A native Floridian, I first decided to be a veterinarian while serving in the Army
(1971-73). After graduating from the University of Florida in 1976 with a B.S. in
animal science and not being accepted to veterinary school, I landed my first ever
job with horses at Hobeau Farm in Ocala, Fl. We had just finished defeating
Secretariat with two different horses, Prove Out and Onion.
I knew little about horses, but my mentor, Elmer Heubeck and assistant manager
Monty Hinton pretty much let me have at it with over a 100 barren and maiden
mares. I soon learned that the thoroughbred had one passion in life, to run. It was
an amazing experience.
After two years there, and still no success getting into school, Mr. Heubeck got me
a job with Dr. Teigland working as a tech at the south Florida tracks. I will never
forget the first horse I held for Dr. Teigland was by Northern Dancer out of Queen
Sucree. The racetrack experience was unique as well; I looked at lots and lots of
typical injuries. The horses were extremely well cared for. Dr. Teigland’s integrity
was above approach, and he was respected for it.
After one year there, I was finally accepted into school at the University of Florida.
Four years later I was back working for Dr. Teigland, Brokken and Franklin as a
veterinarian. Fours years after that I founded my own clinic in Ocala, Florida. I
began my practice with such up and comers as Niall Brennan, Mike Ryan and
Bobby Scanlon; people that had a true passion for the horse. Bobby and I used to
marvel watching Unbridled Song come down the track, moving like a tiger and
chewing up the track. Niall was fresh off the boat; Mike had/has the proverbial one
track mind. Mr. Mangurian at Mockingbird was a big help. I worked (briefly) for
George Steinbrenner as a consultant. We had a Gr. I winner (Spinning Round)
from a small band of horses under my supervision. Eventually I hit the proverbial
home-run as primary veterinarian for Frank Stronach's Ocala farm, Adena Springs
South. Working with Mark Roberts and Danny Vella, Mr. Stronach spared no
expenses in the care of horses. I worked with the likes of Macho Uno, Red Bullet,
Awesome Again and Touch Gold. Eventually Adena Springs hired their own farm
vets, but Adena Springs still sends surgeries to my clinic.
About three years ago I bought some horses. Up to then I had felt that it might be
a conflict of interest for a veterinarian to sell horses, but I had only a brief stint of
that before I knew I wanted to race them. I wanted to see and feel this business I
was so closely connected to. Quite frankly, a lot of it didn’t feel that good
sometimes. Trainers were afraid of losing their jobs, and rightly so, because they
were fired frequently. Injuries that Mr. Stronach would wait on forever, others
looked for the quick fix. I had no idea of the impact of vet bills until I started getting
them myself. I had no idea of the scams, at all levels that permeate through this
business. I looked for an answer, and realized it lied with the owners themselves.
We could control costs by running our own organization. We could demand
transparency by having no intermediary between us and our horses. We could
take all the pressure off the trainer by hiring him to just train. Hence I dreamed up
the idea of Destiny Bloodstock.
It’s not a free ride for owners, particularly new ones. Transparency means
knowledge, and then understanding, with forgiveness. Owners will learn that 15-
25% of young horses suffer recoverable exercise related injury from no ones fault.
60-80% of horses racing in America buck shins. The average total earnings of
any horse lay somewhere around $30-60,000 regardless of how much one paid
for him. The list goes on and on, but this, in my opinion, is fundamentally how we
fix this business, at all levels.
Sam Ferguson DVM