study regarding the seroprevalence and species identification of the bacterial Neorickettsia, responsible for Potomac horse fever in Alberta.

She wrote case studies on the treatment of a confirmed fungal case of Rhinosporidium seeberi in a retired polo horse, compiled a manuscript for the diagnostic progression of a case of objective tinnitus in a Spanish warmblood gelding seen in 2018, and most recently, a case study about the diagnosis, treatment, and response to therapy of lateral collateral desmopathy of the proximal interphalangeal joint in a warmblood, published in March’s Canadian Veterinary Journal.

One goal, many possible approaches

While at school, Toner recognized and learned that there are many ways to accomplish the same goal.

“As an undergraduate student, you're taught there's a 'right' answer and a 'wrong' answer, when in a lot of clinical scenarios, that's not true. There are many ways to approach every situation (either personal or professional), and that's the beauty of this profession. The top priority is always to do right by the animal, and that can be accomplished many ways,” says Toner.

Following graduation, Toner will be completing a rotating internship at Moore Equine. She has a strong interest in large animal surgery, as well as diagnostic imaging and sports medicine. The internship serves as the first step in pursuing a residency, which is also something she is considering, potentially combined with a PhD.

She has a deep interest in orthopedics and bone physiology in relation to the prevention of injury in equine athletes. There is currently research being done in this field, using technology to better understand limitations and optimal timing of intervention (either in treatment, training, or both) of the equine athlete, which has piqued her interest.

Toner’s hobbies include hiking, skiing, climbing, and travelling.

Good luck with your next chapter!

Join our celebration as another class of enterprising University of Calgary students marks the milestone of graduation and begins making a difference in society, in fields such as health care, engineering, business and the arts. Spring Graduation and Convocation takes place May 29 to June 2, 2023. Learn more 

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the Class of 2023.

A note for soon-to-be UCalgary alumni: As you prepare to transition from student life, we encourage you to check out our Life Kit for Recent Grads — custom-built to inform you about the programs, benefits and services available to you as a member of the UCalgary alumni community.

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