In The Winner’s Circle

Dec 12, 2014 Robin DeRieux CA&ES Outlook Magazine — University of California, Davis
Veterinarian is a champion for the health and welfare of animals.
In The Winner’s Circle

As chief veterinarian at Harris Farms Horse Division, Jeanne Bowers received ample attention from the media after the success of racehorse California Chrome (not shown). (Robin DeRieux | UC Davis)

Veterinarian Jeanne Bowers-Lepore (B.S., ’82, animal science; DVM, ’88) tends to each one of her 600 thoroughbred racehorses as though it might one day win the Kentucky Derby.

As chief veterinarian at Harris Farms Horse Division in Coalinga, California, Bowers once cared for a mare that was severely injured giving birth to a foal named California Chrome. The mother required a lengthy treatment to recover, and the chestnut foal with flashy white markings got lots of attention at mom’s side. Three years later, California Chrome became a household name after 2014 victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, along with a chase for the Triple Crown that came up just a few lengths short at the Belmont Stakes.

While not every horse bred and trained at Harris Farms turns out to be an international celebrity, the horse division has produced plenty of winners.

The health and welfare of the herd is Bowers’ primary concern. “One thing about this farm that I absolutely love is that our whole team is trying to prevent problems,” she said. “I want to do things that make for the healthiest animals possible.”

Bowers first fell in love with horses at age five after a pony ride. Eventually she got a horse of her own and rode competitively throughout high school.

At UC Davis, Bowers majored in animal science and immersed herself in work with animals at the dairy, the Raptor Center, the Primate Center, and the SPCA. She also did a research internship on horse reproduction at what eventually became the Center for Equine Health.

Bowers decided on a career in equine reproduction, and her mentors persuaded her to apply to vet school.

After graduation and a stint in private practice, Bowers returned to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine as the first female resident in the Department of Equine Reproduction.

In 1997, she joined Harris Farms Horse Division. One of her proudest moments on the farm was developing a hormonal protocol that got a retired racehorse to accept an orphan foal as her own. Although thoroughbreds tend to be skittish by nature, Bowers and her colleagues discovered a way to stimulate both lactation and maternal behavior in the foster mare.

“As veterinarians, we are only as good as the people around us,” said Bowers. “On a big farm like this, we can teach people what to look for, but they have to let us know when there is a problem.”

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