A vet with a heart: Clovis Dr. Michael Stabbe shares his passion

Dr. Stabbe running a test on a patient. (Photos by Lauren Mueller)

Some people know exactly what they want to do from a young age. Clovis Veterinarian Dr. Michael Stabbe is one of those people.

“When I was 14 I got a job and bought my first horse. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a Veterinarian. There was no other option,” he said.

That was 53 years ago. Since then, Michael Stabbe has attached Dr. to his name and set up his own Veterinary practice in Clovis called Clovis Equine Clinic, which he has been running for 38 years.

Though he has been in Clovis since 1978, Stabbe was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated high school among 600 students, only three of which had horses: him and two girls.

Photos by Lauren Mueller Dr. Stabbe and Jamie Drummond discussing a patient.
Dr. Stabbe and Jamie Drummond discussing a patient. (Photos by Lauren Mueller)

Stabbe was active as a horseback rider when he was young. In 1977,  he rode in the Snaffle Bit Futurity, and in 1979 with Billy Arthur riding, he owned the winning horse of that same event. Other notable shows that Stabbe qualified for included the AQHA Select World Show and Stevensville.

Stabbe took a break from riding when his first child was born in 1978. Then, he focused on “just working and being responsible,” until 1996, when he started riding again.

Stabbe now lives on a small farm and enjoys raising cattle and horses. He breeds his horses, raising and training two foals a year. He recently sold his former show horse, though that’s not the way he sees it.

“I didn’t sell my horse so much as I found my horse a little girl,” he said. “Freckles [the horse] will get to do things. I had her sitting out in a pasture getting fat.”

The time he spent with his horses was time Stabbe used to learn everything he needed to know about the animals. He did not grow up in an environment with horses so he had to learn it all for himself. That is part of what drew him to Clovis – it was a “cowboy town.” Here he took a job with a local veterinarian, figuring the central location would allow him to travel and move his practice wherever he pleased.

Instead, he stayed in Clovis and built his practice from the ground up.

“My philosophy is: first generation don’t have a chance,” Stabbe said. A philosophy that is hard to believe considering the success he has had over the past years.

Photo by Lauren Mueller Dr. Stabbe removing post-surgical staples from a colic survivor patient.
Dr. Stabbe removing post-surgical staples from a colic survivor patient. (Photos by Lauren Mueller)

Many notable veterinarians in Clovis and the surrounding areas have worked with Stabbe in the past and all have been successful in their own practices. Stabbe’s office also works with high school students who are part of a special program. Currently, two of the students who have interned with Stabbe are attending Veterinary school and two more are in the process of applying.

“We’re very proud of the kids we help,” Stabbe said. “Hopefully someday someone will come back and work with me.”

When Stabbe talks about his work as a veterinarian, it is easy to see that he enjoys what he does.

“He cares,” said Jamie Drummond, an employee at Clovis Equine Clinic under Stabbe. “He’s the hardest working human being I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

Drummond also commented that Stabbe is very down-to-earth, generous and understanding.

Kelley Bell, a horse owner who has used Stabbe as a vet for many years, agrees with Drummond.

“He’s always there when I need him,” Bell said. “I trust him completely. He’s a vet with a heart.”

With a strong client base, it does not seem likely that Stabbe will be disappearing from the veterinary scene any time soon. It also helps that this “vet with a heart” enjoys his job.

“After 43 years, I still enjoy what I do,” Stabbe commented. “It’s important to me whether the patient I’m working with lives or dies.”

The hardest part of his job, Stabbe said, is the uncertainty. It is difficult for him to take time off and he always expects emergencies. He has missed family dinners and holidays because of the nature of his work.

“It’s difficult to work all the time by myself,” he said.

When looking at veterinarians, especially those that focus on small animals, it is common to see many working together at the same practice. However, when Stabbe attempted to run a practice with other veterinarians, the idea quickly unraveled. In looking at the Clovis area, it seems most large-animal veterinarians have single-person practices for one reason or another. It is apparently much harder than it seems to run a large-animal, multiple-veterinarian practice.

Over the last half century, Stabbe has expanded his practice to keep up with the latest technological advances. He attended classes at Colorado State University in 1985 that pertained to embryo transfer, and in 1990 he attended the first laparoscopic surgery in San Diego. Since then, he has frequently attended American College of Veterinary Surgeons annual forum, the UC Davis Equine Conference and the American Association of Equine Practitioners annual meetings.

Stabbe’s clinic can do such procedures as internal fixation of fractures, arthroscopic surgery, embryo transfer, laparoscopic surgery, ultrasound diagnostics, acupuncture and dentistry. The clinic also just purchased the latest in digital x-ray technology.

Drummond laughed when Stabbe commented on retiring: “He says he’s going to retire, but he won’t.”

To which Stabbe replied: “We just purchased a new machine, so I must be anticipating a few more good years.”

As far as whether or not he thinks he’s the best vet in town?

“I always tell people that the best vet is the one who’s available to you. You could have the best vet in the world but if he’s never available he’s not the best for you.”