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John Shaw, who died at the weekend, was a highly-respected Canterbury veterinarian and a pioneer in equine reproduction medicine. He was 70.
He graduated with a BVSc from Sydney University in 1963, and followed that by gaining an MACVSc in equine medicine and surgery. After his graduation he spent several months with the legendary Dr Percy Sykes, who was associated with Tommy Smith's stable.
In 1964, he joined Dr Bob Mackay, and a mixed practice with an emphasis on horses became Mackay, Shaw and Murfitt when Corin Murfitt joined in 1967. This practice developed one of NZ's first equine hospital surgical facilities and when it moved to Prebbleton, John established a stud and semen station.
He served as one of the official veterinarians at Addington and Riccarton for many years.
According to Murfitt, he was a compulsive worker with a high standard of professional ethics; fearless - he often became injured in the course of his duties - and was a reputable horseman. He held a trainers' licence and was successful with Pumpkin.
He was acknowledged by the equine veterinary profession when awarded the Brian Goulden Medal in 2005 for his contribution to the profession, especially for his developmental work with frozen semen transportation and artificial insemination.
John also specialised in pre-purchase examinations for America and Australia. He stood both thoroughbreds and standardbreds at his stud farm, prepared stock for sale and ran a very successful veterinary practice.
He was president of the Equine Branch of the NZVA for three years in the late 1970s.
David McCarthy writing in The Press 7Nov09
Prominent and popular Christchurch veterinary surgeon John Shaw had a rare ability to relate with equal ease to animals he treated and the people who cared for them. He died recently aged 70.
Born in Christchurch in 1939, Shaw's early ambition was to emulate the training and driving feats of his father Jack, an industry leader and pioneer in galloping and trotting.
Shaw was tall and rangy, unsuited to driving and riding racehorses. At St Andrew's College he was a noted high jumper. Fellow student and friend Peter Cordner said boys would gather just to watch the long-legged Shaw train for the event. He claimed a Canterbury title and record and second place in a national championship. He also played rugby in the first XV. He was awarded an athletics blue by Sydney University, where he trained and worked as a veterinary surgeon.
Returning home, he helped build the Mackay, Shaw and Murfitt partnership, with which he was associated for 30 years. Much of his work was with horse breeding and care, although he had an equal interest in and skill with smaller animals.
Shaw and wife Heather, whom he married in 1964, later set up their own establishment, first at Yaldhurst, where he trained standardbreds with some success and introduced Canterbury's first dedicated equine operation facility. Later he moved to Prebbleton and established a virtual potpourri of veterinary science, reflecting his widespread equine interests, innovative thinking, and inquiring mind. The project encompassed thoroughbred and warm blood stallions, pre-training, and the first commercial importing of frozen semen for standardbred stallions from the United States, as well as a thrivivg small animals practice.
"Gentleman John" Shaw's devotion to all aspects of his profession, interest in his clientele and long hours made it work. He became nmore interested in thoroughbreds later in life, importing stallions from England (Depot), France (Le Paillard and Sumayr) and Australia (Tuscany Flyer), all of which had success. Another innovation was to breed his own mares to these stallions and syndicate the foals among local enthusiasts, a time-consuming operation he handled with aplomb. Once he had established the viability of any project, his thoughts invariaby turned to a new one, rather than restricting his vision to the commercial potential of previous ones.
To the wider public, he was best known for his "open all hours" approach to animal care. His family remember him working to help distressed cats and dogs in his dressing gown. Christmas Day festivities were frequently interrupted for emergency surgery. His expertise was matched by fearlessness with animals, born of empathy with them. "Where others would take precautions when treating the broodmares, John often didn't have time and had complete faith in the intentions of the animals he was working with," a studmaster said. He was known also for his generosity - his charges often only an approximate assessment of the cost of time and materials.
Shaw was a much loved father of a family of four. They have special memories of forays to West Coast trotting meetings over the holidays with a home-trained horse. He conducted his five-year battle with cancer with quiet resolve and dignity. When unable to leave his bed he gained special pleasure when his most successful homebred racehorse, Oxford Aunt, was brought to his window so he could see she was safely in foal to carry on her line.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 29Oct09