Program Helps UF Students Get Set for Equine Industry Work

Summer is in the air and foals are on the ground at the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine and in Ocala, Florida, horse country. Helping to care for these foals are faculty, staff, and students from the college, as well as animal science students from the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).

The agricultural sciences and food institute operates two equine centers: the Equine Sciences Center (ESC) in Ocala and the Horse Teaching Unit in Gainesville. The facilities serve as training grounds for veterinary students, who visit as part of their veterinary reproduction rotation, and for undergraduate students who train to enter the equine or agricultural industry when they finish school.

“The students who go with me to Ocala work mostly on the breeding management of mares and with the foals,” said Audrey Kelleman, DVM, Dipl. ACT, a lecturer in the college’s department of large animal clinical sciences and a specialist in equine reproduction. “Under my guidance and that of the farm managers, the students get a lot of practical experiences that are excellent for building their clinical skills.”

The Equine Sciences Center, established in 1969, serves primarily as a nutrition and reproductive research facility. The center consists of 320 acres, mostly under pasture, but also houses a laboratory complex, barns, paddocks, and residences for staff and students.

“Both the Equine Sports Center and the Horse Teaching Unit employ and house student workers,” said Joel McQuagge, faculty supervisor for both locations. “These … positions provide added value to the degree program through daily exposure to horses and agriculture.”

One of Kelleman’s former students—Kayla Kurtz, DVM—lived and worked at the Equine Science Center for six years, starting with her undergraduate program at UF and continuing through most of her veterinary studies.

“As a student resident, I was responsible for feeding, monitoring, and completing medical treatments for the broodmares, foals, and stallions at the facility,” Kurtz said. “This program played an immense role in shaping my current career path, and I feel especially privileged to have had the opportunity to work at the ESC. I realized I was especially passionate about working with mares and foals.”

Quarter Horse foals are born at the Ocala center and as yearlings move to the Horse Teaching Unit, a 65-acre farm located about three miles south of the UF campus.

“There’s a horse psychology and training class, a form and function class, anatomy and physiology, and more available to undergraduate students,” Kelleman said. Operations at the unit are specifically aimed at helping students gain additional skills in the areas of breeding, training, marketing, farm management, and health care. The site is operated by IFAS staff and also serves as a location for IFAS Extension functions, including horsemanship clinics and judging contests.

“Eventually, the Quarter Horses are sold as 2-year-olds under saddle during the annual performance horse sale,” said Kelleman.

“To me it’s a neat thing that it’s been going on for so long,” she continued. “I went to the ESC with UF faculty members both when I was a student and as a reproduction resident in the 1990s. It’s remarkable how much access the students get to horses and the horses get to the students.”

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