Building the best Carden focuses on continually growing vet practice in the face of adversity
Kaycee – Being a veterinarian isn’t for the faint of heart, but from the time Candice Carden was young, her career goal was to be a vet.
Carden, who grew up on a ranch in Afton, said when she was 12, her father helped her request information from Colorado State University about what it would take to get into vet school. Years later, Carden received a bachelor’s degree in animal and veterinary science from the University of Wyoming and then graduated in 2005 from Colorado State University with a degree in veterinary medicine.
The new vet accepted a job offer at a large equine hospital in Texas.
“The practice could hospitalize upwards of 150 horses, so it was a great place to get surgery, medicine and lameness experience,” she remembers.
“After spending a couple of years at that clinic, I got married to a great man, K.C. Carden, and began my own mobile practice, working a lot at the racetracks in the area, as well as providing mobile veterinary services for folks with horses,” Carden says. “When our daughter was born in 2010, I really began to feel the pull to move back to Wyoming, so she could experience growing up here and we could be closer to family.”
The couple moved to Kaycee in 2011, purchasing the Powder River Veterinary Hosptial and Supply in Kaycee from Dr. Dwayne Christensen.
She adds, “Dr. Christensen stayed involved with the practice, and we all very much appreciate his vast knowledge.”
Continuing to grow
Soon after moving to Kaycee, Carden’s husband found a place in Sheridan for his racehorses, so Carden started practicing in Sheridan, as well.
“The practices in Kaycee and Sheridan have grown by leaps and bounds over the past six years, and they continue to grow,” she says. “I am so proud of what my team and I have accomplished.”
“So many people told me in the beginning that I would never be able to have the majority of my work be on horses, but the demand has definitely been there,” Carden continues. “I’m so grateful I had the knowledge base and experience to be able to offer high-quality equine medicine to this part of the state.”
A soon-to-be-completed, first-class facility in Sheridan offers a surgery room, indoor breeding facilities, spacious stalls and outdoor paddocks and runs.
“The reproduction side of the practice has really put us on the map,” Carden explains. “We manage over 100 mares each year for breeding – including live cover, artificial insemination, embryo transfer; train stallions to collect semen off a breeding phantom; shipping and freezing semen for stallions; and foaling out mares.”
She notes that they also plan to have a board-certified surgeon on a regular basis to do joint arthroscopy, laparoscopy, joint arthrodesis, etc., which will make it convenient for area horse owners.”
She gives high praise to all of her employees, noting in the spring, long days are the norm.
“Every one of my employees at both hospitals will stay at the clinic until all the work is done, and this time of year, we work 14-hour days regularly. Their dedication inspires me and keeps me going,” she says.
Carden admits it’s difficult to narrow down the work she likes best because she enjoys everything about veterinary medicine.
“It’s rewarding to get a bad laceration put back together – it’s instant gratification. Lameness work can be so frustrating, especially complex lameness where multiple limbs are involved, but there is no better feeling than being able to tell an owner where and why their horse is lame and make a treatment plan once we’ve figured it out,” she explains.
Carden continues, “The reproduction side of the practice has grown so much over the past few years, and I really enjoy it. I love working on eyes, floating teeth, treating foals, doing acupuncture and even management of the practice.”
Carden advises horse owners to call earlier rather than later if they suspect a problem.
“My top tier emergencies are colic, eye injuries, severe lacerations, especially those below the knee or hock, mares having trouble foaling, foals that are down and not eating and non-weight-bearing lameness,” she explains. “It is very helpful to know duration of the illness, previous history and treatments that a client has tried, if any, before calling us. If a client has an animal that is really sick or has a bad injury, we strongly recommend it comes to the hospital for treatment.”
Carden explains another challenge was recently added to her life when she lost her husband to prostate cancer in February.
“Along with everything else, the death of a spouse and best friend can do to a person, it’s made the work/life balance part of my job even more challenging. My seven-year-old daughter gets woken up and goes on every emergency call with me. It means she’s at the barn early in the morning until late at night,” Carden explains. “I’m glad she can see me work and accomplish hard things.”
She continues, “I hope one day we will both look back on this time and be proud of what we built and that we were able to survive and eventually thrive in the face of adversity and heartbreak. I have amazing friends and family members who have stepped up and are helping as much as they can.”
“It’s a hard transition for me right now,” Carden comments. “I’m extremely blessed to have the support that I do, both personally and at work. It’s definitely taking a village right now, and my village rocks.”
Rebecca Colnar is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.