It takes good horse vets to stop the nation

By / 4th of November, 2014
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Keeping high performance horses fit and healthy takes specialists vets, many of which are trained at the Equine Health and Performance Centre in Adelaide. 

Before the hospital opened late last year, veterinary students had to leave South Australia for on-the-job training. 

Now the hospital is considered one of Australia’s best centres for clinical teaching.

In the final year of study students are required to spend three weeks in each major veterinary facility that make up the unique University of Adelaide Roseworthy campus, which has been redeveloped over the last few years. 

The equine hospital opened late last year and is currently undergoing its first full breeding season with new reproduction facilities. 

Head of the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Professor Kym Abbott said the Equine Health and Performance Centre is vital for students in their sixth year vet studies. 

“The equine hospital is an essential part of the infrastructure of the veterinary school, so that we can provide clinical training to our senior veterinary students,” he said. 

Veterinary student Claire Dickson said her rotation taught her basic horse handling, husbandry and feeding skills, required from day one on the job. 

“I’m not originally from a background of horses so working out their feeding, things as simple as that, I’m more in a mindset of horses now which is good because it didn’t come naturally to me,” she said.

Veterinary doctor Michael Cathcart said the rotations allow the teaching staff to identify student strengths and weaknesses and work with the students who need more help. 

“It gives us the confidence to identify students that are not as comfortable with equine work and monitor them, so students still graduate with the highest level of equine skills,” Dr Cathcart said. 

Students have access to two plastic training horses, ‘Riley’ the rescue training horse and ‘Blacky’, used for practicing surgical procedures.

By focusing on enhanced practical training for the veterinary students Prof Abbott believes the industry will strive in the future.

“We’ll be able to make sure that the quality of the equine clinical training that they receive will be outstanding,” he said.

"To do that we need to bring together experts. Experts in equine surgery, experts in equine medicine,

"They'll take referral cases from veterinarians across the state and that gives us the caseload to train our students."

Veterinary student Peter Toh said the experience is very valuable to students because it teaches far beyond the boundaries of textbooks. 

“In a hospital there’s more time to do things. You can follow a case through with a lot of detail, and you can see how the horses progress,” he said. 

The hospital’s operating theatres are equipped with trolley cameras and viewing rooms for students to watch complex procedures. 

The other facilities are the Companion Animal Health Centre, Production Animal Health Centre, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Aquatic Biosecurity Centre and the Bevan Park Dairy Practice Teaching Unit.