“Wow, that’s what I want to do.”
Such was the inspiration nearly six decades ago when the little sparkling-eyed farm boy watched through the kitchen door window as his dad and grandad on horseback rounded up cattle into the barnyard.
And, that’s what Dr. Fred Gardner has done, as a cowboy, and even more as a veterinarian serving horsemen and their horses from a wide area.
For his lifetime dedication to horses, Dr. Gardiner was recently inducted into the Better Horses Network Hall of Fame at Ottawa.
Serving from the Countryside Veterinary Clinic at Garnett, since 1984, Dr. Gardner has been a general practitioner, working more with large animals, gravitating to equine specialization, obviously his first love.
“I just like anything to do with horses, and horse people. I still like to ride and want to spend more time riding and working with my own horses, too,” the true horse doctor admitted.
Growing up near Hartford in southeast Lyon County, with Coffey and Greenwood counties close by, Gardner qualified: “Our diversified family farm has been in the family since the 1880s. We had everything, but horses were my favorite.
Active in 4-H club membership, Gardner showed livestock and was active in judging competitions. Especial fond reflections are of riding in the local county fair 4-H rodeo and going to what was considered the state 4-H rodeo several years at Alma.
Off to K-State in 1971, Gardner’s horse affiliations expanded through intra-curricular activities like Chaps Club, predecessor to the K-State Rodeo Club.
Involved in Block & Bridle Club, he participated in the group’s annual horse show, and horse showmanship at the Little American Royal.
Graduating as a doctor of veterinary medicine in 1978, Gardner’s cowboy interests seemed calling card to “go West.” He worked, providing veterinary services, for feedlot and cattle operations of Rodney Oliphant at Offerle.
Forever strong in his faith, Dr. Gardner “got the call” for Christian Veterinary Missions in Bangladesh..
Back to the states, Dr. Gardner married Jackie (Mayberry), worked again in Western Kansas cattle healthcare, before purchasing his present clinic.
“It’s been a good practice, I’ve treated about every animal there was in Anderson County and a wide area around,’’ Dr. Gardner said.
Countryside Veterinary Clinic has seen some transitions. “I’ve had great partners, but now I’ve sold all of my stocks in the corporation, and just work here,” Dr. Gardner said. “That gives me more time to do what I like most, working with horses.”
Drs. Davy and Amanda Allison, Dr. Nicole Born, and Drs. John and Darla Dwyer are owners of Countryside Veterinary Clinic now.
Majority of Gardner’s clientele for a decade, he noted, has been equine medicine, breeding, care and treatment.
“Now, we get semen from top horses around the country, the world, to breed mares here in eastern Kansas and western Missouri,” he continued.
Mares come to the clinic, or even his home place, for Gardner’s knowledgeable care. There are facilities for about a dozen mares in busiest breeding season.
“Most of our work is with cooled semen, some frozen,” he said. “There are a lot of variables in getting a mare in foal, and carrying out a pregnancy.”
Records are keys to success, and Dr. Gardner is most appreciative of Lisa Johnston, who’s served as his lab technician nearly 18 years.
“She keeps track of it all, takes care of the mares when they’re here. Lisa makes it all possible,” Gardner thanked. “I take the credit, and she does the work.
“Of course, I’d be completely remised not to credit Ruth Church who’s taken care of me as office manager for so many years.”
“Dentistry with horses is a big part of the practice, too,” he said. “We were one of the first clinics to have power dental equipment, which improved our service and made it in demand over a wide area.
“Soundness is most critical, and we do what we can with joint injections, intra-articular therapy, management advice to horse owners,” he said.
“I’ve always had horses, liked to ride, but the practice hasn’t always allowed me as much time for that as I’d have liked,” he said.
Gone perhaps are days of every little berg having a riding club, race track, weekend horseshow, but horse opportunities abound, according to Gardner.
“Highly bred speed and performance horses are the best ever, and still improving. But, majority of the people who like or would appreciate horses don’t need that much precision ability from their horse.
“They must have quieter, gentler horses, strictly for personal enjoyment, relaxation, therapy. Some people like Paints, others grays, somebody else something else, color makes a difference,” Dr. Gardner evaluated.
Whether caring for horse ailment, relating horse stories, planning horseback ventures, horses always bring sparkle to Dr. Fred Gardner, first a cowboy, a demanded veterinarian, a true horseman.