The country’s next generation of registered animal medicines advisors were recognised earlier this year at the annual AHDA conference, as the AMTRA RAMA student award winners were announced at the Hilton Metropole Hotel at Birmingham’s NEC.
The winner of the best equine and companion animal RAMA student award went to Georgia Willerton, who before qualifying as an AMTRA RAMA had begun working at TFM Country Store in Whisby, Lincoln, while completing her BSc in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Lincoln.
ETN spoke to Georgia to find out more about her training, her career path and why she feels not only developing relationships with customers, but helping owners better understand their own animal, is key to a healthy and happy horse.
“It was a great honour to receive the award, but I feel it really reflects our team ethos here at TFM Country Store, where we have a strong rota of AMTRA trained RAMAs on-site, across all species,” explains Georgia.
“I was very much encouraged to become part of that RAMA team, having worked at the store for a few years while studying for my degree.”
The progression to become a fully qualified AMTRA RAMA was the next step for Georgia, who had followed a career path born out of her desire to help the animals in the area where she was brought up.
“This was also the main reason for undertaking my BSc, as well as embarking on other training,” adds Georgia, who has since just completed a canine nutrition qualification with a distinction, and is now continuing further studies surrounding the links between behaviour and nutrition.
While, as her award recognises, she is qualified as both a companion animal and equine RAMA, one area Georgia is especially focused on surrounds equine worming. This is particularly relevant, with concerns over anthelmintics losing efficacy, due to incorrect or unnecessary treatments.
As one of the team helping to run the dedicated on-site worming laboratory, Georgia is actively involved in undertaking horse worm counts on behalf of equine clients.
“It is a vital service, and is so beneficial to keep track of the worming history, helping us to tailor which wormer, if any, needs to be given to that specific animal. We can also look at the whole yard for any trends,” she says.
Georgia explains that it is not just a great resource for her and her fellow RAMAs from a resistance point of view, but has also been welcomed wholeheartedly by many owners.
“It is great to get them involved, and increasingly we find they are not only saving money, time and resources by reducing worming, but also learning so much more about their horse in the process,” she says.
“The majority of the horse owners coming into our store now complete these counts and get reminders for when another is due, making it even easier and more convenient for them, at the same time reducing the risk of resistance.”
Georgia says her qualification as a RAMA enables her to help her customers better understand the products they are using, and how best to use them.
“Many customers will have been told which product they should go with as someone else has used it, but not many have thought about which product would actually be right for them and their animal,” she says.
If there is one small area of regret for Georgia, it is the fact that she was part of the cohort training for her RAMA qualification during the challenges of Covid-19, with the majority of the training taking place online.
“AMTRA really made the online training as smooth and accessible as possible during this period, but my one regret is that I could not take part in the in-person two-day course that prepared us for the exams,” she says.
“I know from my colleagues how helpful this was not just for their exams but their ongoing education. This is why I am so active with the CPD available to me now.
“So far, all the CPD I have completed has been very helpful in furthering my knowledge and enabling me to grow confidence, while imparting that knowledge and advice to our customers. I really appreciate the variety of CPD available,” she adds.
Georgia says this ongoing training and development not only helps her build and update her technical knowledge and updates on specific medicines, but also helps her to understand the important dynamic between RAMA and horse owner.
“Communication is highly valuable, it is essential to explain why something would be best for their animal over something else. That is the core to being a successful RAMA,” she says.
“Being an AMTRA RAMA is not only allowing me to enhance my knowledge through the initial training and CPD, but also helps me develop my skills as an advisor and communicator,” she adds.
Stephen Dawson, AMTRA’s chief executive, says, “As I mentioned at the awards presentation, we are delighted to recognise the achievements of Georgia and her fellow award winners, particularly when they have had to adapt to different training practices during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is testament to their dedication and hard-work and really reflects the commitment that we see from registered animal medicines advisors across the country,” he concludes.