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Vet student Beau Bridgeman takes aim during a competitive curling game with his Brandon-based team in Manitoba. Supplied photo.

Manitoba student aims for rural vet career

Beau Bridgeman has always known that he wanted to be a veterinarian. He grew up on his family’s equine ranching operation in Rivers, Man., where his father raised purebred appaloosa, paint and quarter horses — up to 150 mares and foals each spring. He spent hours helping his dad and then his uncle with the animals on their farms.

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Before university, Beau Bridgeman competed in tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping events at national and American high school rodeos. Supplied photo.

Bridgeman worked alongside his dad and local veterinarians to provide the family’s horses with preventive medical care such as vaccinations, deworming, pregnancy checks, hoof and dental care, and ultrasound examinations.

“Watching and being involved with this [preventive care] really piqued my interest in veterinary medicine,” says Bridgeman, a first-year student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). “I learned a lot from my dad about how to care for sick or injured horses, but when the job was too big for us to handle, that’s when the local vets were called.”

In addition to showing and riding horses at local fairs and gymkhanas, Bridgeman belonged to the Rivers 4-H Beef Club for several years. As a 4-H member he learned even more about animal care and developed teamwork, public speaking, communication and leadership skills.

Bridgeman also belonged to the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association (MHSRA) from Grades 6 to 12 and became a well-known competitor in tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping at both Canadian and American levels of high school rodeo. In 2016 he won a National High School Rodeo Association Merit Scholarship.

After graduation Bridgeman competed in Manitoba’s Heartland Rodeo Association for a summer before taking time off to save money for veterinary school.

“My favourite experiences with rodeo would probably be developing lifelong friends, getting the rush of adrenaline during your events and trying to keep animal care at the highest priority,” says Bridgeman. “I do plan to continue with rodeo once vet school is completed.”

Bridgeman set out to prepare himself for a veterinary career by volunteering at several rural and urban veterinary clinics and by accompanying practitioners on farm calls. He particularly enjoyed job shadowing Dr. Joe King (WCVM ’09) at the Virden Animal Hospital. King helped to reinforce his interest in animal health by demonstrating and explaining many technical skills as well as key communication skills needed to build trust and relationships with clients.  

While taking pre-veterinary classes at Brandon University, Bridgeman joined the Western Manitoba Pre-Veterinary Medical Association and volunteered for several years at the WCVM’s exhibit at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair — a trip down memory lane for him.

“I’ve attended the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair every year since I was born,” says Bridgeman, who especially remembers competing in the winter fair’s annual calf scramble. “It was fun to work at the WCVM booth and teach the kids about things like radiographs, bones, parasites and bandaging limbs. I enjoyed seeing how fascinated they were.”

Since Bridgeman began classes at the WCVM in August, he’s enjoying the chance to get to know his classmates. After graduation, he plans to return to Manitoba as a large animal veterinarian — a chance for him to give back to rural residents and return to the lifestyle that he enjoyed so much while growing up.

He appreciates the values and skills that he learned over the years from his family as well as his 4-H, rodeo, volunteer and work experiences.

“Growing up on a farm with lots of livestock and volunteering at the various clinics — that gave me a glimpse into what I’d love to spend my future doing,” says Bridgeman. “I want to become involved as a veterinarian so I can help the animals and their owners. I appreciate how much these animals mean to their clients.”

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