Being a student in veterinary medicine at Utah State University means investing a lot of time studying and learning in the classroom. However, gaining hands-on experience is a must for students if they want to be successful in the professional world. To help students get more experience working with mares and foals, Holly Mason, a clinical assistant professor and advisor for USU’s student chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), created a “Foal Watch” program.
The program is open to second-year students in the AAEP chapter. Participating students were assigned a mare to look after until she foaled. When the mare was close to foaling, students stayed overnight at the university’s equine facility to make sure labor went smoothly and the foal was born safely and was healthy. Over the course of the semester, students helped nine mares foal successfully.
Mason said the program is a great way for students to get hands-on experience with brood mares and increase knowledge about labor and delivery.
“It gives students practice for when there are problems with foaling,” Mason said. “If they don’t know what a normal foaling is like, it can be pretty hard to know where to start. It can put them at a real disadvantage if they graduate without this experience because their clients will automatically expect them to know all about it.”
Students Lindsey Cheetham and Sarah Frandsen spent a record-setting 16 nights at the barn waiting for their mare to foal. Cheetham, who is also the president of the AAEP chapter, said the most rewarding part was assisting in the delivery of a healthy foal.
“Dr. Holly Mason gave us a lot of trust and placed a heavy amount of confidence in us,” Cheetham said. “She kindly reassured us and talked us through on the phone when our mare finally went into labor, but it was very thrilling and rewarding to be able to complete it on our own.”
Frandsen said the experience was trying at times, but it helped solidify her passion for large animal medicine.
“This was a great chance to gain clinical skills as this is an opportunity our counterparts at Washington State University don’t even get,” Frandsen said. “It was a great reminder of why we’re in school torturing ourselves and solidified in my mind that large animal medicine is where I want to be in the future.”
For now, the foal watch is a chapter activity but Mason hopes to turn it into a class in the coming years.