Through a long career, Hogan fills vital role from New Jersey base
Nestled in the heart of Cream Ridge, a small town that, with its green fields and white fencing, bears more of a resemblance to Kentucky than its central New Jersey location, is Fair Winds Farm, a longtime Standardbred nursery.
Down the long, shady lane, past broodmares and their new foals, is the Hogan Equine veterinary practice, in what used to be the farm’s breeding shed. There’s a bicycle outside the office door, on which Dr. Patty Hogan rides to work many days when the weather is nice. She’s fortunate to be able to live so close to her practice, which she designed and decorated, taking the breeding shed and transforming it into a state-of-the-art equine medical facility for surgery and recovery.
It was a labor of love for Hogan, but then again, most things in her life have been motivated by love. She developed her passion for horses as a young girl, which led to a career in veterinary science and ultimately to a reputation as one of the top equine surgeons in the country, with patients that include the elite of the Thoroughbred and Standardbred worlds. Clients speak not only of her skill but of her interest in each horse’s welfare, from the time he or she arrives at Hogan Equine and far into the future, when the horse returns to the races.
Hogan’s stature as an equine surgeon has given her the opportunity to speak out at a critical juncture for racing on subjects that concern her and that also bedevil the industry. She has spoken at venues ranging from the hallowed halls of Congress to gatherings of horsemen at local racetracks on topics such as slaughter, injuries and avoiding that “one last race” that often leads to tragic consequences for horses with pre-existing conditions.
Uniquely, Hogan’s desire to see horses transition to other careers after racing has led to her charitable donation of pro bono surgeries for rescue groups, annually exceeding $100,000 in services.
While Hogan often speaks about the good fortune that led her to this career, others would say racing has benefited the most – having the good fortune of her skill, dedication and charity.
Patty Hogan has been horse crazy her whole life. Growing up in Edison, N.J., not far from the New York City metropolitan area, she was a tomboy in a large family, preferring to play with Lincoln Logs rather than Barbie dolls, and having a knack for fixing things.
“We lived in a very urban area with no land, and just a little yard,” she recalled. “There were no horses around. And I loved horses. I found out that in Piscataway, which is about 3 miles away, there was a harness-fair track [Johnson Park]. So my girlfriend and I – back in the days when you could say ‘I’ll see you tonight’ to your parents and take off – rode our bikes there during the summer and just kind of volunteered. I was thrilled to clean stalls and just to be around horses. I loved the smell, the sounds, everything about them.”
As she got older, Hogan developed an interest in harness racing, all the while thinking of a future career in veterinary medicine.
“I never approached it as a career in the strictest sense of the word where I had to support myself,” she said. “I wanted to make it a great career. It was such a labor of love that it just happened. To be honest, the whole journey has been an amazing experience. It wasn’t always easy and, in some regards, at some of the tougher times I might not have understood why it had to be so difficult, but in the end it led me to where I am now. And it’s just beyond my wildest dreams.”
Hogan said one of her biggest concerns was that she felt she wasn’t smart enough to get into veterinary school, known for its highly competitive admission standards. She struggled with the prerequisite courses of biochemistry, organic chemistry and higher-level mathematics, admitting that she was very average in her grades because she was a hands-on person, learning more from doing things than reading about them. When she did apply to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, she didn’t get in the first time, but didn’t want to take “no” for an answer. She got a job at the university’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square cleaning stalls, and then met Dr. Tom Divers, who found her a job as a laboratory assistant. The following year, she applied again, and this time was accepted.
“My family was very supportive of me, but they had no money,” said Hogan. “I was one of seven kids, and there was no money for college, no money for vet school, so I waitressed all through those years, got other jobs, and took out loans for vet school.”
Hogan gave credit to the patchwork of people who helped her along the way.
“For instance, I had an arrangement with Mrs. Anne Thorington, she had a beautiful farm near Malvern, Pa., and let me live in this little apartment in exchange for foaling out her mares,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing that happened to me. My whole journey has been people helping me, just meeting great mentors, people that would give me a chance. When I look back, there’s no way I could have done this without this person here and that person there, and I love that about my whole story.”
Another person key to her future career was Dr. Dean Richardson, the Charles W. Raker professor of equine surgery and chief of large animal surgery at New Bolton and one of her instructors while at the University of Pennsylvania.
“He’s one of the best people and veterinarians I know, he’s such an incredible surgeon and teacher, and made residents into great surgeons,” said Hogan. “As students, we all feared him, because he ruled with an iron fist. He’s such a genius, and if you give him a wrong answer it’s completely unacceptable and you would certainly feel his wrath. Later on, I realized he just wanted to get the best out of you.”
Said Richardson: “Patty was always going to be a success. She had the talent and ambition that you don’t see in many people. I’ve had thousands of students in the 40 years I’ve been at UPenn, and I could foresee her being a very good surgeon. She had the right combination of talent – great people skills, and knowledge of the horse racing industry, which is very helpful if you have an understanding of how the business works. I could see that when she worked for me in my lab, as well. When you work with somebody outside of the classroom, you can see it even clearer. She has charisma.”
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, Hogan interned at the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., and then had a three-year residency at Texas A&M University. She then decided to come back to New Jersey to begin her career and was hired by Dr. Scott Palmer at the New Jersey Equine Clinic in Clarksburg.
“I give Scott a lot of credit, he went out on a limb to hire me,” she said. “Because at the time, there were no female surgeons. It was just an old-school, good-ol’-boys network.”
While working for Palmer, Hogan often found that many of his clients did not want a woman working on their horses.
“It helped that I had an androgynous name, so Pat could be Patrick,” she said. “I had horses come in that were for Dr. Pat Hogan.”
She recalled an exchange from one particularly surprised client.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Dr. Pat Hogan,” she answered.
“What? You’re Dr. Hogan? I thought it was Patrick Hogan.”
“No, it’s me.”
“Well, I’m not going to have a woman work on my horses,” said the man, just before leaving with his horse.
“That was really tough to take,” Hogan said of the exchange from many years ago. “But he had a horse come in not long afterward that had a really bad fracture, and I was the only one there, because Scott was away. So I fixed it, the horse went back to the races at a high level, and he became a lifelong client for me. That just showed him first-hand that gender didn’t matter.”
Hogan said she rarely feels that bias anymore, and in fact played a large part in blazing the trail for other female equine surgeons. Still, a recent photo from the AO-VET Foundation Equine Fracture Repair Course in Columbus, Ohio, in April, in which she spoke about the treatment of complex P1 fractures, shows her as the only female in a group of 12 veterinarians.
On July 28, 2003, an injured horse arrived at New Jersey Equine with a serious head injury. The event turned out to be fortuitous, and eventually changed the trajectory of Hogan’s life.
That day, she received a phone call from Dr. Dan Hanf, a veterinarian at Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing) about a horse from the barn of trainer John Servis. The colt needed an emergency eye removal after a starting gate accident.
“I prepared the operating room, and I was just going to bring the horse in and put it right on the table,” recalled Hogan. “And when he came in, I’ll always remember that I walked out to greet the trailer and all I heard was clip-clop, clip-clop, the horse was trotting in like he did not have a care in the world.
“And when he came around the corner he was really horrible looking,” she said. “He was scary. When he hit the starting gate, he fractured some bones in his facial area so it let air in under the skin, from the sinuses, and it blew up his whole head, it was so big. All you could see was one good eye, and the other eye was swollen shut with a lot of tissue protruding so it really looked like he’d ruptured his eye. And the head was huge.”
Hogan decided that she wanted to confirm, to do her own evaluation instead of saying it was obvious that he’d ruptured his eye.
“You do detective work in veterinary medicine,” she said. “So I did my due diligence, I took my X-rays. Then I did an ultrasound. And I could tell the actual eyeball was 2-21⁄2 inches inside and was still intact. So the tissue that surrounded the eye was prolapsed and it had gotten so swollen and pushed out from the air that it just bulged out of his lid, and looked like it was ruptured.”
Happy that the eye could be saved, Hogan injected the area with steroids and wrapped his head, heavily bandaging it for compression.
“We actually called him Quasimodo,” she said. “And the thing about it, he was an unknown, unraced horse at the time, but I remember every hair on that horse’s head. He had a presence about him, such a personality, that it was as if nothing had fazed him at all. He looked awful and obviously it was a painful condition because he’d broken several bones around his eye socket and forehead but it was like nothing ever happened. He was so bright, always had his ears up, so spunky. To this day I can remember being in the room examining him – and I see 2-3,000 horses a year – and I remember everything about that horse. And he wasn’t famous. He was in our hospital for two weeks, he was that bad.”
That horse turned out to be Someday Farm’s Smarty Jones, one of the most beloved Thoroughbreds of the last decade, who captured two-thirds of the Triple Crown and earned more than $7 million –
the most of any Pennsylvania-bred in history.
“When we sent Smarty to New Jersey Equine after his injury, Dr. Palmer was busy, so Patty saw him,” said Servis. “And she was awesome. She was so hands-on and she kept in contact with me every step of the way. The one thing she kept saying about Smarty was that he didn’t act like there was anything wrong, that he was so strong and never missed an oat.”
Once Smarty Jones started winning races, Hogan made sure to tell her technicians at the clinic.
“Do you remember that horse Quasimodo? He’s winning, can you believe that?”
About a month before the Kentucky Derby, Servis called Hogan and said, “Patty, I just want to let you know, your life’s about to change.”
When she asked what he was talking about, he replied, “Well, The Blood-Horse interviewed me yesterday and I told them the whole story of what happened to Smarty. And you’re going to wake up tomorrow and your life’s going to be different.”
Hogan said those words were prophetic, because from then on, it was “an incredible whirlwind.”
“We had every newspaper, television station, magazine come to the clinic and interview me about Smarty,” she said. “There was just so much fanfare. And little kids wrote me letters about him, they’d send me a packet from school with 30 letters in it. It was a fantastic experience and my life was never the same after that. It sort of gave me some legitimacy with clients and as a surgeon.”
Hogan stayed at New Jersey Equine until 2007, and gave Palmer a year’s notice that she was leaving. She then got the opportunity to design the Ruffian Equine Medical Center adjacent to Belmont Park.
“I already had some design experience, so I took that job and it was a great springboard for me,” she said. Built at a cost of $18 million by International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, who campaigned Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, the Ruffian clinic provided emergency care to Thoroughbreds racing and stabled in New York.
“We wanted a place where we could do bone scans, colic surgery, take care of fractures,” she said. “It was very limited land, the parcel was very long and narrow and we had a lot of challenges designing the practice, but we fit it.”
Later that same year, another design opportunity came along at Fair Winds Farm. This time, it was for her own practice.
Hogan Equine draws its patients from 17 tracks, most within a two-hour drive of Cream Ridge, with half being Thoroughbred and half Standardbred. Each year Hogan sees about 3,000 horses and does about 800 surgeries in what she calls a boutique-style clinic, with an emphasis on personal care and attention. She offers fracture repair, arthroscopy, and upper airway surgery, and is essentially a business within the business of Fair Winds Farm, a Standardbred nursery. There are always employees around, and a night watchman.
“We do the surgery, the layup, and send them back as the complete package, ready to resume training,” she said one April morning as she walked past stalls of horses enjoying the peacefulness of Fair Winds as they recover from procedures or get evaluated by staff. Horses will go out in large grass paddocks for four to five hours at a time, and there are usually three shifts a day, with an additional night shift if the weather is good.
From April through December, the clinic has its busy season, usually with all 70 available stalls filled. It slows down a bit from January through March, during which time Hogan travels, gives talks, golfs, rests and spends time with her husband, harness driver and trainer Eddie Lohmeyer. He has been a force in the Standardbred industry for many decades, winning multiple driving titles and developing such stars as Pacific Rocket, Pacific Fella, Nuclear Siren and Landslide.
“I always said I wasn’t going to date my clients, but there was just something about Eddie, I couldn’t keep away,” she recalled. “Eddie is 21 years older than me, which I never knew when I met him. He was so dashing and good-looking. I had done work on his horses but he was like an absentee owner, and then one day I met him at the gas station. He saw that I was filling up the New Jersey Equine truck, he knocked on my window and I remember, to this day, turning to see who it was and he had these beautiful blue eyes. He said, ‘Are you Dr Hogan? I’m Ed Lohmeyer, you’ve been working on my horses.’ It was like a big spark. We were married two years later.”
Lohmeyer trains at nearby White Birch Farm in Cream Ridge, and the couple live across the street from Hogan Equine on a 38-acre farm, where they breed Standardbreds, as well as have five horses in training.
Hogan feels that the secret to becoming a successful surgeon is to work on Standardbreds, because they will usually come back from any injury.
“Standardbreds race forever,” she said. “They’re retired because their legs are big, they blew suspensories, things like that. Thoroughbreds have more catastrophic injuries. My practice treats both breeds, which not many do.”
Hogan said that although Standardbreds are extremely durable, they have changed a lot over the years, becoming more refined as breeders focus on speed.
“I actually have seen more and more of the stress fracture-type injuries that I used to see exclusively in Thoroughbreds.” she said. “So they do share more of the stress-induced bone injuries the last 15 years, and that’s because they’re going faster. Two minutes used to be the standard, and if they could break the two-minute barrier they were good horses. The fastest horse now is 1:46.”
One of the best Standardbreds Hogan had as a patient was champion pacer Always B Miki. In late 2014, he was warming up for the Breeders Crown, and the trainer scratched him as lame.
“They sent him home and the next morning they called me and said he has a P1 fracture, a hind leg fracture of the pastern bone,” said Hogan. “It was displaced and a serious fracture. We put four screws in the next day. Five months later, as he was about to make his comeback, I got a call that he broke the other hind leg – this time a long, nondisplaced fracture. That was supposed to be his career year. The owner was really upset. We did the same thing, and put four screws in.”
Hogan told the colt’s owner that he could be rehabbed at an accelerated level, and that he would make the big fall races. He was put in a pool and didn’t lose his fitness, eventually qualifying and returning to competition that fall. After the surgery, he won the 2015 Breeders Crown, was named 4-year-old champion, and raced again at 5. The time of 1:46 that Hogan referred to was established by Always B Miki, who lowered the world record in 2016, giving her immense satisfaction.
Also among Hogan’s prominent patients were the Thoroughbreds Afleet Alex, Diversify, Take Charge Indy, Palace, Kid Cruz, Get Stormy, Pants On Fire, Uptowncharlybrown and Haynesfield. Her client list includes the top names in the sport, including Todd Pletcher, Linda Rice and Mark Hennig.
“I’ve been lucky to work on some great horses,” she said. “You try to think of them as just any other horse, and you’re conscious of their value, of course, but a horse is a horse. I try to approach every horse the same, but I did have some nervous moments in my career, like when I operated on Afleet Alex, I didn’t know his insured value [eight figures] at the time.”
“Patty is a first-class person,” said Hennig. “I think she’s a great surgeon and a great friend. My clients have the utmost confidence in her. She’s unique; she follows the horses she’s worked on. She knows everything about them – entries, workouts. I’ve had surgeons never ask about the horses again.”
New York-based trainer David Donk agreed.
“She’s been the consummate professional, a great confidant, and gives great customer service,” he said. “I love when she talks to my owners, because she puts them at ease.”
Bob Hutt, who heads the Uptowncharlybrown Stud and stands Uptowncharlybrown in Pennsylvania, spoke of Patty’s compassion.
“I had a filly that I raised who developed an incurable bone infection which required surgery in Florida,” he said. “The filly wasn’t doing well and was never going to make it back as a racehorse. We shipped the filly to Patty, and after a few days Patty called requesting that I visit her at Hogan Equine. When I arrived, she sat me down in person to deliver the bad news that the filly had to be euthanized to spare her more pain. Most veterinarians would just give you the bad news over the phone, but not Patty. She knew how much I loved the filly and that I would spare no expense to save her. She not only wanted to comfort me, but also give me an opportunity to say a last proper goodbye. That’s Patty – a tremendous diagnostic veterinary surgeon capable of miracles; however more importantly, she has the heart of an angel both for the horses she treats as well as their owners. She is one of a kind and so deserving of all the wonderful accolades bestowed upon her. To me she walks on water.”
With Hogan’s prominence came her desire to speak out on the issues affecting racing. Her voice is an important one concerning slaughter as well as rescue and rehabilitation.
Thanks to the publicity from Smarty Jones in 2004, Hogan was approached about testifying in favor of a slaughter prevention bill that was moving through Congress. Without hesitation, but without knowing what she was getting herself into, she agreed. To her, it made no sense for racing to promote itself as a sport and entertainment industry when the backbone of that industry was being disposed of in such a manner.
But that day on Capitol Hill, she found that her opposition consisted not only of a slaughter plant operator, but a representative of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association, who argued that there was little recourse for unwanted or surplus horses.
“I just remember thinking to myself, ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ ” said Hogan. “How could the leaders of the veterinary profession possibly say it was OK to slaughter horses? The optics were really unfortunate in that regard and it was a huge letdown for me to see my profession on the wrong side of history.”
In giving her written testimony to Congress, she said, “We are all concerned about the fate of unwanted horses if and when slaughter is eliminated, but allowing the practice to continue is not the right answer to the problem. Surely, we can do better and I believe it is painting with a very broad brush and it is too simplistic to assume that if slaughter is eliminated then 80 to 90,000 horses per year are going to be abused and die of starvation. That really just simply will not happen. We have the opportunity to rid ourselves of this form of cruelty by passing this bill, something that should have been done years ago.”
While the bill did not pass that year, Hogan is heartened by the fact that, since 2004, much progress has been made to offer horsemen alternatives to slaughter.
“There are still horses going to slaughter and we’re working to stop that, but there are so many tracks with ‘no slaughter’ policies now that if your horse gets caught in that pipeline, you lose your stalls. That’s a huge incentive,” she said. “Social media certainly has its negatives, but one real positive is it’s really hard to hide so when a horse ends up in a bad place, it comes back to haunt you. I think it’s made people think twice about it. I’ve had clients call me and ask what can I do with this horse and I say, you’re in New York or you are in Pennsylvania, and there’s a program at the track made just for you, make a donation, contact them, I’ll take care of the horse from here. That’s a huge change.”
To that end, Hogan has donated her time and performs surgeries to help horses in rescue programs become candidates for second careers.
“I made the personal decision when I opened my own clinic that I was going to provide free veterinary care for the horses that were going to go on to something else,” said Hogan. “At the time there were no organized groups like there are today and finances were scarce for these fledgling organizations. It was on my bucket list, that aftercare would become a big issue in racing, and so now I can check that one off, because mainstream aspects of it have occurred in the racing industry. I review lots of cases for these groups and if it’s a situation where the surgery is going to make a difference and it’s going to allow the horse to go on and flourish in a second career, then they’re in.”
Among the programs Hogan works closely with are Turning for Home at Parx Racing, Take the Lead, ReRun, and Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue in New York, MidAtlantic Horse Rescue in Maryland, and New Vocations in Kentucky. They send her photos and X-rays and, after reading them, she either gives them advice about what to do, or does the procedure. They never get a bill.
Thus started her next phase, in which she goes to racetracks and gives talks to trainers and owners about avoiding “one last race.”
“I’m trying to show horsemen that, if you take a horse that has a significant problem, and you’re just going to try and make one or two more races, that horse is probably not going to be profitable to you, the medical issue may worsen, and you also lose the opportunity for that horse to do something else,” she said. “I actually have had really good reception from horsemen. When I gave a talk at Parx, I had a trainer call me the next day, ‘I heard you talk, I recognized something on your X-rays that my horse has, I’m putting it in Turning for Home. Because it has a shot now, but it has no shot if it gets a condylar fracture.’ ”
“Patty helped us when Turning for Home was getting started, and set up parameters for what surgeries we should do and the rehabilitation process,” said Danielle Montgomery, director of that program. “She steps in when we need her and continues to guide our program. And she helps get the message out to horsemen that they should be thinking of a horse’s second career.”
In 2018, Hogan was given the Special Achievement Award by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association at Parx, and inducted into its Hall of Fame, for being instrumental for the success of Turning for Home.
Hogan feels there are major changes that still need to be made if the sport is to survive, but she remains optimistic about its future. And to that end, she is doing what she can – driven by the love of the horse.