By Candace FitzGerald
For as long as she can remember, Dr. Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Maloney was horse crazy.
Some of her earliest memories include spending the summers at her Uncle’s California-based Thoroughbred breeding farm, working alongside him and learning every aspect of managing the stable and the animal care. As a young girl, she essentially followed him around the farm, absorbing the atmosphere and working closely with the horses and foals. When she was 13, a mare called Erratic Miss that had been bred for her gave birth to a chestnut colt. He was named Erratic Beau, and for the next 29 years he played a large part in shaping the empathetic horsewoman and veterinarian that Liz would ultimately become.
Owning Beau since he was a foal gave Liz the monumental opportunity to break him and be the first rider on his back. She did this with the help of Kathy Richards, her trainer at The Riding School in Weston, Massachusetts. “We didn’t exactly do it in a conventional way,” Liz remembered. “But Beau was kind and generous enough to suffer me. I wouldn’t recommend that for anyone — but he was a gem.”
Liz rode with Kathy throughout high school, and she and Beau did a bit of everything — dressage, hunters, eventing and foxhunting. She recalls that it was all very fun and different from the very specialized and disciplined approach people take now. “Kathy really taught me how to honor the horse. I still don’t see enough of this as I compete and work around them. Three of her students became vets! We were not particularly successful in competition but we learned how to enjoy horses for a lifetime. This is much more important than trophies. Having the trust of a 1,500-pound horse who will teach you to defy gravity and give you the feeling of lift off is addicting.”
On Her Own
When the very independent Liz turned 16, her dad, who had been using his work truck to drive her to the local horse shows, bought her a rig and she was on her own. “Dad said, ‘Trailer your friends’ horses to pay for your gas’ — so at 16 ½ I was a pretty much a commercial shipper,” she remembered with a smile.
After graduating from Brookline High School in 1984, Liz went on to Boston College where she received a BS in 1988, and then on to Tufts Veterinary School where she earned her DVM in 1992. She took time off from riding to focus on her studies during college and vet school. It was the same for the first five years of vet practice — she just didn’t have time to ride regularly, but she brought her beloved Beau to school and then to her first job out of vet school at a racetrack in Florida, riding him when she had time. Later he was leased to Carin Zuchero as a school horse, often tasked with teaching young riders how to canter using his steady and easy way of going. He spent his last years as a barn favorite, living with Carin to the age of 29.
A few years after vet school, Liz had a client with a difficult horse who suffered from both physical and behavioral problems — so no one wanted to ride him. Royal Rival, aka Binky, was another chestnut Thoroughbred gelding full of personality and spunk. He had been Horse of the Year as a yearling and as a two-year-old, but when his owners got fed up with his antics, Liz bought him. Binky suited Liz and brought her into the jumper ring in a real way when she started riding with Mark Jungherr. Together they made the move up to successfully competing in the Amateur Jumpers at AA-rated shows.
During this time Liz became interested in the concept of communicating with horses and exploring alternative therapies. She became certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in 1998; completed coursework in Equine Acupuncture and attended lectures and workshops on communication. There she met Wendy Derby, a gifted animal communicator who over time would become a key ally in diagnosing and treating her equine patients. “Working alongside Wendy has made me a more effective and empathetic veterinarian. It has benefited my patients and ultimately made my work over the years even more fulfilling,” said Liz.
Her Own Practice
Liz opened her own practice called Equine Therapies in 2000. She took a unique approach, specializing in equine sports medicine and treating the whole horse and ignoring the quick fix route. Her approach was a more forensic-based exploration of an injury or a performance problem. She spent time honing her listening skills and created methodologies to identify and discover the factors that caused the problem and prevent them from recurring. She also incorporated Wendy into her practice by using kinesiology — literally working hand in hand with her to communicate with her patients.
In 2002 she purchased a farm and aptly named it Wise Acres, reflective of her sense of humor. There she began once again to focus on riding, training and her competitive goals. In the last six years she has become a regular competitor in the Amateur/Owner Jumpers, competing at major shows on the East Coast and at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. And once again she is partnered with a very special chestnut gelding, this one called Calikot Hero, who has generously helped her make the jump from the Low Amateur/Owner division to the Medium Amateur/Owner division. Although he’s not the only horse in her barn, he has earned a special place in her heart based on his kind and giving nature.
Always in overdrive, Liz splits her time between her practice in Franklin, Massachusetts, and Wellington, Florida, where she is also licensed to practice. She is constantly balancing her rigorous work schedule with her training and competitions, thriving on the pace. Over the years she has ridden with top trainers including Leslie Howard, whom she credits with helping her to become a better listener in the saddle. Liz adores George Morris and takes clinics with him whenever her schedule allows. “George has earned the respect to say whatever is on his mind. What is clear to me is that he does it because he cares. The horses are always put first; he spreads his message to anyone who will listen to protect the horses. And if in the process he makes you a better rider, then his efforts have not been in vain.”
Liz continues to be fiercely driven and goal-oriented. “My personal goal is to raise awareness that horses are sentient beings and deserve honor. After all, our civilization was built on their backs! And, of course, to run a successful equine practice that allows me the luxury of enjoying my own horses!”