As part of Oregon Tech's pre-veterinary medicine coursework, Instructor Tricia Elliott took students to Klamath County Fairgrounds on June 1 to learn more about large animal care, specifically horses.

The class is BIO 216: The Biology of Companion Animals, where students learn about basic anatomy, husbandry, diseases, preventive medicine, proper handling, and how to do physical exams on the most common companion animals (cats, dogs, rabbits, rodents, reptile/ amphibians, goats, and horses). Students also learn basic first aid, CPR, and other life-saving measures for these animals.

Elliott said students are currently learning about horses and how to work safely around them while performing a basic physical exam.

Leah Ghielmetti and Tricia Elliott

"Every year, I take the students to various equine facilities to work with horses," Elliott said. "Previously, we've visited Project Spirit Horse, a Chiloquin horse rescue facility, and the Klamath Equestrian Center with Leah Ghielmetti for Horse Power Northwest-Horse massage therapy."

This year, Elliott rented an arena at the Klamath Fairgrounds for students to work and learn about horses in person from her and Ghielmetti. Using two of Ghielmetti's horses and a mini horse owned by student Lawrence Cottingham, students observed a massage therapy demonstration and performed physical exams on the horses.

Through the experience, Elliott brought theoretical teaching into the field and showed students the practical application of their learning. Although BIO 216 is designed to support pre-veterinary medicine students, the course is open to students of all majors. Elliott encourages all students to learn more about their animals and how to interact with companion animals more safely.

Sophomore Avery Joyner studies Psychology but took BIO 216 in addition to her degree coursework.

"I am so thankful that Oregon Tech offers students this hands-on opportunity," Joyner said. "It was so much fun and a great break from the classroom setting. It provided an enjoyable and safe environment for students to learn. It was one of the highlights of an already great year at Oregon Tech."

Mini horse demonstration

Elliott said the field experience is always the students' favorite part of the term.

"Some students have never touched a horse, and it's exciting to see them want to learn more about them," Elliott said.

Madeline Lowry is a sophomore taking general studies courses who enrolled in BIO 216 to learn how to better care for animals.

"Although I initially took BIO 216 to increase my knowledge of how to care for my companion animals, including dogs and dairy goats, I also ended up gaining hands-on experience with horses and other companion animal species, which has been a fantastic experience that helped push me out of my comfort zone," Lowry said.

BIO 216 covers many aspects of animal health and its impact on society. Discussions include care, anatomy, preventive medicine, common diseases, and behavioral problems of dogs, cats, and other companion animals. 

Senior Sarah Handyside studies Communication at Oregon Tech and enjoyed working with live animals and community members.

"It was fascinating to see Leah's connection with her horses, Peaches and Diamond," Handyside said. "Even though it seems obvious now, I'd never thought about how horses might need massages just like humans, as physical therapy after an injury or to maintain their health.

"This is an incredible way to learn, and I hope future Oregon Tech students get to do this too."