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Life-size equine simulator helps identify leading cause of horse death


April 2, 2013

I'm no veterinary, but I'm pretty sure that's cheating... Dr. Catriona Bell and Madeleine ...

I'm no veterinary, but I'm pretty sure that's cheating... Dr. Catriona Bell and Madeleine Kasch get to grips with the equine simulator (Photo: Norman Russell, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh)

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Veterinary students at The University of Edinburgh now have a life-sized model of a horse sink their teeth, or, rather, arms into. The "equine simulator" comes equipped with inflating latex intestines to familiarize students with the symptoms of colic, abdominal pain that can sometimes lead to death, depending on the cause.

The model was developed at Canada's Veterinary Simulator Industries in conjunction with the University of Calgary's Dr. Emma Read. It includes a number of latex organs that can be inflated by varying amounts to simulate particular symptoms. It also enables students to sample abdominal fluid.

According to Veterinary Simulator Industries' website, where the model is listed as an Equine Palpation Simulator (palpation meaning to examine by touch), the model is equipped with replaceable parts, a "belly tap function," and, thankfully a "soft anus/vulva, reproduction pelvis, [and] rectum." Even so, removing your watch prior to examination is still advisable.

Perhaps the biggest difference to a real horse is the dorsal access hatch, a section along the model's spine that can be removed to get at the parts inside.

The model will also allow students to identify reproductive issues in mares. It can even be painted to resemble particular breeds.

Horse colic is a leading cause of early death in tame horses and correct diagnosis is vital. It's thought that teaching aids such as this one can reduce the need for learning in the, um, field.

"The realistic attributes of these models will allow students to learn and then refine their basic dexterity and practical skills before undertaking the procedures on live animals," said Dr. Catriona Bell of the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. "This is not only safer and less stressful for the students, but is also importantly a more welfare-friendly way of learning."

The equine simulator has taken its place at the School's Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, alongside a canine simulator which allows students to practice injections and listen for irregular heart beats, and a bovine simulator to identify the stages of a cow's pregnancy.

Source: University of Edinburgh

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
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