The equine experience

The equine experience

Veterinary Medicine students get real-world practice working with horses

By Sarah Carey

Recent College of Veterinary Medicine graduate Dr. Stacey West spent her equine clerkship working with Dr. Luis Castro (center). Here, both are pictured with 2012 Belmont Stakes-winning horse Union Rags and trainer Michael Matz.

A UF College of Veterinary Medicine program is helping students get practical equine experience at a time when fewer horses are being brought to university settings for treatment.

The two-week clerkship allows students to work at private veterinary practices throughout Florida. Since the program began in January 2011, students have tended to more than 4,400 cases.

“It has been inspiring to hear all of the enthusiasm from students — who are enrolling in increasing numbers — and from practitioners, many of whom tell me they can’t wait for the next round of students,” said course director Amanda House, D.V.M., a clinical assistant professor and director of equine research programs at UF.

Three Oaks Equine Reproductive Facility in Zolfo Springs, Fla., is one of 47 participating practices. There, students get the chance to perform procedures of varying difficulty, from the relatively simple passing of a feeding tube from the nose to the stomach, to the more complicated injecting of drugs into a joint.

“One of the most common comments I hear from the students is that they are so thankful for the opportunity to put their hands on many horses in a short period of time,” said Three Oaks President Liz Yelvington Steele, D.V.M. “I feel honored to be a part of helping them gain confidence in this area.”

Luis Castro, D.V.M., a 1988 UF veterinary college graduate who works with Tiegland, Franklin and Brokken in Wellington, Fla., said the clerkship provides a way to expose veterinary students not just to real-life medicine, but also to the business of veterinary medicine, all while giving veterinarians the opportunity to mentor students.

Castro’s student, Stacey West, D.V.M., who graduated earlier this year, got the chance to work with this year’s Belmont Stakes winner, Union Rags, and meet world-renowned trainer Michael Matz.

“I absolutely loved the clerkship,” West said. “I’m not an equine-oriented student, but it was such an unbelievable experience to see what goes on in the racing industry. Dr. Castro knew I didn’t plan to pursue equine veterinary medicine, but he embraced that and made my time at his practice extremely enjoyable.”