Chelsea Burleson, the CVM’s lead student ambassador, has been a horse woman all of her life.
Story by Megan Myers
When Chelsea Burleson was 8 years old, she visited Texas A&M University and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) for the first time and immediately knew that this was where she was meant be.
Now a third-year veterinary student, Burleson works to give others that same experience as the leader of the CVM Ambassador program.
“How surreal it was to be accepted at A&M and walk again through the Large Animal Hospital, but this time as an ambassador, representing an institution whose reputation has carried around the globe,” Burleson said.
Since beginning her role as an ambassador in 2015, Burleson has personally led more than 100 tours of the college. She helped re-design the tour route to incorporate the new VBEC Complex and was promoted to lead ambassador in May 2017.
“As the lead ambassador, I arrange visits for a variety of guests—prospective students, special interest organizations, and even college patrons,” she said. “I also train our incredible team of biomedical sciences and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students to effectively communicate with the range of individuals wishing to learn more about our college.
“I’ve made substantial efforts to ensure that visitors come away with a better understanding of veterinary medicine and the CVM’s role in training veterinarians,” Burleson said. “At the very core, I enjoy being a resource for others and am incredibly moved when visitors report that our tours have had a significant impact on them.”
Despite having moved multiple times growing up, even living as far away as England, Burleson found that horses always remained a constant in her life.
“My mother and I are equestrians through-and-through, and horses have defined a significant role in my life since my earliest memories,” Burleson said.
Originally from California, Burleson began helping with her mother’s thoroughbred breeding operation at a very early age. She began riding lessons at 4 years old, competing in numerous jumping competitions.
As a young child, she fell in love with a black pony named Timmy that she received on her sixth birthday.
When the Burleson family moved to Texas in 1997, Timmy suffered health problems because of the change in climate. Burleson’s parents had to make the tough decision to send Timmy back to California, where he thrived again, teaching other children to ride.
“It was probably the first heartbreak I’d ever experienced–that pony meant the world to me,” Burleson said. “The connection between an equestrian and her horse is quite different from that of the connection between a pet owner and their companion. Both are extremely significant, but there is a very special relationship between humans and animals that work together toward a common goal.”
When her family moved to England in 2001, her passion for horses grew even further. She said the significance placed on horses by the English, including the royal family, helped strengthen her love for both horses and competition. She was even able to meet Princess Anne while involved with the Garth Hunt Pony Club.
Burleson continued to compete in England, where she had to adapt to a European jumping style.
“It was initially challenging to transition from the methodical cadence of American hunter classes to the European jumper style,” she said. “But I learned how to tackle complex courses and speed across rolling English terrain; the energy was thrilling, and the landscapes were enchanting.”
Both she and her mother fell in love with the English equestrian culture during their time overseas, so much so that when the Burlesons returned to the United States in 2010 they brought with them their two competition geldings. Her mother was also inspired to renew her breeding operation, this time with warmblood prospects.
After graduating from the CVM, Burleson plans to help advise her parents, who now own a horse ranch in Colorado, where the family breeds Holsteiner warmbloods with the intention of developing foals that will become international competitors.
Aside from that, with one year left of veterinary school, Burleson is still deciding what career path she will take after graduation.
As an undergraduate studying animal behavior at Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Burleson developed a special interest in primatology while studying social behaviors of capuchins, squirrel monkeys, and hamadryas baboons and hopes to incorporate that passion into her career.
“I’ve considered everything from private practice with companion animals and horses to epidemiology and laboratory animal medicine,” Burleson said. “I’m inspired by the diversity of this profession, the many avenues a veterinarian can take throughout her career. I can’t wait to see where I go next.”
Note: This story originally appeard in the 2019 Spring edition of CVM Today.
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216