Surrey Vet

News, views and more from students, staff and partners at the University's new School of Veterinary Medicine

British Horse Society’s Welfare Conference 2016 – by Mariella Savage

On Thursday, 1st September 2016, I was very fortunate to have been invited to attend The British Horse Society’s Annual Welfare Conference as part of my role as the BHS’ Veterinary Student Champion. This year’s conference was held at Hartpury College, which was a fantastic venue. The conference this year was entitled ‘Stressed out? The Causes, Effects and Prevention of Stress in the Horse and Rider’.

The timetable included in our ‘goodybags’ provided by the BHS, showed a varied, interesting and busy day, which indeed it was. After a 9am registration, the day started at 9.15am with welcome and introduction talks by Lee Hackett, BHS Director of Policy and Dr Hayley Randle, this year’s Conference Chairman, before the first speaker of the day, Dr. Teresa Hollands, took to the stage.

Dr Hollands, who we as vet students are fortunate enough to have as our Senior Teaching Fellow in Nutrition at the University of Surrey, gave an engaging and formative talk, ‘Gut Instinct’, on the effects of stress on the digestive system in horses. This talk explained to the audience the importance of correct dietary management and the effects it has on not only the performance of the horse, but its mental and physiological health. Dr. Hollands also explained the often misunderstood concept of ‘heating’ vs ‘non heating’ feed types, the huge importance of forage and the crucial signs to look for in an overweight, and thus stressed horse. The volume of questions asked at the end of the talk showed the audience’s interest in the subject, which certainly gave a lot of food for thought!

Ben Hart, an expert in equine behaviour, then presented the audience with a different approach to equine stress, engaging with us by considering the effects of the environment on the wellbeing of a horse. Ben did this by comparing a stabled horse to one being stuck in an elevator. His light and humorous way of communicating, provided the audience with entertainment, although his message about the environment that we as humans unnaturally place our horses in, was an important one.

After a refreshment break, the talks resumed with Professor Natalie Waran, Jeanne Marchig Chair in Animal Welfare Education at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Waran questioned whether it is always acceptable to train horses in a certain way, that being one that may cause conflict and confusion, thus stress. She interestingly mentioned that, ‘70% of horse related accidents are due to the behaviour and training of the horse’, which emphasises the importance on correct and minimally stressful training and handling of this species.

After a delicious lunch, Dr David Marlin explored the physiological benefits that stress can have on the equine body, known as “good” stress, which is necessary for bone and muscle to grow stronger and adapt in response to successful training. Dr Marlin also explained the fine balance between this “good” stress and “bad” stress, which may be seen in excessive or incorrect training, leading to strain and ultimately fracture.

Charlie Unwin then gave a very interesting talk which really appealed to all those in the audience who suffered with nerves when riding or competing. He concentrated on focusing the mentality of riders and instructors on acknowledging factors which may trigger their anxiety, and to focus on themselves and not on distractions around them. Charlie provided perfect examples and visuals to reinforce this. I will definitely use his advice when competing and coping with the pressure that my degree sometimes brings.

With Charlie’s talk finished, we all moved out of the lecture theatre to the fantastic indoor arena at Hartpury for the practical demonstration, led by Dr David Marlin. We watched two horses being put through all their paces while connected to heart rate monitors, which Dr. Marlin talked us through as he received the information wirelessly on his iPad. It was great to see the accuracy of the technology Dr. Marlin was so clearly passionate about, and the change in heart rate as each horse moved up his paces. It was a brilliant end to a very successful and interesting day.

As a vet student and keen competition rider, I took some very helpful information home with me from the conference from each speaker:

  1. Maintaining fibre is essential for ensuring correct gut homeostasis, even for laminitics. A decrease in fibre has been linked to an increase in cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) which can lead to stereotypical behaviours, for example cribbing or weaving. Increased cortisol levels in the blood has also been linked to insulin resistance.
  2. Whilst the horse is now very much considered a domestic species, it is essential that the environment we create for them mimics their natural surroundings as much as possible to prevent unnecessary stress. This can be done by ensuring interaction with the same species, space and mental stimulation. Mental stimulation, for example toys and mirrors, are especially important if the horse is stabled frequently.
  3. As flight animals, horses learn to avoid stimuli when they are associated with something negative, for example pain. When training horses, it is essential to recognise fear or anxiety, in order to replace these experiences with positive ones, which will result in a more relaxed and safer horse.
  4. Exercise is a stress on the body. Overworking a horse has a negative effect on the horse mentally, physically and physiologically.
  5. As a rider, it is important to consider the reasons behind why you become nervous, and focus on mastery, rather than outcome.
  6. The REACT campaign, presented and launched by Professor Sarah Freeman from the University of Nottingham, is a fantastic aid for horse owners to recognise the initial signs of colic. I am looking forward to helping to raise awareness of the campaign and its importance through the Vet School at the University of Surrey.

Everyone I spoke to at the welfare conference agreed with me that the day had been a huge success, with every person in the audience leaving Hartpury armed with information to improve the welfare and reduce the stress of both their horses and themselves. A huge congratulations and thank you must go to the Welfare department at The British Horse Society for organising such a fantastic event, in particular to Emmeline Hannelly, BHS Welfare Education Officer, who worked tirelessly throughout the day.

BHS Welfare Conference speakersreact-launch

British Horse Society castration clinic report – by Mariella Savage

On Wednesday 4 May, The British Horse Society organised a castration and passport clinic near Tipton, West Midlands. I was fortunate to have been invited to join the team of vets, farriers and volunteers from the BHS and other welfare organisations, to observe the practices of the day; no hands on surgery for me just yet but I learnt a huge amount!

The day started at 7am when the BHS welfare team arrived on the yard, followed shortly afterwards by charity representatives and volunteer professionals. Gemma Stanford, Head of Welfare and Passports, was responsible for the organisation of the day and held the briefing at 8.30am. The lead vet for the day also gave a briefing to the team prior to 9am; the vets were all volunteers through the British Equine Veterinary Association Trust, who had kindly given up their time to help this great event.

The day was mainly based at a yard kindly lent to the BHS for the castration clinic. Nine surgical pens were erected on the yard as well as areas housing the medication, registration and holding areas for the horses. The first horse was castrated at 9am and the teams worked tirelessly until the yard was disinfected and washed down at 5.30pm. In total, 26 horses and ponies from the surrounding area were castrated, and an impressive 105 horses and ponies were microchipped and passported. Volunteers for the day included, four BHS welfare officers, seven BEVA Trust volunteer vets and five veterinary students (excluding myself) from Liverpool and Edinburgh universities. Also on hand was the local farrier Ian Russell and Dean Bland from Well Equine who had travelled from the North. Both were providing their services for a small donation and it was extremely heartening to see them chatting to the owners and giving up so much of their valuable time. As well as the BHS, other charities present were the RSPCA, Redwings, World Horse Welfare and Blue Cross, and again it was great to observe so many knowledgeable people working for the good of both horse and owner.

As well as providing owners with the legal documents, as part of the castration and passport/microchip packages, wormers were available. These were kindly donated by Zoetis pharmaceuticals and two staff members attended to administer the wormers in partnership with the veterinary advice.

Packages were offered to the owners at a subsidised cost and there was a very strong emphasis on education throughout the day. Following a verbal briefing between vet and horse-owner, each owner walked away from the clinic with leaflets containing information about the aftercare of castration and what was considered normal or abnormal in the healing process, behavioural signs to look out for as well as emergency contact details of a local vet should a problem arise. It was rewarding to see owners and families leaving the site armed with so much advice on how to best care for and maintain the health and welfare of their animals, thanks to all the support they had received at the clinic. The benefits to both horse and owner over the course of the day, were huge.


Personally, I really enjoyed chatting to some of the owners, many of whom had bought their ponies for grandchildren or other members of the family to ride or drive, some for as little as £10! I also learnt a huge amount about equine castration procedures, with the vet staff and final year students being very forthcoming with their teachings and observations. Although most castrations were performed with the animals standing up, I was lucky to see two in a dorsal recumbent position (lying on their back). This was due to one (unilateral) retained testicle, meaning that it would not be possible to remove this whilst the animal was standing. It was interesting to see the difference in procedure for this type of castration, which required full anesthesia, and so closer monitoring and assistance from vets and vet nurses.

Throughout the smooth running of the day, I was so impressed by the cheerful, relaxed environment of the clinic, as well as the huge effort put in by everyone involved. Even though the majority of vets, farriers, and other volunteers had only met that day, and for many it was their first castration and passport clinic, there was an enormous sense of teamwork, making it feel as if everyone had worked together for years! We were definitely very lucky with the weather, with the sun shining all day, attracting a record number of participants. It was undoubtedly a success for everyone involved!

IVSA Surrey goes to Berlin – by Brittany Pike

Last week on the 12th of April I was one of 11 lucky students who got to participate in a exchange with Berlin Vet School. Having had 10 students from the Freie Universität Berlin visit us earlier this semester [you can read a article about it from my fellow IVSA rep Rachel Lye here] we were eagerly awaiting our turn to travel.

We began the trip by arriving bright and early at Gatwick Airport, some of us having crawled out of bed at 5 in the morning, and flew to Berlin Schönefeld Airport where we met with our hosts. Together we got the S-bahn back into the city to settle in before meeting up to visit the Prussian National Monument at Kreuzberg, the highest natural elevation in inner Berlin. After wandering around the surrounding area & visiting the Indoor Market we headed to an Italian restaurant for a celebratory reunion of pizza and cocktails.

Reunion meal

The following day we met at Potsdamer Platz, which is an area where the diversionary line of the Berlin Wall used to separate East and West Berlin. From here we visited the Kollhoff Tower where we travelled in Europe’s fastest elevator up 24 floors to the Panoramapunkt, a open air platform giving spectacular 360 degree views of Berlin as well as information on the historical background of the area. Coming back down to street level we explored this area of Berlin, finding a life size lego Giraffe, chocolate sculptures (including the Brandenburg gate and Titanic) and Checkpoint Charlie. After a typical Berlin lunch of delicious Currywurst we were treated to a private tour of Berlin Zoo with the resident vet, who doubles a curator! This was an amazing place to visit and made all the more special by the stories and insights into the animals we were given.

Giant lego giraffe!

On the Thursday we were given a tour of the two campuses that comprise Berlin Vet School. We started at the Pre-clinical campus where the anatomy, physiology and histology departments are found. Being typical vet students, we marvelled at their anatomy museum which housed a collection of mutations and deformities amongst the normal dating back to the 1700s. This was followed by a visit to the Clinical campus for tours around their small animal, farm & equine clinics, which included getting licked by some very friendly cows!

Hans the cow

That evening saw one of our favourite meals we shared together; a German evening. We each helped our host prepare or buy a typically German dish and met up to have a truly German experience- Bavarian white sausage, spätzle, sauerkraut, pretzels and apple strudel were all on the menu! This was followed by a trip to the nearby beer garden to cap off the night.

Friday was a day for sightseeing – we began with a culture walk along the portion of the East side of the Berlin Wall still standing, which has been made into a street art gallery. We pushed on through torrential rain to see the beautiful architecture of Museum Island and Brandenburg Gate before visiting the Holocaust Memorial and Museum which we all found an incredibly moving and sobering experience. We had the rest of the day free to relax, shop or re-visit places before the grand finale of the trip; a night out in a Berlin club! The last day felt like it came too soon; we met for lunch (many of us nursing hangovers &/or sleep deprivation!), before travelling to the airport and saying our final farewells.

Brandenburg Gate in the pouring rain          East Side Gallery + an eccentric busker

Overall it was an amazing experience and something I am very proud to have been a part of. A HUGE thank you must go to Natural Instinct who so kindly gave us £2000 in sponsorship, really helping us make the exchange a success. The trip was a brilliant start to what I hope will be one of many future exchanges to come!

Southern Veterinary Student Zoological Symposium – by Alexia Yiannouli

This year’s Southern Veterinary Student Zoological Symposium was held from February 26th to February 28th at Cambridge Vet School by the Cambridge University Veterinary Zoological Society, from 26th-28th. Eleven Surrey students were lucky enough to get their hands on tickets to the symposium and, after enduring the tube at rush hour (some of us may have gotten a bit lost at times!), we finally made it to Cambridge in one piece; ready to start the weekend. An introductory evening on the Friday allowed students from all vet schools across the country to meet and mingle in an informal environment before the symposium began.

The weekend was composed of talks and practicals packed over a busy two day schedule. The talks covered a wide variation of topics, ranging from a speaker on great ape mortality from cardiomyopathy to talks on avian conservation and endangered canids. An exciting day of listening to different speakers was followed by a formal sit-down dinner held at Lucy Cavendish College accompanied by what can only be described as a ‘rather eccentric talk’ from the infamous Dr. David Chivers. This involved many animal-related jokes as well as some rather interesting monkey call interpretations (yes, really!).

Practicals were held on Sunday morning, with choices ranging from a cetacean post mortem to imaging and diagnostics of exotic species. The majority of people attending opted to stay with Cambridge students over the weekend, which allowed them to experience a different vet school and form connections with people who they otherwise may not have met. Overall a fun and informative weekend was had by all, as clearly shown by the attached picture! We look forward to attending the conference again next year.


An evening with Natasha Baker MBE by Charlie Bristow

On the 3rd of March, the double gold medal winning, Paralympic dressage rider Natasha Baker MBE paid a visit to the University of Surrey and told her inspirational story. Natasha, who is a grade two para-equestrian, spoke at length about her passion for the sport, and how that passion had spurred on from being a little girl with a dream, to winning 5 European Champion titles and then on to even greater heights, with 2 gold medal wins and record

breaking scores at the 2012 London Paralympics. Natasha’s love for her partners in these victories, the horses who had both taught her and won alongside her, was beautifully evident as she shared photos of Charlie, Woody, JP and Sooki. Despite her busy schedule, Natasha gladly humoured the assembly’s curiosity, taking questions and staying to chat once the talk was over.

The talk was graciously hosted at the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine, whose new school packed with amazing facilities, was opened this academic year. The talk was organised by the University of Surrey’s Equestrian Club, who have been hard at work themselves all year. Both the society’s competitive A and B teams have been taking home fistfuls of ribbons from the BUCS competitions, and the talk was a welcome re-injection of inspiration. Natasha also spoke about the importance of feed when maintaining a healthy and competitive horse during her talk, and Saracens, who were sponsoring the event, were on-site all evening to reinforce that importance and answer any questions on equine nutrition.

With no signs of stopping here, Natasha is currently on the Road to Rio, with team selections just around the corner and a year full of competitions to get her there. She spoke

encouragingly of the competitiveness of the sport, and with thinking of it, to have dreams as big as she did.

IVSA Berlin Exchange: Surrey by Rachel Lye

On Friday 29th January only a few hours after our final exam nine students from Freie Universität Berlin Veterinary School arrived at Guildford station – our first ever International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA) Surrey exchange had begun.

For four months prior to their arrival, a team of 10 Surrey Vet students, headed by the two IVSA reps (Brittany Pike & myself), had worked together to fundraise and plan the itinerary for the their visit. We were also very generously given a sponsorship of £2000 from Natural Instinct, a raw pet food company, which covered a large majority of the costs. Fundraising activities included bag packing, face painting, selling mince pies and holding our own “I’m a student, get me out of here!” race.

We met the Berlin students at the station where we introduced them to their Surrey hosts, splitting off to settle in before reconvening in the evening for a casual night of games and drinks to get to know each other. The following day we kicked started the exchange with a trip to Marwell zoo, one of our Vet School partners. We spent a large majority of day there listening to several of the keeper talks and learning more about the animals they look after. On the Sunday the students had a free day giving them an opportunity to explore Guildford and experience some English culinary traditions such as a full English breakfast, afternoon tea and a roast dinner!

On Monday morning we headed into London to explore the Natural History Museum before splitting up to experience the variety of sights London has to offer. Several of us headed over to Camden to take in the sights and smells of Camden market, whilst others visited famous landmarks from fictional books such as Platform 9¾ from Harry Potter and Baker Street from Sherlock Holmes. We then headed back to Guildford for a zoo-themed night at a local nightclub – it was a brilliant night out and fun was had by all!

Everyone managed to make in to the Vet School the following morning at 9:30am for a tour of our facilities and a introductory talk from Professor Roberto La Ragione, Head of the Department of Pathology & Infectious Disease. The afternoon was spent in our new pathology facilities participating in hands-on dissection classes organised and run by our pathology team and Surrey Veterinary Pathology (our student pathology group). These classes included brain removal & examination from sheep and exotic anatomy, both areas new to the Berlin students. In the evening, we enjoyed an evening of good food, drinks and laughter at the White House pub in Guildford where we presented the exchange students with gifts from our sponsors at Natural Instinct and a Great British flag signed by all the Surrey students. At this point most people said their goodbyes, as early the next morning the Berlin students left for the airport for their flight home.

It was a fantastic experience to be a part of and I am proud to say that I played a key role in organising the first, of hopefully many, Vet School exchanges here at Surrey. We are now looking forward to completing the exchange in April when we visit the students in Berlin. It will be interesting to see their Vet School and to experience the city of Berlin as a student. I am definitely glad that I took on the role of IVSA rep!




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