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Veterinarian Larkspur Carroll — ‘Dr. Lark’ — at home in saddle and with holistic treatments of her patients

By Liane Crossley
NKyTribune correspondent

Most people would consider Larkspur Carroll a workaholic but she does not see herself that way. The Central Kentucky equine veterinarian views her career as another opportunity to be with horses.

“There’s nothing I do and no title I hold that feels like work or a job,” she said. “It makes any sacrifices to the social life and sleep worth it.”

Carroll-—known as Lark or Dr. Lark-—enjoys riding when not handling her four-legged clients’ needs. Her time in the saddle might be a trail ride at her Lawrenceburg farm, a jumping session with a show ring prospect or an exhilarating gallop aboard a racehorse at Keeneland, where she spends much of her mornings. The latter is especially important for her alternative therapies that include chiropractics and acupuncture.

Dr. Lark Carroll rides at Keeneland before making her veterinary rounds. (Coady Photography/Keeneland)

Dr. Lark Carroll rides at Keeneland before making her veterinary rounds. (Coady Photography/Keeneland)

Although she rides for one stable, her time in the saddle keeps her in tune with the general racehorse population and their connections.

“I understand exactly what theses athletes face daily, obviously physically but also mentally,” she said. “A practitioner here is working in the upper echelon of the Thoroughbred industry. You are surrounded by the best of the best with progressive attitudes and means. Trainers and owners alike are motivated to do right by their racehorses and sales prospects, so alternative medicine and complimentary medicine are more often than not an integral part of each program.”

When Carroll completes her morning rides, she begins treating clients’ horses and checking their progress. Because horses obviously can not verbalize their feelings, Carroll relies on subtle equine body language that speaks volumes. The animals relax under her soothing hands that relieve their stiffness and minor aches but the true test comes on race day.

The ultimate reward is when a horse responds with a victory at best or a markedly improved performance.

After finishing with her Keeneland rounds, Carroll treats horses at other locations in the Bluegrass region. When her schedule is clear, she most likely will be enjoying some sort of equine activity. Her vacations often are paired with business such as a recent Maryland sojourn with life partner Dale Mallory. Carroll focused on equine chiropractic and other treatments but squeezed in watching her young daughter ride in her first horse show.

Life with horses

Carroll fondly recalls growing up in a world so horsey that she has no childhood memories without them and her daughter is following the same path.

“My most important and rewarding role is being a mom, so I am grateful she’s equally as engaged in these passions,” Carroll said. “We share a lot of time enjoying these common interests, which all revolve around the horses and family.”

Carroll had a similar upbringing. Her late father, Del Carroll, was a renowned polo player and Thoroughbred trainer whose long list of accomplishments include several leading trainer titles at Keeneland and a victory in the 1972 Preakness Stakes with Bee Bee Bee. Her mother Klobia exercised racehorses for more than two decades and continues her own mixed animal veterinary practice.

Larkspur Carroll honed her skills in clubs and camps as a youngster. While others her age likely would be mounted on well-schooled ponies, Carroll and her friends typically had energetic former racers. She got an early taste of working at the track by helping at the barn when her mother trained racehorses. In the decades since, Carroll’s life has been touched by countless Thoroughbreds but one in particular left an indelible memory. Her name was Arbellina.

Carroll said she herself was eight when the filly became the very first racehorse she walked around the barn to cool down after an exercise session.

With a life centered amid Thoroughbreds, Carroll gravitated towards equine medicine. She chose Ohio State in Columbus for veterinary school in part because of its close proximity to a racetrack (the now defunct Beulah Park.) With the intention of returning to her Maryland roots, she came to Lexington to complete an internship at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in 2006.

Carroll realized that the “Horse Capital of the World” held endless professional and personal opportunities and she opted to stay.

“I fell more and more in love with Kentucky and the things in it,” she said.
As Carroll has made a name for herself as a veterinarian, she is often asked about her unusual moniker. Thoroughbred pedigree aficionados assume she was named for Hall of Famer Blue Larkspur, whose descendants include Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. However, she is named for a flower.

“My mother is an eccentric gardener,” she said. “She tried to name me Delphinium and ‘Delphie’ for short. A very kind and practical friend reminded my mother that the annual form of a delphinium is the larkspur, and perhaps that would be a better choice. I would like to hug that family friend repeatedly for her input!”

Liane Crossley is a freelance writer based in Lexington

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