DEWITT — Dr. Ashley Wegmann knew from the time she was a little girl that caring for animals was a calling to which she wanted to devote her life.
Recently, Wegmann was honored for volunteering what spare time she has to do just that.
The 28-year-old veterinarian at DeWitt Veterinary Clinic has been selected as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Riding International Region 7’s “Veterinarian of the Year 2020.”
Wegmann donates her time to helping at New Kingdom Trail Riders, a nonprofit organization located in Sherrard, Illinois.
According to their website, NKT serves the Quad-Cities and surrounding areas by empowering children, adults and military veterans facing physical, mental, emotional and social challenges to create active, healthier and more fulfilling lives through equine-assisted activities.
NKTs offer a therapeutic horseback riding program to help participants realize their own potential. NKT works with approximately 80-100 students in any given year, ranging from age 4 to adult.
Monika Sauer, who is the rider/volunteer coordinator at NKT, said Wegmann’s contributions to the organization – including sharing her love of horses with others – deserves to be recognized.
“Ashley takes time out of her busy schedule to volunteer her time to care for the herd of 15 horses at New Kingdom Trail Riders,” Sauer wrote in an email to The DeWitt Observer. “She cares for animals of all shapes and sizes. Ashley is hard-working and compassionate in all the work she does.”
Wegmann, who was raised on a dairy farm just outside of Edgewood, said she was young when she made the discovery she wanted to make a career of caring for animals as a veterinarian.
“I worked closely with our vet,” Wegmann explained. “When I was 8, the doctor let me assist with a D.A. (displaced abomasum, a stomach surgery) surgery on my pet cow. That’s when I knew. Being raised on a farm, I loved taking care of animals; it was second-nature. But that’s when I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”
However, becoming a veterinarian wasn’t about the prestige that comes with the job title for Wegmann.
As an undergrad at Iowa State University, she started volunteering at a therapeutic riding camp north of Ames.
Helping animals and people at the same time was the best of both worlds.
Wegmann lives with her boyfriend, Steven Connell, just north of Welton. The couple own and operate Welton Ridge Farms, where they raise Belgian draft horses.
It was last fall when she began volunteering at NKT, an organization she’d learned about through word of mouth.
Being acknowledged for her volunteerism was not something Wegmann was expecting. But she is hopeful it will inspire others to contribute their time to good causes.
“It’s very rewarding, definitely,” Wegmann said of her volunteer work. “It was exciting to hear about (the award). I don’t necessarily get awards for anything I do, so that was cool. I don’t feel I should get rewarded; I just enjoy volunteering.
“I’m able to help and give back to people – kids with disabilities, or who come from homes where the environment isn’t so good and they just need some time away from that,” she continued. “Horses are very therapeutic in and of themselves.”
While she is partial to horses, at DeWitt Veterinary Clinic – where Wegmann has worked since January 2019 – she helps animals of all kinds, including dogs, cats, goats, sheep, chicken, donkeys, ducks and rabbits.
She is thankful to Dr. Phil Reemtsma and the entire clinic staff for enabling her to spend time at NKT.
It gives her the chance to indulge in her love of horses and to show people how healing these gentle creatures can be, both emotionally and spiritually.
“I didn’t become a vet to be a ‘doctor,’” Wegmann related. “I did it because I want to be part of the community, and give something back. I hope people see there is a need for volunteers.”