Chance encounter

Chelle Delaney

A blind date and love of animals has landed Tucumcari a new equine specialist.

For more than a year, veterinarian Elizabeth “Bessie” R. Babits has been coming to Tucumcari from Taos to visit. Now she’s here to stay and is beginning to establish a practice here as well.

Romancing Steve Floeck may have brought Babits here, but now the couple have a long range plan to cement their relationship, as well as establish an equine center together in Tucumcari.

Floeck is a hunter, tracker and guide who grew up surrounded by a menagerie of animals at the Floeck’s Country Ostrich Ranch. He said their mutual love of animals was the first connection. “Above all, I love that Bessie and I are working side-by-side. We both enjoy doing similar things,” Floeck said.

Floeck also said they owe their meeting to a blind date that was arranged by Tucumcari horsewoman and teacher Chistina Fleming.

Babits took over the Thal Equine Taos veterinary practice in September 2006 and now operates her solo practice, Medicine Wheel Equine Center in Taos and Tucumcari.

“We’re trying to set up a vet care and hospitalization center for horses that will include boarding, transport, and a stallion station. I also want to start training clinics for riding and for caring for the health of horses, such as what to do when your horse has the colic or how to treat certain wounds,” Babits said.

The center will be at the Floeck’s ranch, where Babits has brought her two Andalusian stallions, Riso-Bay Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) and Kam Grey PRE Stallion.

Babits finds a lot to like about Tucumcari. It’s similar to the small community in a remote section of central Idaho, called Salmon, where she was reared. “I was riding before I was four years old and horses have become my life,” she said.

She is a 2004 graduate of Washington State University veterinary school in Pullman. Many of her classmates have gone on to establish vet clinics for small animals, where the pay is greater and the hours are better. But Babits said she wouldn’t trade her work or lifestyle for anything. “I love it,” she said.

With her emergency beeper on 24/7, it is not unusual for her to be called in the middle of the night. And that is when Babits steps up into her white pickup outfitted with a fax, computer and emergency medical equipment, and drives to meet a rancher who has a sick horse.

Her most challenging case, Babits said, was in Taos, about 2 and 1/2 years ago, when a paint gelding was injured after a trailer turned over.

“Three horses and the trailer were in one pile on top of him. He was stabilized while he was on his side. Then we were able to pick him up – hoist him up with straps. He had a lot of lacerations. He was better after three weeks. This is a good story – because it had a happy ending.”

Babits said working with people is also part of her practice. “You have to work with owners just as much as you do with the horses,” she said.

“Each case is different. It’s never dull. Horses may have a similar ailment, but it will present differently in each horse. Making the right diagnosis stretches your mind.”