Professional Means More Than Making Money

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A range of characteristics determines the status of a professional. Webster defines “profession” as a “calling.” Common usage varies from those who conduct themselves in a businesslike manner to those who have specialized training to those who engage in an activity for profit.

Equine competition associations define professionals as those who profit financially — or attempt to do so — by working with horses. Many have qualifying criteria in order to be called a professional.

If you ask a working professional what it means, you’ll hear, “It’s what I do for a living” or “It’s what I love doing” or “It’s what I do best.” Ideally, a professional should be all of these things — and much more.

No matter how you slice it, however, the bottom line is that a professional gets paid, as he or she should. Hard-earned training, experience and expertise should be compensated.

But proclaiming oneself an equine professional simply because you want to earn a living that way is not enough. A professional must first be qualified to do the job. Equally important are integrity, honesty and dignity. Finally, there must be a love for, respect and awe of the horse.

Professionals who end up in the limelight due to winning performances are deemed the best, but the end can’t be allowed to justify the means. Money corrupts and may lead a professional into activities that are definitely nonprofessional in every other sense of the word.

Does getting paid mean you’re a professional even if you violate every other definition of the word' I would define the groom who puts in long (low-wage) hours caring for their charge a professional over the “professional” who uses illegal drugs or abuse as shortcuts to training.

What about professionals who don’t do this themselves but ignore, hide or deny these activities, not to mention gross incompetence, by others in their profession' This practice is no more honorable than a brotherhood of thieves. When the tricks of the trade involve cheating or misrepresentation, they cease to be professional activities.

On an even more fundamental level, I think the professional’s first loyalty must be with the horse, not the client. No professional should tolerate exploitation or abuse of the horse for any reason. The guiding rule for the medical profession is primum non nocere, which means, “First, do no harm.” This is a moral imperative, not a profit-building tip. It applies equally well to an equine professional in any capacity.

’Til Next Month,

-Eleanor Kellon, VMD