Mississippi State Vet Students Learn Confident Equine Handling

Some students at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine do not have any riding or handling experience with horses. Bob Linford, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, a veterinary surgeon and professor, uses his experience as a teacher and horse enthusiast to help them gain confidence.

Students learn applied anatomy as they participate in equine medicine and surgery courses during the second year of veterinary school. They must use their hands to feel a horse's bones, joints, tendons, connective tissues, and muscles.

During the examination, some students feel quite vulnerable kneeling under a full-grown animal that can weigh from 900 pounds to more than 1,200 pounds. Linford and other medical staff do their best to demonstrate safe handling and hands-on examination techniques that can put both humans and horses at ease.

"I have seen fear evaporate in many veterinary medical students once they learn how to approach horses and begin to work with them," Linford said. "Some of these same students become so comfortable with horses that they later decide to specialize in equine medicine."

Linford's responsibilities include teaching courses on equine medicine and surgery. The process of teaching veterinary medical students to treat, save, and rehabilitate equine patients is more gratifying for the professor when they share his enthusiasm.

"If physical problems are uncorrected in horses, they often lose their lives," Linford said. And when horses have medical problems, they do not adjust well to hospitalization and being isolated from other horses. Their social nature is what makes it difficult, but rewarding, to treat them and educate students to be comfortable around them."

Other Mississippi State University programs that have equine components can help people feel more comfortable with these powerful, large animals. These include 4-H and its associated therapeutic riding program, and the University's Equestrian Team.--Patti Drapala, MSU Ag Communications

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