June 9, 2023

Vet med gains valuable experience in annual equine health rotation at Tsuut’ina and Siksika Nations

Partnership with Indigenous communities sees 100-plus horses given a health workup this year
Vet med student Natalia Feschuk assesses racehorse with owner Jarett Pretty Young Man.
Vet med student Natalia Feschuk assesses racehorse with owner Jarett Pretty Young Man. Kirsten Glowa Kobe, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

For four years, the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) has held a yearly equine health rotation at both Tsuut’ina and Siksika Nations. This rotation is for fourth-year students to provide pro bono care, this year to over 100 horses, over a two-week period.

“We feel blessed,” says Jarrett Pretty Young Man about the clinic held in his community of Siksika at the Agri-Centre. Many of his racehorses — including ones that will compete at the Calgary Stampede — were treated throughout the week, including his horse Denny, who received updated vaccinations.

Denny, along with 50-plus other horses at Siksika Nation, received routine preventive care including physical examinations, vaccines, and dentals, while some were assessed for other problems such as lameness or injuries.

One of the most time-consuming cases of the day was a 20-year-old horse named Viper. Owner Hayze Stevens explains how he had just purchased Viper but noticed something was “off” about the horse. Eventually UCVM students and staff examined the gentle giant for lameness.

“Even though the results were not positive, we have had a great experience here and Viper would have been at risk of even more injury if we didn’t find this problem today,” says Stevens.

Viper is assessed by Veterinary medicine students.

Viper is assessed by veterinary medicine students.

Kirsten Glowa Kobe, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Students who attend the rotation are dedicated to learning more about Indigenous communities and their relationship with horses. “This is an elective rotation for our students. If they are here, it means they want to be,” says Dr. Jean-Yin Tan, DVM, associate professor of teaching at UCVM. She is board certified in equine internal medicine and created the two-week rotation in collaboration with the local Indigenous communities. She says:

“Our clients are so welcoming. They have taught us so much from their incredible horsemanship.”

Before taking part in these rotations, students must complete seminars on reconciliatory pedagogy and on Indigenous culture and horses. Students learn about working directly with Indigenous Peoples, while also respecting their history and knowledge of their animals. Seminars also dive into the rotation’s ethical impact and engagement.

UCVM DVM student Natalia Feschuk, class of 2024, explains how she eventually wants to work in a small animal clinic but was very interested in being integrated into the Indigenous communities.

Continuing with the spirit of inclusiveness, three high school students from Siksika Outreach School were in attendance to interact with the horses and learn more about becoming a vet.

“I am very interested in being a vet,” says Nevaeh Three Eagles. “The best part of my morning has been seeing the dental work horses have to go through — I had no idea how laborious it was.”

Throughout May 2023, UCVM provided a combined $50,000 of total value of services at both communities and since 2018, the faculty has provided over $180,000. A big thank you also goes to Boehringer Ingelheim and Zoetis for their generous donations.

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