A chance encounter while volunteering at the Flicka Foundation Horse and Donkey Sanctuary has led to an unusual career choice for Falmouth's Lucy Evans.
After seeing a horse dentist at work six-years-ago, when Lucy was 16 and had just taken her GCSEs, she decided that was the career for her.
“Like most people, I had never even thought of dentistry in the context of horses,” she said. “Until then I had wanted to be a vet, but watching this woman go about her work just seemed so bizarre; it changed everything for me."
After three years' specialist training and £40,000 of investment, Lucy has launched her own dentistry service, Equine Dental Solutions, for horses, ponies and donkeys across Cornwall.
At only 5ft 4ins and weighing just seven-and-a-half stone, Lucy often finds her “patients” some as heavy as half a ton, towering above her. “I have been bitten and I have been smacked around the head and knocked for six by a horse that was being very boisterous,” she said, but a gag which keep's the animal's mouth open and a collar around its head usually brings them in line.
"You never know how a horse is going to react and you only put the gag on after an initial examination. That is when the bites can occur, but most of the time it is just a question of being patient and efficient - building up rapport and applying certain techniques rather than brute strength.
“Most of the time, a horse already has an issue; they can get real grief with sharp teeth and ulcerations, for instance, and it's reassuring for them when I relieve that pain."
Lucy is not allowed to administer injections or fillings, that's a job for the vet, but she is one of only a handful of practitioners in the South West with a first class degree in equine dental science.