According to a United States Department of Agriculture equine survey, there were an estimated 215,000 horses in Virginia in 2006. It comes as no surprise that in a state so heavily populated with horses, many children are fascinated with learning to care for the animals. One organization that is helping students to achieve that goal is the Virginia Pony Club which has more than 350 constituents from across the state.

As part of its learning-intensive educational programming, 41 Virginia Pony Club members aged 12 through 18 attended a Horse Health Half-Day program at Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center on Saturday, Jan. 12. Ten of the Commonwealth’s clubs were represented at the three-hour event including Blue Ridge Hunt, Cape Henry, Casanova-Warrenton, Difficult Run, Dominion Valley, Loudoun Hunt, Middleburg-Orange, North Mountain, River Bend and Rocky Run.

“As veterinarians and educators, we are committed to encouraging students to pursue careers in veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. “[The] pony club is a very learning-centric organization and it was a pleasure to share our knowledge with these bright and enthusiastic participants.”

The program began when White welcomed the group and asked how many attendees would like to be veterinarians. He advised the interested candidates to study hard and to excel in math and science in order to increase their odds of success.

“Veterinary school has become extremely competitive with only one in 10 applicants gaining admission,” White told the crowd. “But for those of you who love animals--especially horses--you should know that veterinary medicine is a rewarding and fulfilling career.”

Following White’s introduction, presentations were given by five the center’s faculty — White, Dr. Martin Furr, Dr. Jennifer Brown, Dr. Sarah Dukti, and Dr. Anne Desrochers — on a variety of equine healthcare topics including biosafety, respiratory disease, gait analysis, equine emergencies, and foal care.

According to Carol Noggle, regional supervisor of the Virginia Region Pony Clubs, the lectures provided a wealth of information for attendees.

“I would say that this was a great mini-vet school,” said Noggle. “It was a comprehensive and valuable addition to our members’ knowledge base and we are very appreciative of the doctors’ time.”

The United States Pony Clubs Inc. is one of the leading junior equestrian organizations in the world. There are over 600 individual clubs spread throughout 48 states and the Virgin Islands, with more than 12,000 members. Pony club provides opportunities for instruction and competition in English riding, horse sports, and horse management for children and young adults up to 25 years of age.

Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is a premier full-service equine hospital located in Leesburg, Va., that offers advanced specialty care, 24-hour emergency treatment and diagnostic services for all ages and breeds of horses. One of three campuses that comprise the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, the center and its team of equine specialists are committed to providing exceptional treatment to patients, superior service to clients and cutting-edge research to the equine industry.

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