CANR pre-veterinary medicine major conducts equine research at UPenn

November 5, 2013 under CANR News

UD student Meredith Bonnell interns at UPENN's New Bolton CenterMeredith Bonnell, a junior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware, spent her summer conducting a research-based internship at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center at the Havemeyer Barn.

Bonnell’s research project, which she designed with Sue McDonnell, focused on the genetic effects on the learning abilities of ponies. McDonnell received her doctorate in reproductive physiology and behavior from UD and now heads the Equine Behavior Program at UPenn.

The center, located in Kennett Square, Pa., includes 700 acres of pastureland and exposure to experts in equine-based medical and surgical techniques. “The ponies that occupy some of that land are a part of a semi-feral herd used for equine research,” Bonnell said. “They undergo annual vaccinations and de-worming, in addition to blood work and basic handling when they are foals.”

The New Bolton Center is a large facility that specializes in many different types of veterinary care practices for horses and other large animals. The facility serves to generate data for medical specialists including cardiologists and orthopedists as well as for trainers seeking performance evaluations.

Bonnell’s research at the Havemeyer Barn utilized target training on a 100-count semi-feral Shetland-type pony herd to test learning ability, using performance scores generated to examine correlations between them and genetics, or known family lineage.

“Target training is relatively new to the equine industry and is connected with clicker training,” Bonnell said. “We’re typically familiar with its use on marine animals, like those we might see at SeaWorld.”

Bonnell said in order to test how she would collect data and gather equipment lists, she did extensive research and conducted preliminary tests on ponies removed from the semi-feral herd to be used on rotation for studies by the veterinary students at UPenn.

All of her sessions, she said, were videotaped and used as a reference in order to collect sufficient and accurate data.

Bonnell said she was excited to find this internship with McDonnell through a friend working in the neonatal intensive care unit at the center. She is currently working toward publication of her work and will continue research as independent study.

Bonnell said she hopes to pursue a career in equine veterinary field and plans to apply to veterinary school after graduating from UD.

Article by Angela Carcione

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD student spends summer with New Castle County Police Mounted Patrol

July 15, 2013 under CANR News

Maggie Curran interns with NCC mounted policeUniversity of Delaware student Maggie Curran does not have any background in police work but she does have experience with horses. So when the opportunity arose to spend the summer interning with the New Castle County Police Mounted Patrol, she thought it would be a good chance to combine something new with something she has been doing since she was 6 years old.

Working out of Carousel Park, Curran has been on the job since the second week of June and said her day-to-day routine varies depending on the needs of the mounted unit.

“This internship has been really helpful with my horse skills because I’m here every day working with the horses from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and I’m doing different things,” said Curran, a sophomore studying animal science in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I’m riding, I’m cleaning stalls and equipment, I’m grooming — all of the things that people don’t really think about outside of riding.”

As to riding, Curran is learning all of the formations used by the county mounted police — such as the column, the line, the echelon and the L — and the reasons behind those formations.

“The column is where we’re all following each other. When we’re walking through somewhere, it’s the easiest way to get from one place to another,” she said. “The line is all of us next to each other and that’s what they call the most aggressive formation, where we can line up and move people.

“The echelon is used to peel people off of a wall or a surface and the L is when there are three of us in the front and one behind, and that is for when we’re moving through a crowd and we’re trying to protect a car or a person. They stand right in between the riders in the L.”

Curran pointed out that taking care of 10 horses provides endless learning opportunities, as she encounters something new with at least one of the horses each day.

Specifically, she has been able to assist in the training exercises the three new Clydesdale horses must complete this summer in preparation for the work they will perform as members of the unit.

She said she is also glad that she gets to work at Carousel Park, a place where she used to ride.

NCCPD, UD collaboration

Curran’s internship experience was made possible through a partnership between the county police mounted unit and UD’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

The partnership is a collaborative effort between Mary Devine, senior sergeant with the mounted unit, and Carissa Wickens, assistant professor of animal and food sciences, as a means of supporting the work of the unit while providing UD students with a valuable hands-on, equine-focused learning experience.

Laura Nemec, laboratory coordinator in the department, also played an integral role in developing the internship.

“I’m certainly interested in any kind of a community outreach program that might involve the horses or the police department. We are community policing so I said, ‘Sure, come on out, and we’ll talk and we can brainstorm,’ and the internship is what we came up with,” said Devine.

Wickens said she was drawn to the opportunity because it is unique. “Not every state, city or county police force has a mounted division, and very few students would ever have the chance to work with police horses,” said Wickens. “The internship with the New Castle County mounted police unit may present opportunities for further studies designed to investigate characteristics that make horses suitable candidates for police work and/or to assess how horses respond to different training protocols. I also was looking for ways in which we could provide some assistance to the unit.”

She went on to explain that Curran is learning much more than just the basic care of the horses.

“Maggie is learning about the unit and the patrol, the use of these horses and how they’re engaged in the unit’s activities, but moreover, she’s actually getting to see the training protocols involved in acclimating horses to this type of work,” Wickens said. “Equine behavior, temperament and training are all important aspects of mounted police work, and being able to observe the horses’ training and daily routines is a great way for students to learn more about the biology and management of horses as well as to explore additional career options.”

Wickens and Devine both stressed the reciprocal nature of the partnership, how it benefits both UD and the county police, and said that they will look to collaborate more in the future.

As for Curran, Devine said that she is surprised how easily she fit in with the mounted unit.

“It takes a special type of person to adjust and adapt to this unit. We have a lot of fun over here but it’s a lot of work and we work very closely with one another,” said Devine. “There’s a lot of personalities so you really have to meld in with the group, and she’s very flexible, very respectful. We ask her to do something and she’s happy to do it and it speaks volumes about her. She’s been great.”

Devine also said that she is always eager to work with UD, as she said the internships can serve as a great recruiting tool. “If the students get an opportunity to come over and see how we do police work on horseback, maybe they will gain some interest in what we do as police officers,” said Devine.

That seems to be the case with Curran, who admits that she had given little thought to a career as a police officer before beginning her internship with the county.

“Before the internship, I wouldn’t consider myself wanting to be a police officer or anything like that,” said Curran. “I came into this internship more for the horse aspect of it, but it really has been interesting and I will give it a second thought. If I could be in the mounted unit with horses, it’d be awesome to have as your day-to-day job.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD, Penn to co-host annual equitation science conference July 18-20

June 17, 2013 under CANR News

The University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania will co-host the ninth annual conference of the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) July 18-20.

ISES is a nonprofit organization that facilitates research into the training of horses so as to enhance horse welfare and improve the horse-rider relationship.

With the theme of “Embracing Science to Enhance Equine Welfare and Horse-Human Interactions,” the conference will bring together more than 200 equine scientists, veterinarians, students, horse trainers, instructors and riders to discuss equitation science research.

Presentation days will be held at UD’s Clayton Hall Conference Center in Newark July 18-19 and the practical day program, with live demonstrations, will take place at Penn’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., July 20.

“This conference has much to offer equine professionals, and other members of the equine community actively engaged in the industry,” said Carissa Wickens, a UD assistant professor of animal and food sciences and co-chair of the conference organizing committee. “It will focus on ways of improving horse training as well as encouraging the development of science-based criteria to measure the welfare of the horse in its interactions with humans.”

Keynote speakers for the conference include Natalie Waran from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh; Hayley Randle from Duchy College in Great Britain; Jan Ladewig from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark; Hilary Clayton from Michigan State University; and Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney in Australia.

To register for the conference, or more information, see this website.

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UD Equine Seminar Series Set for the Delaware Horse Expo

March 4, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

The 2013 Delaware Horse Expo will be held this year on Saturday, April 6 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, April 7 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, Delaware. As part of the Delaware Horse Expo, the University of Delaware will be hosting the “UD Equine Seminar Series” with speakers scheduled for both days of the event.

Topics will include equine nutrition, spring horse health, care and management of retired racehorses and more.

The speakers include:

Saturday – April 6

11:00 a.m., Dr. Nettie Liburt, Equine Specialist, Kent Nutrition Group – “Selecting the Right Feed for Your Horse.”

12:00 p.m., Dr. Carey Williams, Associate Professor and Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey – “Supplements: Choosing them Wisely.”

2:15 p.m., Delmarva Equine Clinic – “Spring Horse Health Care.”

3:15 p.m., Dr. Carissa Wickens, Assistant Professor and Equine Extension Specialist, University of Delaware – “What We Know About Stereotypic Behavior in Horses.”

Sunday – April 7

11:00 a.m., Erin Pittman, Board Member, Retired Racehorse Training Project, Business Manager, Dodon Farm – “Care and Feeding of the Retired Racehorse.”

12:00 p.m., Wendy Lippincott, Dusty Chaps Farm, Co-owner and Instructor  – “Backyard Horse- keeping, is it Doable or Should I Board?”

2:00 p.m., Steuart Pittman, President, Retired Racehorse Training Project with New Bolton Center clinician – “Lameness Issues in the Thoroughbred Racehorse and Therapies to Resolve Unsoundness.”

3:00 p.m., Mary Bashtarz, BALANCE Registered Test Ride Facilitator  – “Horse Friendly Saddle Features.”

The UD Equine Seminar Series is a collaborative effort between UD, the Delaware Equine Council, and Chick’s Saddlery.

For more information on the Delaware Horse Expo, visit the Delaware Horse Expo website.

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Free Webcast Offered on Stereotypic Behaviors in Horses

January 14, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Carissa Wickens, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and equine extension specialist, will present a free webcast at 7 p.m., on Tuesday, January 22, focusing on equine behavior titled, “Is it Coping or is it a Vice? A Review of Cribbing, Weaving and Other Stereotypic Behaviors.”

The presentation will highlight recent research findings related to stereotypic behaviors in horses and will stress the importance of understanding why horses develop these behaviors.

Those wishing to watch the presentation will need to visit My Horse University to register. If it is your first time registering for a My Horse University webcast, you will need to create an account at this link.

My Horse University in partnership with eXtension Horses hosts multiple equine focused webcasts September through May. Presentations are delivered by national equine experts on a variety of topics including nutrition, behavior, genetics, health, conformation and selection, equine business management, and farm safety, just to name a few. Please click here for more information on upcoming and archived webcasts offered through My Horse University.

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Nov: Equine Behavior Short Course

October 9, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension is excited to offer a three-night educational series this fall on topics related to equine behavior. All three sessions will be held at the Paradee Center, Kent County Extension Office in Dover, Delaware from 6:30-8:30 pm. A registration fee and advanced registration will be required. Light refreshments and take-home materials will be included as part of the registration fee.

Night 1 on Monday, November 5 will focus around the theme of “Foundations of Equine Behavior” and will cover topics such as anatomy and physiology, the workings of the equine brain, normal or natural equine behavior and learning terminology and how horses learn.

Night 2 on Wednesday, November 7 will focus around the theme of “Handling Behavior Problems” and will cover topics such as stereotypies and dealing with common equine behavior issues. This evening will feature a special guest lecturer, Dr. Sue McDonnell from the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, a nationally known researcher and speaker on equine behaviors.

Night 3 on Wednesday, November 14 will focus around the theme of “Working Effectively with Equine Behavior” and will cover topics such as positive versus negative reinforcement, a review of current training approaches and common equine welfare concerns.

Interested individuals may attend just one or all three of the sessions. For more information please contact Susan Garey at (302) 730-4000 truehart@udel.edu or Dr. Carissa Wickens at cwickens@udel.edu.

For additional information and to register for this program, please visit the UD Cooperative Extension Equine Blog at http://extension.udel.edu/equine/.

If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact the office two weeks prior to the event.

Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, Delaware Cooperative Extension, University of Delaware. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin.

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Equine Pasture Walk Program

August 6, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Equine Program will host an “Equine Pasture Walk” from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, August 21, at Adandy Farm in Greenwood, Delaware.

Participants will learn how to take a soil sample and identify various types of forage. Proper fertilizer application will also be discussed and experts from UD will be on hand to answer any questions.

The event is free and open to the public. Those who attend are asked to bring a folding chair as well as water.

The event will occur rain or shine. To register or request more information, or if special assistance is required for the meeting, please call Carissa Wickens in advance at (302) 831-1340.

It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin.

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UD Cooperative Extension Equine Blog Survey

July 26, 2012 under Cooperative Extension

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension would like to evaluate the current use of their Equine Blog site within the Delaware equine community and the surrounding areas. Understanding which features are most helpful to site visitors will facilitate the further development of this online resource.

Participation in the survey is completely voluntary and anonymous, and the survey will be available through August 8.

To complete the survey online, visit the UD Cooperative Extension Equine Blog at http://sites.udel.edu/equine/.

If you would like to receive a paper copy of the survey, please contact Dr. Carissa Wickens at (302) 831-1340.

The UD Cooperative Extension Equine Program would like to thank those who participate in advance for their help with this important study.

Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating.  Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914.  It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.

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UD Equine Seminar Series to be featured at Delaware Horse Expo

February 21, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Chick’s Discount Saddlery is hosting the 8th annual Delaware Horse Expo Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18 at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, DE. This two-day event will feature clinics, demonstrations, educational seminars, and commercial vendors.

This year will also include the University of Delaware Equine Seminar Series, sponsored by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Equine Council.

The seminar will feature presentations on equine nutrition and health, selection of horses and costs associated with horse ownership, spring pasture management strategies, breeding management, the human-horse interaction, and equine trails.

The full list of speakers is below, with the topic of their presentations in bold.

Saturday, March 17

  • 10:30 a.m. Dr. Carissa Wickens, Assistant Professor and Equine Extension Specialist, University of Delaware. The Economics of Horse Ownership.
  • 11:30 a.m. Laura Florence, AFA Certified Farrier, Holistic Hoof Care. Hoof Care and Hoof Health.
  • 12:30 p.m. Peggy Koster, and Mary Everhart, Delaware Equine Council. Trails.
  • 1:30 p.m. Alex Brown – Author, Barbaro and His Legacy. The Horse and Human Connection and Inspiration of Barbaro.
  • 2:30 p.m. Dr. Tamara Dobbie, DVM, Diplomate ACT – Hoffman Center for Large Animal Reproduction, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania. Managing the Pregnant Mare and Newborn Foal.
  • 3:30 p.m. Dr. Martin Adams – Nutritionist and Feeds Manager with Southern States. Basic Equine Nutrition.

Sunday, March 18

  • 10:30 a.m. Dr. Ashley Boyle, DVM, Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Studies – New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania. Equine Vaccination and Disease Prevention.
  • 11:30 a.m. Dr. Tamara Dobbie, DVM, Diplomate ACT – Hoffman Center for Large Animal Reproduction, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania. Getting Your Mare and Stallion Ready for the Breeding Season.
  • 12:30 p.m. Dr. Martin Adams – Nutritionist and Feeds Manager with Southern States. Nutrition for Common Equine Health Issues.
  • 1:30 p.m. Dr. Richard Taylor, Agronomy Specialist, University of Delaware. Managing Springtime Pastures.
  • 2:30 p.m. Dr. Carissa Wickens, Assistant Professor and Equine Extension Specialist, University of Delaware. Selection of Horses.

For more information, visit the website

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Wickens weighs in on ‘War Horse’

January 3, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

On the heels of the successful holiday film, War Horse, Carissa Wickens, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension equine specialist and assistant professor of animal science, was recently interviewed by National Geographic to get more information about the range of equine emotions portrayed in the movie. In the interview, Wickens touches on horses and their ability to remember humans, how horses react to fear, and how horses can form strong social bonds with other horses. To read the whole interview, conducted by Amanda Fiegl, visit the National Geographic website.

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