Poplar Place Farms located in Hamilton, Ga., is one of the premier equestrian venues in the Southeast. Poplar Place is located only 59 miles from Auburn University’s prestigious large animal teaching hospital, making it an academic tool for veterinary and pre-veterinary students.
Poplar Place farm hosts 25 shows a year, five of these being United States Eventing Association registered horse trials.
A registered horse trials or three-day event consists of three phases of riding: dressage, cross country jumping and stadium jumping. Auburn University's pre-veterinary students travel to Georgia for the cross-country jumping phase of the competition.
“I have been coming to Poplar for the past three years, and I have learned a ton each time I have come,” said Auburn University junior Melanie Spedale. “We get real life veterinarian application of how to deal with performance horses under incredible environmental stress.”
The cross-country jumping phase of a three-day event requires the horse to travel at a high speed for up to 10 minutes while jumping numerous fixed obstacles.
Horses competing at the upper levels must be in extremely good physical condition.
“We see all kinds of issues with the horses,” said Spedale. “Most of the time the horses are fit and have been conditioned for this kind of extreme work, but occasionally we come across a horse that needs our help.”
The Auburn pre-veterinary students practice, perform and utilize the skills they have learned in the classroom on live animals. One of the major skills the students practice is extracting the TPR or temperature, pulse and respiration from the horses.
Taking the TPR of the horses after their cross-country jumping run is a good way to determine if the horses are cooling down properly.
“Today alone I have practiced TPR on 30 different horses,” said Spedale. “This kind of hands on learning has been really beneficial to my education.”
The horses range in age from 6 years old to 22 years old, and consist of many different breeds. Each horse is different and it is up to the riders, owners and vets to keep them in good condition.
“Traveling to Poplar Place Farm has given me a lot of great experiences,” said Spedale. “Each time I go I get more and more excited about becoming a vet and being able to work with these beautiful animals every day.”
Auburn University’s veterinarian Dr. Heather Davis was overseeing the pre-veterinarian students at the past three-day event held March 22-24, 2013.