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News - Winter 2010 Newsletter

Mainely Progress, Winter 2010
Volume 7, Number 1

Edited by Dr. Martin Stokes, January 2010

Equine Emergency Training for First Responders
Each major at UMaine must have a capstone class or classes that are writing intensive and tie together everything the student has learned in the major over the previous 3 years. In Animal Science this is accomplished by AVS 401/402, Senior Paper in Animal Science I and II coordinated by chair Stokes. In these classes each student selects a research topic from a list provided by the AVS faculty, or they can suggest a topic of their own. In the fall semester the student writes a project proposal to outline the research they will perform and then writes a manuscript on their results in the second semester. Most of these projects follow the normal fall/spring class sequence but other schedules can be accommodated when necessary. What follows is a description of the senior topic initiated and completed in spring, summer and fall 2009 by Lauren Mack under the guidance of adjunct faculty Norinne Daly.

Dr. Norinne Daly and I began discussing this project in the spring of 2009. I had come up with the idea long before that, but had not had the time or resources to put the project into action. I found that several programs at various levels of equine emergency handling had been offered in the Virginia region by Dr. Shea Porr of the Virginia Tech. Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center and Dr. Jennifer Brown of the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center. These programs focused on the fundamentals of equine handling and emergency work rather than the very technical rescue work, which was exactly what I wanted.

I first obtained approval for this project from Dr. Stokes for AVS 401/402 and then Nonni and I began outlining the program in May 2009. We contacted Dr. Porr and Dr. Brown to see if they would be willing to assist us with the program as guest speakers. After they agreed, I contacted Jake Dyer, manager of the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center for permission and assistance in putting the program together. Jake was very supportive, as was Melissa Spencer, the Equine Barn Manager.

My next step was to begin drawing up a budget and determining a time frame for the program. Jake, Nonni and Dr. Porr and Dr. Brown agreed that early to mid-September was best for both schedules and weather purposes but Dr. Brown would not be able to attend. In addition, I worked with Dr. Stokes and Nonni to complete the budget and begin fundraising. I contacted dozens of large and small organizations in the state from local equine clubs, to state funded departments, to grant organizations. Unfortunately, I only received financial support from Tilton’s Auction of Corinth, ME but significant donations were received from the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, and from Alan Kezis, Associate Dean of our college, Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture. The Black Bear Inn in Orono contributed free rooms for Dr. Porr for two nights, Tim Horton’s of Orono donated coffee and doughnuts on the day of the event and Jason’s New York Style Pizza gave us a discount on the pizzas ordered for lunch.

In late May into early June I began advertising the project with fifty-five one page flyers that were printed and mailed to police and fire departments within a 90 minute radius of Orono. In addition, I called more than fifty Animal Control Officers, Fire Departments, and Police Departments and sent them e-mails of the flyers and information. In addition, Nonni wrote up a press release for the University Relations Office. I was interviewed by UMaine Today and by Craig Colson of local radio station 106.5 FM. I was also interviewed by Bob Evans of WLBZ TV, Channel 2.

After gathering the funding and the permission to hold the program, I was able to work with Katahdin Trails Saddlery to purchase halters and lead ropes at a discount for each participant with part of their entry fee. I was also able to briefly work with Melissa Spencer to determine which students would be appropriate individuals to work with the participants and which horses I should use.

The program itself went very smoothly on September 19, 2009. We held two sessions, one from 8-12 am and another from 1-5 pm. Each session was divided into two parts. The first half was a classroom portion run by Dr. Porr and Dr. James Weber, DVM focusing on equine handling, behavior and first aid. The second half started with the participants watching two demonstrations. The first by Dr. Porr showing the handling techniques they had just learned in lecture. The second demonstration was by a participant (Matthew Buck) from the Milford Fire Department in full turn-out gear running though the same demonstration but showing the effects of a different, more intimidating, appearance. The participants were then paired up with a volunteer and a horse and practiced their new knowledge in the barn and in the paddock areas including, approaching, haltering, and then leading the horse.

Each participant also completed pre- and post-program surveys and was given a survey for completion after three-months and an incident report form to document their use of this animal handling information. The pre-program survey showed that none of the participants had any formal training in equine handling in an emergency situation and that their knowledge of equine behavior and of what to do in an emergency situation was limited. Their confidence level with horses was markedly improved after the program and everyone felt more comfortable about handling a horse in an emergency situation.

The benefit of this training was demonstrated in early December when one of the participants, Earl Strandell, came across a horse and two ponies in the northbound lane of Route 1A near Winterport. Vehicles were swerving around the horses without slowing down and drivers were honking their horns at the horses, which scared them further. With the aid of a commercial vehicle enforcement officer, Earl was able to block the road to traffic and then used the techniques that he had learned in class to move the horses into a nearby field.

The post-program survey indicated that all of the participants acquired new knowledge about handling horses in emergency situations and the situation described above suggests that this program should be repeated for other first responders.

Seven AVS students from the University of Maine competed with and against more than 120 students from 13 colleges in the Northeastern US and Canada in the Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge held in Glens Falls, NY on November 6 & 7, 2009. The event is a two-day competition in which five-person teams of students use their expertise to analyze a working dairy farm and make recommendations regarding the nutrition, reproduction, animal health, housing, labor and financial management. On the second day of the competition, the team gives their recommendations to a panel of judges in a 20 -minute oral presentation then fields questions from the judges. Presentations were evaluated based on the accuracy of their analysis and the feasibility of their recommendations for improving management and profits.

The top team, for each of the three farms in the competition, receives the Don Rogers Platinum Award, named for a well-known farm financial consultant and founder of the competition. Abby Arena from Stetson, ME and Michael MacPhail of Minnetonka, MN were both members of teams that received this highest award. In addition Brittany Brackett from Greenbush, ME received a platinum award for a second place finish. This is the first time that UMaine students have taken home more than one platinum award at the competition.

Other UMaine winners included Kay Castonguay of Turner, ME and Jon Myers of Bristol, CT who received Gold Awards and Ben Kenny of Fairfield, ME and Edsel Brown from Wellington, ME who received Silver Awards

The students will now begin preparing for the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge to be held this spring in Visalia, CA.


  • Emily Anderson, BS 2008. Emily was recently featured in an article in the Morning Sentinel newspaper after rescuing a man from his burning van after it had struck a moose along US Route 201 near Jackman. Emily, an agricultural specialist for the Department of Homeland Security, pulled the man from the vehicle and dragged him away from the flames before authorities arrived. She is credited with saving his life by Jackman-Moose River Fire Chief Bill Jarvis.
  • Yanbing Wang, former doctoral candidate with Stokes. Yanbing was accepted into the Sloan Fellowship Program at the London Business School. This is a one year masters program that begins this January and runs until December 2010. The Sloan program is a very prestigious program that is only offered at two other universities worldwide- MIT and Stanford. After the program, Yanbing hopes to return to New England.
  • Chris Hallman, BS 1999, is now working as the Manager of Animal Care for Harvard Medical School’s animal research program and is a member of Harvard’s IACUC. He is in charge of several ABSL-2 and one ABSL-3 animal research areas and he oversees all aspects of the entire department. Chris is also enjoying life with his wife and 2 young children in MA.
  • Rose Itzcovitz, BS 2005. Rose is currently working at the national zoo in Niger, West Africa where she has lived for the last two years. She has successfully received medication for the animals through a donation and is working hard to improve conditions for the animals living there. Rose gets hands-on experience with animals as varied as hippos, lions, hyenas, ostriches, crocodiles and primates. She is also working with a UN representative trying to renovate the entire zoo. Rose is now trying to enroll into a US vet school so she can return to Africa and help more animals.

Members of the class of 2010 have started receiving interview notifications. Melissa Watts, Marie Smith, Nile McGhie, Lauren Mack and Jen McGintee (2009) have all received interviews at vet schools. Lauren has been offered admission to the Royal Dick School in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Department chair, Martin Stokes, was married June 27, 2009 to Kim (Tracy) Gerow, a graduate of the two year AMT program (1978) and the four year BS degree program (1980) in AVS.

December graduates from the AVS program:

    Carrie Doe, Melissa Doucette, Martha Dugan, Dawn Kirby and Laura McCarthy. Congratulations to you all.

Kira Dea, significant other of Alexander Ernst (BS 2000, DVM (PEI) 2005), veterinarian at the Cape May, NJ, County Zoo, visited us in late June 2009 while she was working with Simon Alexander (BS 2000, DMV (UPenn) 2004), for two weeks.

Please pass this newsletter to your friends and especially to any UM or AVS alumni for whom we do not have an address. If you send us their address we’ll include them in our next mailing. Please remember to let us know when you change your address as we continue to get 20 – 30 copies returned for every issue

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Our most sincere thanks to all our friends and alumni for their generous donations. Your financial support helps us expose our students to opportunities that would otherwise be impossible.

This newsletter cost about $500 to print and mail to our alumni, friends and stakeholders around Maine and New England. If you would like to sponsor an issue your name, or the name of your company could be HERE.

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