Saskatchewan’s first equine expo a success

Dr. Andrea Plaxton conducts an endoscopy.

WCVM clinical associate Dr. Andrea Plaxton performs an endoscopic examination of a sedated horse’s upper respiratory tract during a demonstration at the Saskatchewan Equine Expo. Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

When Stacey Nahachewsky of Saskatoon, Sask., heard that the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) needed volunteers for the Saskatchewan Equine Expo, the second-year veterinary student jumped at the chance.

She also brought along Harley, her 12-year-old Standardbred gelding that patiently underwent several procedures — including a painting session with veterinary students who outlined an equine skeleton and vital organs on his coat for the crowds.

“I think the live horse demonstrations give people a first-hand idea of exactly what occurs during these procedures,” says Nahachewsky who assisted with the bandaging, endoscopy and ultrasound demonstrations.

“They can see the entire process from start to finish and observe some of the complications that can occur and methods that veterinarians take to try get the best and most efficient diagnosis.”

Equine skeleton

Twelve-year-old Standardbred gelding Harley sports a painted-on equine skeleton that helped visitors visualize different parts of his anatomy during the WCVM demonstrations. Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

Besides the equine health demonstrations and talks, a trainers’ challenge, an equine trade show and world-renowned clinicians all helped to make Saskatchewan’s first equine exposition an overwhelming success with a total attendance of more than 9,000 people.

The 2012 Saskatchewan Equine Expo, which was held at Saskatoon’s Prairieland Park from February 17 to 19, exceeded organizers’ initial expectations in all areas.

One of the first promising signs came in early February when booth space in the Expo’s horse industry tradeshow sold out.

Once the three-day event began on Friday, Feb. 17, the crowds kept growing — reaching their height on Saturday evening during the Equine Extravaganza that included a parade of breeds, demonstrations of reining, cutting and mounted shooting, and a Clydesdale eight-horse hitch.

“When we needed to add extra bleachers to accommodate the crowd or to move the round pen in or out of the arena, volunteers came out of the crowd to help us,” says Brenda Sapergia, livestock manager at Prairieland Park. “. . . It confirms that Saskatchewan people really appreciate that we’re showcasing the equine industry right here in Saskatoon.”

Dr. Fernando Marqués

WCVM specialist Dr. Fernando Marqués gives a talk on equine respiratory issues at the Saskatchewan Equine Expo. Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

Prairieland Park, along with the Saskatchewan Horse Federation, the WCVM and a number of volunteers, worked together to organize the Expo. Compared to other equine shows, one of the Expo’s unique draws was a continuous lineup of horse health presentations and demonstrations that were offered by faculty, residents and veterinary students at the WCVM — the regional college for all of Western Canada.

“For us, the Equine Expo was the ideal opportunity to highlight horse health and equine management practices to a wide range of people including everyone from longtime horse breeders and owners to families that have just bought their first horse,” says Dr. Steve Manning, an associate professor at the WCVM and team leader for the college’s Expo volunteers.

“We also had the chance to give horse people an update on some of the new technologies and facilities that we have available for horse health care right here in Saskatoon at the WCVM’s Veterinary Medical Centre.”

The team of veterinary volunteers gave presentations on a wide range of topics including basic nutrition, elder horse care, acupuncture, respiratory conditions, first aid and caring for pregnant mares. The WCVM group also set up the live-horse demonstrations that covered bandaging, endoscopy, ultrasonography, dentistry, body condition scoring, restraining horses and hoof care.

Dressage clinic at Sask. Equine Expo

A riding clinic with Olympic dressage rider Gina Smith was one of the Equine Expo’s attractions. Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

For Nahachewsky, the Expo was the perfect chance for her and her classmates to share their knowledge and skills with Saskatchewan horse enthusiasts. She was also keen to witness firsthand how her professors communicated with clients and answered their questions in a public forum like the exposition.

“There aren’t very many opportunities like this: these type of events are exceptionally valuable in building our ability to communicate effectively and professionally with future clients,” says Nahachewsky, who received positive feedback from Expo visitors.

Some people commented that it was interesting “to see a horse from the inside out” and to get an explanation about why veterinarians prefer some procedures over others — mainly because the selected procedure tells them more and helps their treatment to be more accurate.

After watching one of the technological demonstrations, another horse owner’s comment was, “This procedure isn’t just a funny word to me anymore — it’s way cooler.”

As Nahachewsky points out, the Equine Expo holds multiple benefits to multiple audiences from people who simply like horses to people who depend on horses for their livelihoods. For her, it was great to be a part of something beneficial and interesting for the industry, and at the same time, benefit directly by building and practicing her professional skills and veterinary knowledge.

“This is a great experience for anyone who is going to enter the equine medical industry,” says Nahachewsky, who plans to volunteer for next year’s Equine Expo. And chances are that Harley will be back, too.


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