Renowned horse vet “Doc” Jim Smith dies at 86

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Dr Jim Smith.
Dr Jim Smith

Colleagues are mourning the death of veterinarian Jim Smith, who was with Kentucky’s Hagyard Equine Medical Institute for more than 40 years.

Dr James Donovan Smith, died on December 28 at the age of 86 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Known affectionately as “Doc”, the Kansas born veterinarian earned his Bachelor and Doctorate degrees in Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, and he later specialised in equine reproductive medicine and ophthalmology. He was in practice in Wichita, Kansas before starting with Hagyard in 1962. He was a Member of the Practice from 1970 to 2004.

As a senior partner at Hagyard, Smith mentored and encouraged many young veterinarians. He was an extremely active member of both the veterinary and civic world, serving as president of the Kentucky Equine Practitioners Association, a well as a board member, secretary, and treasurer of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). Smith was also active in groups including Rotary, the Kentucky Harness Commission, the Kentucky Equine Drug Council, the Kentucky Equine Practitioners Infectious Disease Committee, Quality Assurance Program of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, The Jockey Club Medication Commission, and was board president of the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center (KYEAC). During his decade-long tenure, Smith oversaw the development of KYEAC into the largest all-breed equine rescue in Kentucky.

After retiring from practice, Smith was involved in the Christian Muslim Dialogue, Build Nehemiah Action, The Cricket Club, and Birthright of Lexington – receiving the Louise Summerhill Award in 2017 along with his wife, Judy. Smith’s other awards include the Joan F. Pew Award for Racing Commissions, the E.R. Frank Award for Meritorious Service, the KSU Distinguished Veterinary Alumni Award, Registry of Merit from the American Quarter Horse Association, and he was Commissioned a Kentucky Colonel.

Smith’s love for music started early as he was the youngest musician hired by Universal Studios to play trombone in its live studio orchestra. This evolved into him performing with the Lexington based big band group Men of Note. After moving to Kentucky, he also had his own local television show on KET called, Camping with Jim Smith. His numerous hobbies included reading, exploring the outdoors, dancing, and traveling, Panama being a favorite. He was the life of the party and loved cooking and feeding his friends and family, though never on time. He was deeply passionate about naps, ice cream, and head scratches. His love of endless storytelling and conversation meant that he never met a stranger and was never far from home. Family and friends describe Jim as “caring and gentle, hardworking and curious, intelligent but always learning. A man who truly lived life to the fullest.”

Jim Smith (Oct 10, 1934-Dec 28, 2020) is survived by his wife of 31 years, Judy, and their five children, and his five children with Jan D. Cochran, and nine grandchildren.

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