Wellington, Fla. — Feb. 25, 2016 — The international sport horse community lost one of its legends on Friday with the passing of Dr. John R. Steele, DVM. Dr. Steele, or ‘Doc’ as he was lovingly known by many, was a pioneer in sport horse medicine and had a distinguished career as an equine veterinarian. Dr. Steele passed away on February 24, he was 91-years-old.
At a young age, Dr. Steele discovered his passion for taking care of horses at his home in upstate New York. After graduating from Cornell University in 1946, he spent a year in general practice before he was recruited by Cornell to return and assume a role as an assistant professor. At the time he was the youngest assistant professor at Cornell University, a title he earned at the age of 22.
Dr. Steele did not feel as drawn to the world of academia as he did to practicing on working horses. From 1969 to 1985, Dr. Steele worked tirelessly to develop what would become an incredibly successful practice, specializing in treating Standardbred race horses.
Show jumping may never have tapped Dr. Steele’s’ vast talents if it were not for John and Beezie Madden who asked him to evaluate some of their high performance show jumpers after hearing stories of his success with the race horses. After that initial meeting, Dr. Steele’s career in the show jumping industry took off and within only a few years he was treating the most successful horses in the sport including Authentic, Gem Twist and Eros. Professionals such as Margie Engle, Norman Dello Joio, Greg Best, Susie Schoellkopf and Missy Clark have all, at one time, entrusted the care of their horses to Dr. Steele.
John R. Steele and Associates Inc. grew into a dominate multi-veterinarian practice due, in part, to Dr. Steele’s continued mentorship of young veterinarians. Many of today’s top veterinarians are a direct reflection of Dr. Steele’s passion for mentorship and continuing education.
Dr. Steele was also one of the first veterinarians to understand that the sport was evolving and if he wanted to keep up, he would need to follow the shows wherever they might go. In addition to countless international venues, he cared for horses at some of the nation’s most prestigious horse shows, including the Budweiser American Invitational, Winter Equestrian Festival, Hampton Classic, Lake Placid Horse Shows, Pennsylvania National and the Syracuse Invitational.
It was Dr. Steele’s’ unflinching dedication to the horses and clients he worked for that solidified his reputation in the equestrian industry for the duration of his life. He firmly believed that you were never too old to learn something new.
Dr. Steele defied his age by continuing to treat horses until the the week before his passing. His work ethic was second to none and he is recognized around the world for deeply understanding the ‘whole horse’.