By Martie Thompson
Peggy Fuller, DVM, is a longtime resident of Mandarin and a lifelong lover of horses. Her veterinary practice, Mandarin Equine Veterinary, just celebrated its 30th year and soon she will be adding a third veterinarian. She is the chair of the board of directors of the Jacksonville Equestrian Center and on the board of an equine therapy group, H.O.R.S.E. Therapies, Inc. (Helping Others Rehabilitate Through the Services of Equines), which provides both physical and mental health therapy using horses and serves the entire community including children and adults. She lives with her husband, Chuck Kalb, on a small farm off Loretto Road with her own horses, including two mares and two babies and a 31-year-old retired horse named Buck, whom she calls the “Farm Manager” as he keeps her and everyone else on a strict schedule. She and her husband are parents to son Chuck, also a veterinarian, although his practice is in small animals.
Q: How did you first become interested in horses?
A: I grew up as the youngest of four in a military family; my dad was in the Navy. We moved around a lot. During the Vietnam War, my dad was a prisoner of war. My mom was trying to find something that would interest us and give us something else to think about, so we started riding horses. We bought one, then two, then three horses and kept them at NAS. My dad was pretty surprised by all this when he finally returned home.
Q: What was your first experience with Mandarin?
A: Once the Buckman Bridge was built in 1973, we moved our horses to Mandarin since it was rural and more “horsey.” There were big oak trees and lots of horse farms.
Q: How did you know you wanted to be a veterinarian?
A: I always knew I wanted to become a veterinarian, but people told me I’d never get into vet school. I honestly had spent a lot of time at the barn and never really applied myself. Then my mom told me, “Someone gets into veterinary school and it might as well be you.” So I decided to work hard. I earned my undergraduate degree in animal science from Florida State and then went to the University of Florida to vet school.
Q: How did you come to live in Mandarin?
A: I married Chuck one week after graduating with my DVM and we moved to Macon, Ga., since he had a job there with Proctor and Gamble. In 1991, a transfer opportunity came up for Chuck to move to Jacksonville and we took it immediately. We always wanted to come back to Jacksonville. I wanted to start my own practice and I knew Mandarin was a nice community and centrally located, even though many of the horse farms I remembered as a young girl are now neighborhoods.
Q: Can you give some information about Mandarin Equine Veterinary?
A: Most of our practice is ambulatory or mobile. We have two trucks that have x-ray, ultrasound and endoscopy equipment. Most of the time we go to the client’s farm, but sometimes people bring their horses to us at our farm. I’m very excited that I just hired a third associate. In a full circle moment, actually both of my associates (veterinarians) I have known since they were children and I watched them grow up. They always said, “I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up and I want to work for Dr. Peggy.” And now they are!
Q: What can you tell us about the Jacksonville Equestrian Center?
A: The Jacksonville Equestrian Center was part of the Better Jacksonville Plan. It is one of the largest indoor facilities in the southeast. For years it was not utilized to its best so a number of years ago, some in the local horse community asked to take over the management of the facility. We have an all volunteer board and over the years have increased usage of the facility by 67 percent and attendance to events is up 80 percent. Events include not just horse-related shows like dressage, western barrel racing, reigning and hunter/jumper, but also dog agility competitions and RV shows. Most of these events are free and open to the public. We have improved the economic impact, which has resulted in a much smaller annual subsidy required of the City of Jacksonville. Our goal is to be self-sustaining.
[Author’s note: Visit www.jaxequestriancenter.com for more information about the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, including upcoming events. Visit www.jaxhorsetherapies.org for more information about H.O.R.S.E. Therapies of Northeast Florida.]
Photo courtesy Peggy Fuller, DVM
eggy Fuller with her horse, Entrepreneur (or “Axel,” his barn name).