Stephanie Pratley (fn 99-06) has recently graduated from Writtle University College with a degree in Animal Therapy and has since set-up her own business, SP Canine Services.
Stephanie tells us more about her career and decision to return to university after having a career change.
Can you provide an overview of your journey from Felsted to Writtle University College?
On leaving Felsted in 2006 I went to Trinity College of Music in London to study BMus (Hons) in Performance and Composition having been a music scholar at Felsted for the duration of my time there. Unfortunately a change of heart led me to stop the course early and I soon started working in the pharmaceutical industry as a research scientist in drug development at Huntingdon Life Sciences (now Envigo). I worked on various studies trying to find cures for HIV, treatments for poisons and radioactive materials along with many others. I then moved to LGC in Newmarket as a scientist working on large scale clinical trials, as well as working in HFL (Horse Forensic Labs) where I tested bloods for illegal substances, and contamination testing for foods/supplements for equines and human sports. It was this, combined with my hobbies that led me to quit working full-time and start a degree course in Animal Therapy.
Why did you decide to study Animal Therapy?
I’ve had dogs and horses for many years now, and I compete them all in various sports; my horses event and the dogs compete in various sports, particularly flyball at European level. I spend many hours ensuring that they are physically as fit and well as possible as they are athletes! They have regular sports massages, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture and hydrotherapy. I’ve always found it extremely interesting and decided that I wanted to be able to offer these services myself for others.
What were the benefits of returning to education as a mature student?
I definitely benefited from being a mature student at university, as I went there knowing exactly what I wanted to gain out of the degree, and had an end goal already in mind. I felt I got a lot more out of the course than some of the younger students due to being more driven to be successful afterwards.
Do you now have a job in the sector?
I run my own business, providing services for equine and canine clients such as sports massages, therapeutic ultrasound, laser therapy, red light therapy, canine hydrotherapy, fitness, nutrition and weight loss advice for dogs. I also receive referrals from vets for animals that have had surgery (primarily orthopaedic conditions in small animals) and provide and carry out rehabilitation programmes to help the animal back to full health again post operation. I love animals, and I love my job, and it never feels like work, seeing the clients' pets happy and healthy again is true job satisfaction for me.
If students are keen to work in the sector, what advice would you give them?
If you are passionate about animals and their health and well-being but don’t want to go down the traditional veterinary or vet nurse route, animal therapy is the best alternative. The work is varied and you’ll never do the same thing twice. You can either run your own business, work for rehabilitation centres or work within a vet clinic, so there are a wide variety of job options.