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Emphasis on Species-appropriate Handling

Freie Universität Opens Equine Center in Bad Saarow

№ 209/2014 from Jun 05, 2014

The new Equine Center of Freie Universität Berlin was officially opened on Thursday in Bad Saarow with a formal ceremony and numerous demonstrations. The first of its kind in Europe, the new Equine Center will practice and teach reproductive medicine, horse breeding, and species-appropriate handling of horses. Starting with the coming fall/winter semester, parts of the new bachelor's degree program in equine science will be taught there. The director of the Equine Center is Johannes Handler, a professor at Freie Universität Berlin specialized in reproductive medicine and imaging techniques in the horse.

The 13-hectare site includes ten buildings besides stables and outdoor facilities. The state-of-the-art facilities were built with the welfare of the horses in mind. There are insulated floors and high-quality dividing gates in the stables, a 1600-square-meter indoor riding arena with covered access approaches for the horses, and covered threading machines in which four horses can move simultaneously. The facility also has lunge rings and riding arenas.

With the new Equine Center, Freie Universität will be able to significantly increase the range of services offered by the Equine Clinic: Surgery and Radiology of the Department of Veterinary Medicine in Berlin-Düppel. For instance, there is an insemination and embryo transfer station that is certified by the European Union. There are also additional services for horse owners, for example, horses, in particular, young ones, can be trained.

At the opening ceremony, Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, the president of Freie Universität Berlin, said, "The new Equine Center in Bad Saarow is an ideal complement to our Department of Veterinary Medicine." It is very important for practical training in equine science. Learning species-appropriate handling of horses is an important part of the bachelor's degree program in equine science that will be starting in October. Up to 30 horses will be kept in Bad Saarow for teaching in the block seminars and practical courses. Most of the students' time will be devoted to the ethology of the horse and the relationship between horses and humans. In Bad Saarow the students will also be trained on horse patients, for example, in the monitoring of births or in the treatment of diseases of the reproductive organs. Most of the lectures will be held in Berlin-Düppel.

The dean of the Department of Veterinary Medicine, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Zentek, stressed that the project opens up completely new perspectives for education and research. He said that having one location where veterinarians can work for the horse following the guidelines of humane education and species-appropriate handling while also providing veterinary training for students is pioneering and new in Europe.

Veterinarian Johannes Handler emphasized that species-appropriate handling of horses is the main objective of the Equine Center. As he said, "Many mistakes are still made when training young horses, whether they are being trained for riding, sports, or for breeding purposes. In our training, we take the approach of convincing horses to do something we want them to do." The goal is to communicate with the horses so that they learn to react to humans in the desired manner and to voluntarily fulfill the wishes of the trainer.

The property is owned by the Scharmützelsee Golf Hotel and Sports Facilities GmbH. The managing director, Ulrike Haselsteiner, who is the wife of the former CEO of the STRABAG construction company, Hans Peter Haselsteiner, said, "For me, it is important that education in species-appropriate handling of horses is based on good science." Freie Universität is pursuing this goal.

The recently retired dean of the Department of Veterinary Medicine, Prof. Dr. Leo Brunnberg, who had been the dean of the department for many years, initiated and led the negotiations with the Austrian patrons, Ulrike and Hans Peter Haselsteiner. He pointed out that the university's campus in Düppel does not have enough space to offer such a wide range of education and service options as is possible in Bad Saarow. No other university in the world has such an excellent infrastructure for veterinary medicine.

Further Information

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Johannes Handler, Equine Clinic: Surgery and Radiology, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 151 12673217, Email: johannes.handler@fu-berlin.de