'Breeding Bonny' Could Help Students With Reproductive Exams

'Breeding Bonny' Could Help Students With Reproductive Exams

Breeding Bonny can replace horses for the first few training sessions so students are better prepared students to examine a live horse when it comes time, researchers found.

Photo: Christine Aurich, DVM, PhD

Vet school is going high-tech. First scientist introduced the joint injection simulator. Then came the jugular vein puncture simulator. And recently, European researchers have tested “Breeding Bonny,” an equine gynecological exam simulator developed in Australia, for its suitability in veterinary training programs.

“For animal welfare reasons, the training of veterinary students on live animals is seen in increasingly critical light, not only by the general public, but also by veterinarians, including myself,” said Christine Aurich, DVM, PhD, head of the Graf Lehndorff Institute for Equine Science, in Neustadt, Germany, and professor at Vetmeduni Vienna's Centre for Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer, in Vienna, Austria.

“The Breeding Bonny dummy is quite close to a real horse with regard to gynecological examinations,” Aurich said. “It can substitute the first three to four training sessions on horses, meaning less work for teaching animals and better prepared students at the time they have to examine a live horse for the first time.”

Before a dummy can be used in a classroom, it has to first be fully evaluated to be sure it works as a reliable teaching tool. So Aurich and colleagues investigated the learning effects of different training styles on 25 third-year veterinary students divided into three groups. The first group received four training lessons on a live mare. The second group received only one training lesson on a live mare. The third group received three training lessons using Breeding Bonny. Afterwards, all the students were tested on palpation and rectal ultrasound skills on a live mare.

They found that while the students trained with live mares performed best in palpation exams, those training with the simulator had nearly as good results, Aurich said. Both groups performed much better than the students who had only had one training lesson on a live horse. All the groups did equally well on the ultrasound examination, she added.

Overall, the slight increase in scores of the horse-trained students compared to the dummy-trained students was minimal and probably not justified in these early stages of training, given the welfare implications for the mares used for training, Aurich said. “Our previous studies in 2007 and those more recently by German research teams have shown that mares do find transrectal exams stressful,” she said.

What’s more, the students that had trained on the dummy said they actually felt less stressed about working with the live mare for the first time than those that started out working with a live mare, Aurich said.

Given the various benefits, the gynecological equine dummy is a useful tool for veterinary schools across the globe, she said.

“We think an increasing number of vet schools will pick up soon,” said Aurich. “The Breeding Bonny horse simulator costs approximately 10,000€ (US$10,860), an amount which is rapidly justified when you consider the cost of keeping a teaching herd on the veterinary campus.”

The study, “Teaching of diagnostic skills in equine gynecology: simulator-based training versus schooling on live horses,” was published in Theriogenology

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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