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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Really Big Horses Inspire Student

October 24th, 2011

Student Laura Meadows with her draft horse Tiny Tim

For most people, the closest they will ever come to a draft horse is through a television screen. Most of us are familiar with the perfectly matched and perfectly groomed Clydesdales in a Budweiser commercial but draft horses were originally bred for ploughing and other hard labor. There are still a few farmers and loggers who use them to pull heavy loads but their huge size makes them expensive to feed and expensive to shoe so even horse lovers rarely own them for fun.

Veterinary medical student Laura Meadows has a passion for draft horses. Growing up on a ranch in Wyoming, she spent her childhood pursuing horse-related activities of all kinds: trail riding, dressage, light horse driving . . . you name it. But draft horses have a special place in her heart because they allowed her to spend time with her rancher dad. “We drove using horses my whole life,” says Meadows. “We have always done it as a way to feed our cows and horses in the winter. Imagine a farmer in the 1900s out there feeding his livestock with a sleigh full of hay; that’s how we feed our cows.”

It’s not surprising that Meadows has always dreamt of becoming a veterinarian. Now in her second year at the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), she chose OSU because of small class size and the opportunity to experience a new environment. “New rivers, new trails, new everything,” she says. She didn’t know at the time that OSU also has a draft horse.

“When I was down in the barn doing a palpation lab, I saw a draft horse,” says Meadows, “and I asked Lionel if we could teach her to pull.” The horse in question is a new addition to the CVM herd and her name is Taffy. Farm manager Lionel Snyder encouraged Meadows to pursue the goal of training Taffy by starting a student draft horse club.

There once was a very active draft horse club at CVM. They worked with a draft horse named Andy and even used him to give buggy rides at the yearly Pet Day event. But when Andy died, and all the DHC members graduated and moved on, the club disappeared.  Meadows hopes to resurrect it.

“Lionel told me they have this amazing wagon but don’t know how to teach Taffy to pull,” says Meadows. “I have a lot of experience teaching horses to pull but I’m also interested in giving students who haven’t had a lot of horse experience an opportunity to work with large horses.“

The three objectives of the newly formed club are learning to handle large horses, learning to drive, and promoting the college.

“It would be great to eventually teach Taffy to pull the OSU wagon,” says Meadows. “It’s a really beautiful wagon but whether or not it is feasible for us to take it out in public remains to be seen. There are insurance issues and Taffy will need years of training.”

In the meantime, Meadows hopes club members can get hands-on time with Taffy; handling a one-ton horse is the ultimate in safety training. “You build really good safety practices around a draft horse. You know you have to stay out from under any horse’s feet but with a light horse you aren’t as conscious about it. If you build good safety practices with a draft horse, you will be safer with any horse,” says Meadows. “It’s all about making us better equine vets.

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