Horse Nation’s galloping historian Lorraine Jackson is back with this remarkable tale of the first female equine veterinarian in the United States.
Dr. Phyllis Lose is best known for being the first female equine veterinarian in the United States, a truly remarkable accolade and a saint to the women who would follow in her footsteps.
Don’t hold this against me, but she is equally my hero because at the ripe old age of 9, she convinced her parents to help her buy a horse and let her keep it in the garage. Of course, that was only after she rode her bike down to the local police station and asked if it was okay.
Dr. Lose has smarts like Einsten, a love for horses like Velvet Brown, and a story like Forrest Gump. She has been everywhere and done everything, and she’s not done yet.
At 13, her pony had outgrown its garage stall, and young Phyllis convinced her parents to let her rent an unused barn from a neighbor and make an income boarding horses, with great success. As she carefully saved her pennies, Phyllis was already hatching her plan to pursue her dream job as an equine vet.
At 15, she began exercising racehorses at the track, with some remarkable stories of near-death experiences. They weren’t enough to scare her off, apparently, because at 19, she was able to convince the track stewards to let her test and certify to become the youngest racehorse trainer in the country. She was one of only three women training in the U.S. at the time, too.
Throughout all her strenuous studies, managing the barn, and training and exercising racehorses, Phyllis still found time to train herself as a show jumper, and won many prizes on her own horses as well as riding for clients. In 1952, she rode her own beloved mare, Cassadol, to victory in the iconic Devon Horse Show Open Jumper Class.
When Phyllis graduated from the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school in 1957, good horse clients were not easily amassed by a female vet. She took on bizarre cases — like deodorizing a pet skunk or working as the on-call vet for the circus, and dangerous cases, like horses no other vet could approach — so that she could earn the trust of potential clients. She was excellent at her work but she also says that much of her success was due to her stubborn inability to give up on a horse, and her drive to alleviate their discomfort.
She gradually built a network of well-respected clients, and with the help of film star Grace Kelly, she opened her own private practice, Circle E Equine Hospital. It was one of the most state of the art facilities in the world, and Dr. Lose kept an extremely tight ship. She credits her cleanliness and sterilization methods with her record of zero post-surgical infections, a record she still has to this day.
In addition to her private practice, Dr. Lose held many esteemed positions, including primary care vet to the Philadelphia Mounted Police and K-9 Unit, the largest equine unit in the country, and the track vet at Philadelphia Park. She also authored two well known equine medicine books: Blessed are the Foals, and Blessed are the Broodmares.
In 1999, she relocated to Florida, but at 73, she wasn’t interested in retiring. So Florida made her take her veterinary board exams again.
“I was the oldest person there,” she told Veterinary Practice News. “I had to take them on the computer, and I was still the first to finish.” She then proceeded to work as a track vet for many more years.
There isn’t enough time or space to share her all her stories, her injuries, her pets, her accolades, or how she came to use a Harley for vet calls. For that matter, every time that someone tries to tell her story, she goes on to do 10 more amazing things, so I dare not say the story is finished. Dr. Lose and her beloved terrier mix, Oscar, currently reside in Haines, Florida.
If you’d like to know more about this amazing woman, here is further reading:
No Job For a Lady: The Autobiography of M. Phyllis Lose VMD as told to Daniel Mannix
“A Galloping Healer” by Frank Rossi on Philly.com
“A Dog’s Life: The Oscar Lose Story” Available on Amazon Streaming
Dr. Lose’s Books:
Blessed Are the Broodmares
Blessed Are the Foals