Finally, we have submitted our honours research projects! We had our viva assessments via Skype with lecturers Jan Birch and Kate Douglas-Dala on the 17th. We have really appreciated their support and patience with getting our research projects finished, they really made it possible for us to not have to worry about being on the internship whilst trying to finish it off!
So, on to the fun stuff! The first week of freedom from our dissertations involved two days helping again with the turf grass project for the PhD student previously described in an earlier blog.
It has been great helping with this project as we have learnt about different grass species and how to identify them. It has also shown us that there are always unavoidable problems with projects that you just have to let happen and deal with, even at PhD level. The main problem we encountered with this project was the unwanted spreading of crabgrass across all of the plots that are supposed to contain only one different species of grass in each, this is a warm season species of grass that is commonly considered as a weed, it is an invasive species that is not native to the Virginia area of Middleburg.
Another problem was clover! This plant takes over every available patch of bare ground and had to be pulled out by hand before sampling could take place. Whilst doing this we found plenty of four leaf clovers which was fun as it gradually became a competition between the group, there was even a five leaf found!
We have also been helping with feed run and checking the horses most days since all of the other interns have sadly now left. Some of the horses need to have cuts and scrapes cleaned and treated so we have learnt how the graduate students do this and how often.
The graduates have also been giving one of the older pregnant mares a product called Regumate, which is a high dose of progesterone, in order to help her maintain her pregnancy. We have also found the horses who are supposed to be wearing grazing muzzles without them! So we have spent a lot of time hunting for them in the acres and acres of land that these lucky horses have available to them.
A lot of cleaning has been done around the yard including all of the automatic water drinkers in the fields, the tack room, the barn and the clinic. We have also been collecting a plant called milkweed from fields that the cows are going to be moved into, this is because a rare species of butterfly lives on in its caterpillar stage (the monarch butterfly) and the cows seem to love eating the plant!
The blood sampling that was taken earlier this month was processed in the lab using a YSI machine, it has shown the glucose and lactate content of all of the blood samples taken, this was really interesting to watch and it was also interesting to find out the results of course. I also shadowed the MARE Center’s veterinarian Dr. Katie Fitzgerald for a day which was very exciting.
We visited a yard where there was a horse with equine uveitis, an eye complaint in horses and another that was having a mare ultrasounded to check for a pregnancy. I also helped Dr. Katie with a lameness assessment on one of her own horses that had seemed a little lame that morning, this involved walking and trotting up the horse before and after a flexion test.
I have also been creating a horse profile booklet for future interns and other members of staff that don’t do feed run over the summer to use on feed run so that they can see which horse is which if there are any injuries that need explaining to the graduate students and Dr. McIntosh.
This involved a couple of days just taking photographs of the horses which was really fun as they are all very curious, especially Augustus the foal! We helped with the farrier one day which was a very hot day but was good to have a relaxing day hanging around the horses and telling the farrier about them. I spent the last half of that day doing a second weighing of the turf grass samples after they had been dried out in a 70ºF oven. The last thing we did in August was helped organise the MARE Center for a visit from councilwoman Comstock who was visiting on an agriculture tour.
As you can tell it’s been a busy couple of weeks and we’re loving keeping busy and learning new things!