An interview with Esther Skelly Smith.

An interview with Esther Skelly Smith.

After seeing the exciting news on Instagram that Esther has been nominated for the Petplan UK Veterinary Awards 2023 “Vet of The Year” we looked back through interviews over on The Grassroots Gazette and asked could we "borrow" this so could you could all see what kind of a Powerhouse Esther is. We are not one bit surprise Esther that you have been nominated for the award. Fingers crossed, we'll all be shouting for you!!

So with that in mind, let's get to know Petplan UK Veterinary Awards 2023 “Vet of The Year” nominee Esther Skelly Smith a bit better.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Esther and I am a veterinarian with a special interest in equine welfare, sports medicine and rehabilitation. After graduating from Nottingham Vet School in 2012, I went on to work at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. Since my return to Northern Ireland, I have worked as an equine vet in mixed practice and for an equine dental clinic while pursuing further professional development.

In 2017, I established Shanaghan Veterinary Services which is Ireland’s first integrated veterinary referral service. The practice includes veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic, equine dentistry, pain management, rehabilitation, performance optimisation and laser therapy.  In 2020 my husband Timothy and I set up SVS Equine which is a platform to provide evidence-based equine products.  

How did you first get involved with horses or ponies?
My mum always tells people that one of the first words I said was “horse”.  I had an unrequited love for horses which my parents resisted until I was 9 years old, when they gave in and allowed me to go to riding lessons.  I had many happy teenage years competing across a range of disciplines including showing, dressage, working hunter and side-saddle.  My mum, Louise Skelly, and I often crossed as many as 10 Irish counties on our way to events.  Not having “horsey parents” meant we learnt by our mistakes; the wrong jacket, wrong bit and sometimes the wrong class for the pony, but we soon caught up!
What is your WHY that drives you forward?
I have a constant desire to improve the health and well-being of horses in Ireland. We have a great legacy of horses and horsemanship in Ireland; however, we need to move forward and be able to demonstrate that we provide the utmost care for those equines that depend on our stewardship.  It has been my privilege throughout my life to have continually learned from some of the best horse people, veterinarians, scientists and other professionals. I strive to empower horse owners with reliable information and resources about veterinary medicine and welfare, supported by research and evidence. This will help them towards the provision of compassionate horsemanship.

What is the biggest challenge you're facing in our industry today?

Public views are evolving on the use of horses in sport or leisure, and this is to do with the concept of our “social licence to operate”.  Our understanding of “good welfare” is evolving, we must see horses as sentient beings who should “thrive not survive” in our care. Quality of life is based on both physical and mental wellbeing.  We have the opportunity to show real leadership in proactively addressing obvious and less obvious welfare concerns.  A holistic and proactive approach to equine welfare by the industry will be the key to ensuring a justifiable, ethical argument in favour of equestrian sport continuing.

What do you provide that you feel is lacking most in our industry?

Traditionally, veterinary services in Ireland were focused on the treatment of ill health.  My broadening equine knowledge led me to set up Shanaghan Veterinary Services, Ireland’s first equine veterinary referral service dedicated to providing an integrated and “whole-horse-approach” to the veterinary treatment and care of horses.  My practice is unique because I am the first equine vet in Ireland to be a Certified Equine Rehabilitation Practitioner through the University of Tennessee, I am also an internationally accredited veterinary chiropractor and certified veterinary acupuncturist.   I work in partnership with horse owners and trainers, veterinary surgeons, and allied professionals to improve the performance and wellbeing of horses.

What is your message to our equine industry?
It is vitally important that we as horse stewards learn to “listen” to them as in my opinion there are rarely any truly bad horses. Often behaviours we call “naughty” are actually an outward indicator that they are experiencing some form of performance limiting pain or stress.  I firmly believe we as their custodians have a duty to understand this more.  It was my broadening knowledge around this that led me to set up Shanaghan Veterinary Services.

Esther best of luck with the nomination. We appreciate you writing for us, joining us for livestreams and just being your awesome self.

Until next time,


Shane McCarthy

Shane McCarthy

Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do!! I'm the co-founder and ceo of The Grassroots Gazette and Equitas. Be relentless in the pursuit of Excellence.