U of S names equine centre after local couple

Heather Ryan and L. David Dubé

L. David Dubé and Heather Ryan. Photo: Debra Marshall.

An expanded facility for horse health at the University of Saskatchewan will be called the Ryan/Dubé Equine Performance Centre in recognition of a Saskatoon couple’s longtime support for veterinary research and education.

Heather Ryan and her husband, L. David Dubé, contributed $1.2 million toward the expansion of the college’s existing equine performance centre. The Government of Saskatchewan, Marg and Ron Southern of Calgary, Alta., and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) provided the remaining funding for the $2.8 million project.

“For us, it’s all about having the best possible care available for horses in Saskatchewan and in the western provinces,” says Ryan, a horse owner and an avid polo player whose horses have been cared for by the WCVM Veterinary Teaching Hospital since 1995. She and Dubé are dedicated to improving the health and welfare of all horses through their support of equine health programs at the regional veterinary college.

“Our focus is supporting research — not bricks and mortar. But when this opportunity came up, we felt that this expansion would give the WCVM enough flexibility to cover all aspects of horse health. It’s important for this veterinary college to be a centre of excellence for horse care, so when it comes to lameness, they really needed a new facility where they could do the diagnosing, the research and the teaching all in one spot.”

Construction will begin in February 2011. The project will add nearly 1,000 sq m (10,600 sq. ft.) to the centre, as well as vital resources to the WCVM’s equine education, clinical and research programs.

“In particular, this building will be a focal point for diagnosing, treating and investigating different lameness issues,” explains WCVM Dean Dr. Douglas Freeman.

“Through those activities, it will also be a place where our veterinary students can learn more about how to recognize and accurately diagnose the causes of lameness in horses, and provide their future clients with the best treatment options.”

Built in 1998, the original facility includes a high-speed treadmill and a computerized force plate system — two invaluable tools for detecting and diagnosing equine lamenesses. The centre’s new features will include:

  • a paved indoor runway that will allow clinicians and students to conduct examinations on a smooth, even surface — 365 days of the year. Besides its diagnostic value, the runway will be used for teaching demonstrations and lameness-oriented research.
  • a permanent longeing arena that’s critical for the accurate diagnosis and detection of many subtle unilateral or bilateral lameness issues in horses. The arena will also become a focal point for horse handling labs, teaching demonstrations and continuing veterinary education seminars.
  • a multi-purpose area with two semi-permanent restraint stocks that will provide a safe, secure place for faculty and students to undertake physical examinations and various technical procedures that are performed daily by equine clinicians.

Ryan and Dubé’s previous contributions to the veterinary college include a $1.07-million gift to the College’s equine and companion animal health programs. They also created a matching gift incentive program in 2006 that has helped to raise more than $450,000 for equine health research at the WCVM in the past four years.

Located on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, Sask., the WCVM is a Canadian centre of veterinary education, expertise and research with nearly 450 students enrolled in veterinary and graduate degree programs. The college’s Equine Health Research Fund annually invests nearly $200,000 in equine health research grants, equine fellowships and a summer equine research program for undergraduate veterinary students at the WCVM.

Click here for more background about the equine performance centre.

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