Equine students explore the Horse Capital of the World

June 22nd, 2016 | SMWC

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) equine students recently explored the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington, Ky., where they gained some real-world insight by visiting various equine facilities. The Equine Reproduction class toured equine hospitals, a reproduction center and breeding farm as they experienced the business side of the course content they had been studying all semester.

“It is my sincere hope that an educational trip such as this will heighten the student awareness and appreciation of the vastness of the equine industry,” said Debra Powell, SMWC assistant professor of equine studies. “I always envision an increase in student learning as being my responsibility to involve course activities that are extensions of our campus. These activities will lead to continuous growth in student knowledge and skills, and ultimately push each student to reach outside of their normal environment to learn.”

The Equine Reproduction class is a required course for student minoring in equine science and is one of the equine electives. The course covers a general study of the anatomy, physiology, endocrinology, behavior and gametogenesis of the stallion, mare and foal as those all relate to reproduction. The two-day trip to Lexington provided students with visual industry exposure to the various reproductive aspect of the equine industry that cannot be provided in a classroom setting.

“We visited a variety of places, and the students saw and experienced some hands-on interactions with quite a lot of components,” said Powell.

The students visited a Thoroughbred breeding farm, Three Chimneys, where Sandy Hatfield, stallion manager, allowed them to walk around and visit with all of the stallions and see the live-cover of several mares that came into the breeding shed that morning. While they were there, they got to see their teaser stallion and how they get him prepared with his breeding shield, which is placed on him so that he does not actually breed the mare but is just there to test that the mare will stand and not kick when the stallion approaches.

The group also visited DeGraff Stable/Liberty Farm Reproductive Center, a facility that breeds via artificial insemination by collecting the stallions off of a breeding phantom. Robin DeGraff, owner, showed them the stallions, and they were able to see a stallion collection. They then went to the lab to see how semen is processed and how it is packaged (fresh, cooled or frozen) for shipment in the U.S. and abroad. They also witnessed the farm manager inseminate one of their mares. Of course, what the students loved most was getting to play with the foals. 

The students also visited the top equine hospitals in the country: Hagyard’s Equine Medical Hospital – where students were able to mask up and enter the surgery suite during an orthopedic procedure on a horse – and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. The group learned about equine surgery, from procedure to outcome to recovery.

The group’s last stop took them to The Jockey Club, the breed registry for the Thoroughbreds. Although this organization doesn’t deal with living horses, they do control everything from foal registration to horse sales to Thoroughbred race management.

“This trip was a great opportunity for students to network with industry leaders and to gain equine industry knowledge,” said Powell. “I truly believe that educational trips make learning last because you bring your students to those primary resources in real time.”