Caring for the farm’s foals

Juan Villa / The Collegian

While most Fresno State students are asleep, the students enrolled in Animal Science 151 take turns staying awake all night on “foal watch� at the quarter horse unit on campus.

Dr. Anne Rodiek, who teaches the class, feels confident that her students know how to handle themselves and take care of the horses while they are on duty overnight.

The students learn how to recognize when a pregnant mare is in trouble, rather than a bunch of sophisticated veterinary skills, Rodiek said. “A lot of the time you can’t fix what is wrong,� she said.

The class, which has 16 students enrolled, teaches advanced principles of horse management, including reproduction, breeding, nutrition, facilities, business aspects and exercise physiology. The class also focuses on the care and handling of horses, which helps the students gain confidence.

The program has 25 mares but is only expecting eight foals this year. Although students are only required to be present when their assigned mare gives birth, many volunteer to do foal watch more often to gain experience.

Most, but not all students taking this class have some experience with horses; however, few have experience with equine breeding and reproduction.

The class requires time in the classroom as well as a three-hour lab each week.

If the horses do go into labor during the night, students call Rodiek, as well as the on-call student. They also wake up Ashley Day, the student resident assistant who lives at the facility and aids the class.

Day is involved in the class by assisting Rodiek when she is not able to be at the barn. She said the class is a positive learning experience for students.

“Where else are you going to be able to do that for a class?� Day said.

“It’s about how much you want it and how much it is worth to you,� said Karen Bush, a 29-year-old fifth-year senior from Redondo Beach, who is majoring in animal science with an emphasis in equine science.

Although this class fulfills a requirement for her major, Sarah Luke, a 23-year-old fifth-year senior from Gilroy who is majoring in animal science with an emphasis in equine science, said the class will help with her career and personal goals.

“It has given me the knowledge that I will need to own and manage my own breeding farm some day,� Luke said.

Although Luke has more than 20 years experience with horses, she knew little about breeding until coming to Fresno State.

Bush, who has two years experience with horses did not have any knowledge of breeding until taking this class.

“I love absolutely everything about the class: the time you spend with the horses, the new experiences; I don’t think there’s one thing that I don’t like about it,� Bush said.

Along with the time commitments at the barn, including all-night foal watch, which runs from about 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., Rodiek expects a lot from her students both in the classroom and out at the barn.

“I expect them to learn the subject matter and material as well as the skills of equine reproduction. I also expect that they have a thorough understanding of the science and management of horse reproduction,� Rodiek said.

The students take care of the mares until they have their foals and are involved in the neo-natal care and training of the foals.
They are also involved in the process of breeding and impregnating the mare for the next year, since the gestation period of a horse is 11 months.

“The class is not just about facts and skills,� Rodiek said. “The class is about making a commitment to the well-being of the animals that we care for.�

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