Home Health and vet Innovation, collaboration, and professionalization for Mariën

Innovation, collaboration, and professionalization for Mariën

Horse under general anaesthesia being prepared for surgery

By Jo de Roo
Photography: Jo de Roo and private collection

Part 1 of this article published in our December 2023 issue, related the story of Tom Mariën, the founder of Equitom, the largest and most innovative equine hospital in Europe and, by extension and reference, a renowned global player in veterinary medicine.

This second chapter focuses on the Equine Care Group, founded in 2021 by Tom Mariën, Frederik Bruyninx (sports veterinarian and team vet of the Belgian showjumping team), and the Bencis Capital Partners investment fund. Now, almost three years later, ECG has more than 300 employees, of which 105 are veterinarians, plus 33 companies. Our interview with Tom Mariën continues...

Tom Marriën with his wife Kadidja Essaheli – general manager of Equitom and marketing director of the Equine Care Group

Q Why the creation of the Equine Care Group?
In 2018, people came knocking on my door asking if my horse clinic Equitom was for sale. Today, the sale of veterinary practices and clinics to major national and international financial players is extremely popular. The fact that medicine is dictated by financiers makes me rather afraid, and the consequences can be disastrous in the long term. I am talking about people who have never touched or smelled a horse or, for example, slept with a horse in the stable.
In veterinary medicine it’s all about love for horses, and a good vet is a vet with a lot of passion for medical care and empathy with the horse owners. You study veterinary medicine because you have a dream and not because you want to become rich. In our world many practices have already been sold to financial people who consider medicine as a cash machine, and that’s not a good thing.
So, in 2018 a lot of money was offered for my clinic. I had two options: sell my dream, sell my passion, move to Hawaii with my family, and do nothing for the rest of my life, or not sell. As for the ‘selling’ option; my wife, who is general manager of Equitom, would have been unable to do this, also because of the 80 passionate employees at that time who build this dream with us. At the end of my life, I want to be able to look back and say that I did something good for the world; in my case the medical care and welfare of horses and better veterinary medicine. But there is another reason why I didn’t want to sell. In fact, I came up with the idea of bringing veterinarians together. Instead of selling Equitom, I wanted to create a group of veterinarians for veterinarians. I wanted to create our own group with equine vets and equine hospitals working together as one team.

Q Do I understand correctly that you sought out competitors to collaborate with?
Yes, absolutely. One of the members of the Equine Care Group, De Bosdreef, is a very good equine clinic with many competences, innovations, and certain experiences that were complementary to ours. But De Bosdreef and Equitom used to be competitors. We did not collaborate, shared no knowledge, and this was not constructive. The horses did not benefit from this situation and this felt wrong to me. This frustration pushed me to find a solution: I had to involve De Bosdreef in the project and show the outside world that the two largest competitors in Belgium could work together and form one team in order to send a very strong signal that would blow people away... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber