By Jenna Young
A sawhorse and tack made from household items is not the typical way people fall in love with horses. But that was how Amy Coleman, MD, got her start in the equine world. From being a sickly child to an Air Force career to an entrepreneur, Amy has had many wonderful experiences and has flourished in the equine world. Horses and equestrians have helped Amy throughout her life and now she’s able to give back to the equestrian world with her business, Wellsmart Medical Services in Georgetown, Kentucky. Focusing on helping people in a more natural manner, Amy helps equestrians be more in tune with their bodies, which helps them be more in tune with their equine partners. Wellsmart Medical Services has helped many people with chronic illnesses that many other practitioners claimed were “not important enough” to address. As Amy grows more in her relationship with her body and the world around her, she has been able to help her patients grow in the same way.
How did you become part of the horse world?
I started riding a sawhorse with a pillow strapped around it and a rope for reins in the garage when I was about 8. I would sit on it and just imagine showing and riding my own horse. My first real break started at 13 when I joined a horse camp in town. It was off to the races after that. I had to work to be a part of the horse world. Cleaning stalls paid for lessons and eventually I saved enough money to buy my first horse for $200. He was a former barrel horse who had been abused and whose owner had fallen behind on board payments at my barn. He was a half Quarter Horse, half Tennessee Walker palomino gelding named Jessie James. Even though I had only been riding a few years, I was determined to teach him (and me) how to jump. I trained him to jump and sold him. With the money I got for him, I had enough money to invest in my best friend’s Western pleasure horse. I also taught him to jump and sold him. Subsequently, I was able to purchase a warmblood import KWPN gelding, Poseidon, and began showing on the ‘A’ and ‘B’ circuit in Texas for the first time under the tutelage of Show Jumping Hall of Fame rider Colonel John Russell.
How did you combine showing with your life in the U.S. Air Force?
When I was a medical intern, I would often be post-call from the hospital on my way to the horse show. Col. Russell really believed in me, and this meant the world to me, since I hadn’t experienced a real training program and consistent coach until then. He was one of the judges for the International Military Horse Show, where I competed under sponsorship by the U.S. Air Force. I was called into service shortly after that, on September 11, 2002, with the Air Force to be an active-duty flight surgeon. I was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and afterward was stationed in Ramstein, Germany. There, I rode with Gerhardt Schmidt at Rothenbeghof in Kaiserslautern on a German Warmblood named Dragon, whom I purchased while stationed there. Upon returning to the United States, Dragon and I competed on the ‘A’ circuit while I was finishing my medical residency at the University of Kentucky. I moved to Wellington, Florida, to work in the emergency and urgent care centers locally, and he was a champion in his show jumping division, which was a dream come true for me.
When did you start your company and what gave you the idea?
My company became an official LLC in 2009 after I finished my medical residency, but it was not an actual brick-and-mortar clinic until 2019. I had unofficially started my business much, much earlier. I started my company in my imagination when I was 12. I remember creating a brainstorming chart about the mission blueprint it would have. I even had Wellsmart picked out as a name at that time, too. I had been a sick child for the first four years of my life, and with determination, eating well, exercise and a positive mindset, I saw that taking full responsibility for health could be taught and encouraged at multiple levels for those that
did not yet know there was a path out of illness. I remember my dad asking what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I would tell him that I wanted to be a doctor. When he asked what kind of doctor I wanted to be, I told him, “It doesn’t exist yet.” At the time, I wasn’t sure what that meant, and neither did he. But it turned out to be true. It has only been in the last 20 years, since we have been able to understand the body at a much deeper level through the sequencing of the human genome, and deeper understanding of the biochemistry, nutrition, neuroscience and systems-based fields of medical knowledge, that the form of functional medicine that I practice began to exist. I completed my fellowship in functional medicine, based on the Cleveland Clinic model, just three years ago. The fellowship had only been created around five years prior.
What part does your company play in the horse world?
I see a lot of equestrians as patients since many are on the path to peak performance, wellness and longevity. Often, they are looking to be able to continue a long career in the physically demanding world of horses. Since I am a rider and competitor myself, it allows me to understand more deeply and authentically how to help them.
What is the best part about being a woman entrepreneur?
The freedom to develop programs and initiatives that I feel would best serve my patients is a great asset to being a woman entrepreneur in medicine. The other best part is that I can create my own schedule to allow time for the deeper levels of investigation needed for this form of medicine. I can spend 90 minutes with my patients to truly get to the source or root of the health concern. In contrast, when I was working as an E.R. physician, I would see more than 100 patients in one shift, and that greatly limited the ability to do more than just “treat and street” the individual. I also enjoy being a woman-veteran owned business (WOVO) which allows me to bring a great deal of knowledge to my practice that I learned from the Air Force in my eight years as a flight surgeon.
What great things have happened because of your business?
It’s amazing to experience success after success with our patients. We help them find true solutions to what had been causing their health concerns, and create a precise and personalized plan for their improvement. Often, these patients’ previous experience with mainstream medicine has been poor. They often report feeling rushed through an “assembly line” type experience, where their condition was not considered a priority. These are often patients who say, “All my labs came back normal, and my physician says that nothing is wrong, but I still feel bad.”
What advice would you give to other women considering entrepreneurship?
Follow your dreams but give them a chance to develop. A business is like a child—it must be allowed to develop organically over time. My company has just officially turned 4 years old, so it’s equivalent to a walking, talking toddler. I know that in time, it will continue to mature and expand.
What are your riding goals?
I ride and show in the Adult Amateur division in show jumping at mostly ‘A’ shows. I train with Nea Stephens at Finuel Farms. My current riding goals are to advance to the Amateur Owner division.
For more information, visit wellsmartservice.com and read “Discovering Your Doctor Within” by Amy Coleman, MD
Photos by Ruby Tevis