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Jay Litchfield

Jay Litchfield

There is so much to be said for learning from the ‘college of life’ that holds a heavier, more gratifying weight than any piece of paper. A well-spoken, articulate, and funny gentleman, Jay Litchfield wouldn’t change the experience he’s gained from hands on learning for anything.

There is so much to be said for learning from the ‘college of life’ that holds a heavier, more gratifying weight than any piece of paper. A well-spoken, articulate, and funny gentleman, Jay Litchfield wouldn’t change the experience he’s gained from hands on learning for anything.

Growing up in Vermont and Ohio, and the son of a Standardbred racehorse trainer, farm work and horse sense were a way of life for Jay. He was groomed at an early age to ride and work horses, but found he preferred the sidelines.

As a young adult, Jay moved to a few different farms learning more skills and gaining more experience from the day-to-day lifestyle as well as the opportunity to ride along with a veterinarian friend of his and learn even more important qualifications. Until 1982, when he decided Florida was where the horses were and made the move.

Fortunately for him, it was right where he belonged since it was those life lessons and choices that brought him to Peterson and Smith Equine Hospital in 1992.

“It was very ironic to have worked with Tom Adams in Ohio, then to be able to come to Peterson and Smith. It was very nice,” he said, reflecting.

Jay’s hiring position was to be Dr. Johnny Mac Smith’s ambulatory rider. It was a bittersweet time, since Jay’s first year was to be Dr. Smith’s last in the practice. He recalled being at an appointment and seeing the effect of the veterinarian’s allergies.

“It was a really sad turn of events,” Jay said. “I felt very lucky to have the opportunity.”

When Dr. Smith moved to Kentucky, Jay became Dr. Kevin Hahn’s rider.  After the Peterson and Smith Equine Reproduction Center opened in 1999, Jay became a part of the team helping care for the recipient mare herd.

“I think it’s just a very fortunate occurrence for me. I have been very lucky to work with the people I have over the years,” Jay said. “I can’t say I wasn’t hoping it would go in that direction because I do have an interest (in this area), and having the opportunity to work here was real nice – that was a real blessing. And to work with the people I do, again, I’m very, very fortunate.”

At the ERC, Jay works closely with D. Phil Matthews, Dr. Luis Cadena and Dr. Tanya Thacker. The wealth of knowledge he’s earned from the staff is priceless, he said.

“I think there’s people out there that would give their eye teeth (to have this experience). They would pay to work here,” Jay said.

There isn’t much Jay could ask more for, he said.  He and his wife Susan have been together for 25 years, eight of which has been married. They didn’t want to rush into anything, he joked. He has two step-children and the couple has three dogs.

Susan, having grown up in the Standardbred word as well, wanted horses, but Jay said he didn’t want to achieve the ambition of living in a tent just yet. Jay said he feels he owns horses already.

“It’s kind of the best of both worlds,” he explained. “I get to enjoy their company and I don’t have to pay the bills and I actually get paid to be with them. It’s pretty awesome.”

But it is the connections he has made with the people he works with that is the greatest experience, Jay said. The staff is not simply his co-workers or employers, but friends and extended family. He recalled a time when his mother passed away just two years after starting with PSEH. When he came back from being with his family, he said the kindness and consideration he received will always be held dear.

“I got the biggest, warmest hug from Dr. (Faith) Hughes and that hug really made me feel better, it honestly did. To this day and until I die, I’ll always remember that.”

You won’t find a more humble and gracious man than Jay. Everything he says and does exudes appreciation for the life he has lived and what he has.

“If you have good friends and health and family, you’re a pretty lucky person, and I’m extremely lucky – extremely fortunate to be a part of this team.”

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