Park City vet has powerful bond with horses
May 1, 2009
Last week Charmian Wright delivered a goat. She described the difficult birth in an apologetic e-mail because the blessed event had cut into time she’d allocated for a Park Record profile interview. "Got the little baby goat out — head was twisted down and one leg was back but he’s fine now. Just needed a little rearranging — cutest little bugger," she wrote.
It’s typical of Dr. Wright, a seasoned veterinarian who’s been putting the welfare of sick and injured animals ahead of almost everything else for most of her hectic life. Ask her what she’s passionate about and she responds without hesitation, "Equine medicine and animals of all sorts."
Her passion for horses will come to full fruition with the planned opening in mid-June of the Mountain Horse Medical Center in Silver Creek. The state-of-the-art equine medical and surgical center is the realization of a dream 14 years in the making.
Wright was born in Salt Lake City, the youngest of Dorde and Bob Wright’s four daughters. Her parents were avid outdoor enthusiasts and often took the children hiking, camping and boating. She credits them with her deep and abiding love of nature. She remembers rafting through Glen Canyon when she was six years old, before the dam created Lake Powell.
The family always had horses and Wright started riding before she was in kindergarten. "Horses are an integral part of who I am," she says. "I was quite simply obsessed with them and rode every day. I truly think there’s a genetic component to it, something you’re born with."
Growing up, Wright was a poster child for rugged self-reliance. She rode tirelessly throughout the mountains of Utah, sharing many adventures with Boo, her beloved Appaloosa-Arabian cross during their 28 years together.
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When she was 20 years old, Wright went for a ride with her horse, her pack donkey and her dog. "I didn’t have a trailer so I started out from my house in the Salt Lake Valley," she laughs. "I rode up Millcreek Canyon and over Guardsman’s Pass, then down into Heber and back up over the Uinta Mountains." A month later she arrived in Roosevelt, 200 miles from home.
At age 10 she announced to her parents she wanted to be a veterinarian and pursued that goal with single-minded determination for the next 18 years. After graduating from Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City, she attended Westminster College for two years before transferring to Utah State University. In her spare time, she perfected her horseshoeing skills at the Farrier College of California and shoed horses to finance her college studies.
She graduated from USU in 1982 with a double major in biology and "bio-vet science" and was accepted to veterinary school at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
After completing vet studies in 1986, which included internships in Kentucky and at the famed polo fields in Palm Springs, Calif., Wright returned to Utah and promptly moved to the Park City area. She started an equine practice but, since the town was still too small to support a practice limited strictly to horses, she also worked part time at the Park City Animal Clinic with Dr. Jackson. When he was called up during the first Gulf War in 1991, she took over his practice for six months.
"A couple of other area vets were also called up, so I worked like a maniac 80 hours a week. It was a crazy time, but that gave me the money to buy my first camel. I’d always been fascinated by camels. As an old desert rat, I thought they’d be the perfect way to travel around western and southern Utah.
"Camels have a reputation for being cantankerous, but they’re actually very nice animals if they’re treated well. They can be a little bit moody and act like drama queens. They actually have wonderful personalities, very curious, smart and usually calm."
Wright moved to Silver Creek in 1990. That same year she met her future husband, Gordon Croissant. The two married a year later and spent their honeymoon riding camels across Australia. The newlyweds soon embarked on their first joint venture, a camel-trekking business, which became an instant hit among trendy tourists. "It was the first business of its kind in the Western Hemisphere in modern times," Wright says proudly. They ran the business for 10 years, trekking throughout southern Utah and Arizona with up to a dozen camels. She credits the camel business with generating the money to begin building the equine hospital.
Wright says she saw a real need early in her career for an equine medical diagnostic, referral and surgical center for Park City. "The horse community here and throughout the county is generally well educated and takes good care of their animals," she says. "But the absence of a state-of-the art facility has been a problem."
Over the years Dr. Wright has developed many close relationships with area horse owners. "Most of the animals I treat probably hate me. They see me coming with a big needle, so I’m certainly not their favorite person. But it’s very gratifying to be able to help them and work with them. I feel very lucky to be a part of the natural world every day. But it wouldn’t be the same without the professional relationships with the owners. The animals and the humans are two sides of the same coin.
Wright enjoys adventure and traveling the world. Her "to do" list includes climbing to the Mt. Everest base camp and trekking across Patagonia. For now, long-range travel is on hold as the long-awaited equine center nears completion. "There are plenty of beautiful places to visit right here in Utah," she notes.
"I’m continually passionate about life and entranced by the natural world," she adds. "I feel very, very lucky to be able to live and work in Park City with living creatures and their interesting, quirky owners."
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at email@example.com