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Colorado State students help horses give birth in foaling management class

Students can help horses give birth for credit at Colorado State University by taking foaling management, an elective course for both equine science and veterinary students.

Second year veterinary medicine student Emily Johnson watches her assigned mare while another students takes samples of the horse's milk. Calcium levels in the mare's milk can indicate when the horse will foal.
Second year veterinary medicine student Emily Johnson watches her assigned mare while another student takes samples of the horse’s milk. Calcium levels in the mare’s milk can indicate when the horse will foal.

The course consists of a lecture, labs to work with the pregnant mares and shifts during which a foal might be born.

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If on-call when the mare begins labor, a student taking foaling management will help facilitate the birthing process. The mare begins to go into labor with the onset of contractions, and the second stage of labor begins when the mare’s water breaks. The mare will then experience active straining and strong efforts to give birth to the foal. The third and final stage of labor begins with the delivery of the foal.

Foaling Management was created to fill a void in CSU’s all-encompassing equine science program, according to foaling management professor Jason Bruemmer.

“We’ve got an opportunity for students to be involved in almost every aspect of raising horses at CSU,” Bruemmer said. “We can get involved literally from the point of conception all the way through, and then we’ve got the breaking and training afterward, and then we fit and we sell and we show … the one piece that was missing was foaling.”

Foaling management is an elective class, available to equine science or veterinary students who have taken Bruemmer’s equine reproduction course.

“I took equine reproduction last semester, and it made me want a masters in it — it just really clicked with me,” said junior equine science major Gwen Hummel. “I really understood it more than anything else in this major … (and) even if you’ve had a horse all your life, (foaling) isn’t something you get to do every day.”

CSU does not own any of its own horses — the University works with local horse owners for this course.

“Clients bring us their horses knowing that they will be part of this class, but then we’re there 24 hours a day to watch it,” Bruemmer said. “Not only are we there, but the foaling stalls are on hard-wired cameras and on the Internet, so if there’s any question and it doesn’t look like it’s imminent, the students can call us and we can log on and see what’s actually happening to the mare.”

This course is unique because at other universities, “this type of experience doesn’t exist for students at this level to be as involved as they are,” Bruemmer said. Students are able to benefit from hands-on experience in a specified equine science field.

“It’s helping me learn more about the breeding side of (equine science), versus just the training and facility management,” said junior equine science student Katie Mank. “I just hope one of them foals while I’m here watching.”

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Collegian Reporter Ellie Mulder can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @lemarie.

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