Sarah Landeck, a Class of 2027 student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, is the first recipient of the Maria and David Williams Equine Veterinary Scholarship. 

In 2021, Maria and David Williams brought their horse Whimsy to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) under the recommendation of their trainer and veterinarian after the chestnut thoroughbred developed a mysterious fever. The Williamses were so impressed with the attentive and thorough care Whimsey received they decided to give back to the college and support future equine veterinarians through establishing an endowed scholarship.

Landeck, who is on the equine track at the veterinary college, grew up on Long Island in New York, the only member of her family with a passion for horses. 

"I've always been a horse person, even when I was 3 years old,” Landeck said. “My dad says that I just lit up every time I saw horses. When I was 6, I finally convinced my mom to take me to riding lessons, and it's been my whole life ever since.”

Landeck shows hunter/jumpers and competed with her high school and college’s equestrian teams. She attended Pennsylvania State University, majoring in animal science and minoring in equine science. 

She knew that she wanted to pursue a career in the horse industry, but at first, she wasn’t sure exactly how. When she was a freshman, her undergraduate advisor sat her down and asked her what her career goals were. 

"I said, 'I don't know, but I know I don't want to be a veterinarian,’” laughed Landeck. 

The courses she took at Penn State aligned with veterinary medicine, which warmed her up to the field, and she ended up applying to veterinary school. The veterinary college attracted her because of its equine track—she said that of the four veterinary schools that accepted her, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine offered the most equine opportunities.

Once she started classes at the veterinary college, she realized she could never have any other job. After earning her degree, she plans on specializing — she’s particularly interested in orthopedics and sports medicine, but has also been drawn to pathology.

"It's a heavy course load, but I'm enjoying everything we're doing. It's been really rewarding — it's the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also the best,” she said. 

Landeck says she wouldn’t be able to make it through veterinary school without Nova, her horse. She purchased the quarter horse mare as a 3-year-old during her freshman year of college when she and all her classmates were sent home due to the pandemic. She had been saving money her whole life to buy a horse, and with pandemic closures, she finally had the time to dedicate to an equestrian partnership. She keeps Nova at a barn 10 minutes away, and now the pair are exploring the world of polo with the help of the Virginia Tech Polo Team. 

Though Landeck loves horses, there’s also a practical, financial side to veterinary school decisions. Equine veterinarians don’t make as much money as their small animal counterparts, which can deter aspiring veterinarians from following that path. It’s also a barrier to pursuing specialization — residencies and internships do not pay as much as a traditional veterinarian job, and interest from student loans continues to pile up. 

Because of the Maria and David Williams Equine Veterinary Scholarship, Landeck is in a better financial position to not only tackle veterinary school but also specialize after graduation. 

It also means that she can keep her beloved Nova with her, something she is especially thankful for. 

"I think that a big part of vet school is finding a balance in your life, and if I didn't have Nova here with me, I don't know what I would do. It's my biggest stress release,” Landeck said. “Having her and being able to just go to the barn and ride is everything to me. Without her, I would crumble under the stress." 

Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. '21, a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing