The trip of my life and the greenest place on earth with my Equine Program

Maggy B.
Equine study abroad students learning equine anatomy

Maggy B. participated in Equine Study Abroad Program in Scotland in the Summer of 2022.

Scotland is just beautiful

Upon my arrival in Scotland, I concluded that my surroundings were some of the most lush and green countryside I had ever seen. The hillsides were decorated with tall waving grasses, purple thistles, and mossy rocks. It was some of the most breathtaking scenery I had the pleasure of witnessing. The air was fresh, and the clouds were low. I felt like I was in a movie or something you see on a desktop computer screensaver. The beautiful countryside was only the beginning of the beauty and wonder I had the joy of observing in this lovely country.

Learning to ride with my equine program

My favorite part of this trip abroad was the actual equine program. The other students and I were each introduced to our own horses to properly tack, ride, and take care of. This was an amazing experience as I had not had a lot of equine experience. Prior to this program, I had basic riding experience, that being four total times on a horse and none of this past experience was English riding. The riding program started out slow with basic expectations and then was tailored to each rider’s respective talents in riding. I felt comfortable with the process and never felt like I was pushed too far too fast.

I feel as if I have learned very important riding and husbandry techniques that can be applied back home in the states. This program allowed for a range of experiences, and I feel as if I learned a lot about equine physiology, anatomy, and fitness. Specifically, with equine fitness, I feel like I have grown in the basic care and considerations to take into account when having or treating horses.

Maggy and Rab in the stables on campus after riding
Maggy and Rab in the stables on campus after riding

Equine Study Abroad in Scotland

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Learning about equine anatomy and sciences

For example, one assignment we covered was to ascertain whether a specific horse was physically fit by observing the body condition score, muscling, tone, and fat deposits present in key areas of the body. The fitness assignment consisted of observing a specific gelding during the first week of classes. I was tasked with watching his respirations, heart rate, and exercise recovery. All these signifiers are used to determine whether a horse is in peak fitness or if they are overweight and under fitness.

After observing the horse in the first week, the gelding is put on an exercise regimen meant to increase his level of fitness. This regimen includes trotting, walking, hacking, pasture work, and light cantering. This regimen is fitted to each specific horse when they need to work on their levels of fitness. At the end of the third week of the trip, students are asked to observe the same gelding after he participated in his exercise regimen. I was supposed to see a marked improvement in fitness in the way of a decreased heart rate, faster recovery time, decreased fat deposits, and decreased respiration. The instructors taught us that these marked changes in physical behavior were meant to show an increase in fitness and therefore health.

In addition to observing fitness, anatomy and physiology complemented the other class quite well as I would recognize the areas of the body losing fat and which muscles gained tone and depth. This internship has really grown my career aspirations because it allowed me to get more hands-on knowledge of equine husbandry, care, medicine, and nutrition. This knowledge is crucial to my profession as I was a pre-veterinary student upon application and during traveling was a first-year veterinary student. The hours and experiences I had the pleasure of participating in count towards hours I need for hands-on equine care for vet school. Also, upon acceptance into vet school you are urged to gain more experience to discern what type of medicine you are interested in pursuing.

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Learning about the competition side of equine

This trip allowed me to explore the possibility of equine medicine in the industry. For example, I traveled to “the competition yard” where I was shown how horses are trained for racing and how medicine and physiology play a hand in this training. I observed a water treadmill training session between two different horses. I was able to see the benefit of resistance training and how the muscles work together to propel the horse forward. This knowledge is immensely important in understanding not only horses, but the industry I will work in should I choose to pursue equine medicine. This type of experience is hard to find, I was lucky to receive the opportunity and grow my professional experience and interest.

Exploring my new environment, learning about myself, and advice

Not only did this opportunity grow me as a student and a professional but also as a traveler. At the conclusion of each class at 4:00 pm, I had the afternoons and evenings to do as I pleased. I explored the city, went up the countryside, visited the coast, and dined in pubs- experiences I would be hard pressed to find in the US. I learned bus timetables, train station schedules, and how to properly hail a cab. I used every single transportation system that Scotland had to offer. Now I can tell myself, if you can navigate three busses and a train to get to the highlands you can make it across campus to your 8:00 am class.

Equine candidate travels into the highlands to the Eilean Donan Castle

Maggy travels into the highlands to the Eilean Donan Castle

I gained confidence, respect, patience, and foresight with this trip. These are qualities that are not teachable only learned. What better way to learn these valuable life traits than to go abroad to Edinburgh Scotland? Some advice I would lend the next travelers would be to keep an open mind. Get out of the dorm room the first week and embrace the fact that you are a continent away from home. Take advantage of the staples of the country. Learn the customs, breathe the air, talk to the locals, ask questions, make mistakes, and above all enjoy yourself. Not everybody gets these opportunities, and it is your duty to make the most of your time. You can do anything you want to do. Go where your feet point you and embrace the country for there will never be another time like this in your life.

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