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Month: February 2019

Meet Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinary Technician Brianna Ploskunak

For Veterinary Technician Brianna Ploskunak, 22, of Royal Palm Beach, FL, horses are a passion. But not in the way you may think. Raised by a mother who rode and competed, Ploskunak found an early infatuation with all things equine that eventually drew her to veterinary medicine. At Palm Beach Equine Clinic, where she has been a part of the team since 2016, Ploskunak is one of 30 veterinary technicians who manage the hands-on care of equine patients and support the veterinarians in all aspects of the day-to-day operations. She works directly under Dr. Bryan Dubynsky, who specializes in sport horse medicine within the bustling competition atmosphere of Wellington, FL. 

We caught up with Veterinary Technician Brianna Ploskunak to find out more:

What was your first introduction to horses?

My mom used to be a rider herself, so I grew up constantly surrounded by horses. She [rode] dressage for many years. I quickly followed in my mother’s footsteps and fell in love with the animal and the sport, although I never competed myself. Being around horses my entire life, I felt the need to do whatever I could to advance the health of each and every horse that I see. It means a lot to me to be able to contribute to their fast and healthy recovery. 

What do you enjoy most about being a veterinary technician?

The number one thing I enjoy about treating horses is being a part of their journey from start to finish. Nothing brings me more joy than to see a horse that I have been working with through their recovery return to the show ring happy and healthier than ever before. These animals never cease to amaze me with their way of getting back onto their feet after an injury.

What is your average day like at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

On an average day at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, I first meet Dr. Dubynsky to go over the morning appointments and gather all of the equipment and resources we need for the upcoming day. As we finalize our schedule, I work on completing all open items such as billing and inventory. We then prepare the truck to leave for the day and travel to a variety of different appointments throughout the Palm Beach County territory. Appointments vary depending upon the condition of the patient but often include radiographs and ultrasounds to injections and vaccinations. After we have seen all patients for that day, we return to the clinic and re-stock the inventory we have used that day. Lastly, we prepare for the following day by composing a new schedule of appointments and/or on-call horse show responsibilities.

Meet Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinary Technician Brianna Ploskunak
Meet Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinary Technician Brianna Ploskunak

What is your favorite part about being a member of the Palm Beach Equine Clinic team?

My future goal is to continue to learn from the many experienced veterinarians I work alongside every day and build my experience and knowledge in the industry. That’s probably my favorite part as well; working alongside such talented and genuine people willing to give me multiple opportunities to learn and grow as a professional. It’s very hard to find a group of superiors willing to go the extra mile to teach young employees. 

I have been able to experience some amazing things at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, including the intricacy of equine surgery and how the work of equine surgeons can bring a struggling horse back to top health. I really enjoy sports medicine because it’s not always sick horses – there is always something you can do to help the horse get back to peak performance. Whether it be radiographs, ultrasounds, injections etc., there is always something that can be done for the benefit and of the health of the horse. 

What can we find you doing when you are not at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

When I’m not working, you can catch me racing go-karts and spending quality time with my family, especially my one-year-old nephew, Elijah!

Palm Beach Equine Clinic to Sponsor $391,000 CSI5* Grand Prix at WEF

The world-renowned Palm Beach Equine Clinic, Official Veterinarian of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL, is the proud sponsor of the $391,000 CSI5* Grand Prix during “Saturday Night Lights” at WEF Week 7. 

Who: Some of the world’s most accomplished show jumping athletes. Once finalized, the order-of-go will be posted HERE.

What: The $391,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic CSI5* Grand Prix

When: Saturday, February 23, during “Saturday Night Lights” at 7 pm ET. Gates open at 6 pm. Free admission and $20/car parking.

Where: Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL. Directions can be found HERE.

In addition to their sponsorship of this week’s CSI5* Grand Prix and of the 3’3″ Amateur-Owner Hunter 36 and Over division throughout WEF, Palm Beach Equine Clinic also provides state-of-the-art veterinary care to the horses of both the year-round residents and visitors of South Florida. Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s technologically advanced clinic is conveniently located at the intersection of Southfields Road and Pierson Road in the heart of Wellington, just minutes from PBIEC, the Equestrian Village, and the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

The expertise and dedication of Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians is also available to all competing horses at WEF and AGDF thanks to an annex office located adjacent to the WEF stabling office on the PBIEC showgrounds as well as at the main Palm Beach Equine Clinic location. Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians are on-call daily at the annex office to assist competitors throughout the shows with diagnostic evaluations and treatments, as well as emergency and standard horse care needs.  

Cutting Edge Breeding at Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood

The process of breeding sport horses is ever-changing. Whether in an effort to produce the healthiest, most talented foals, to prolong the competition career of a mare, or make the most of a stallion’s longevity, reproductive science in horses has come a long way from the days of the traditional breeding shed.

Dr. Katie Atwood is a member of the Palm Beach Equine Clinic team, based in Wellington, FL, with a passion for reproductive work. She has used that passion to help Palm Beach Equine Clinic offer cutting edge breeding options all in the heart of the winter equestrian capital of the world.

I like the creating of life,” said Dr. Atwood, who is a Florida native and University of Florida graduate and currently pursuing steps to become a board-certified reproductive specialist. “Equine medicine is intriguing, but you’re dealing with sick, unhealthy animals. With reproduction, I am working with healthy animals and making their babies, which I love!”

The Future of Breeding at Palm Beach Equine Clinic

PBEC is a one-stop shop for anyone’s breeding needs, whether it’s a champion polo pony, competing mare, or full-time breeding stallion. Atwood and the team at Palm Beach Equine Clinic work tirelessly to improve their offerings, which currently include a breeding shed covered from the heat and inclement weather just like an indoor arena. Inside the breeding shed, Palm Beach Equine Clinic houses a hydraulic phantom mare.

breeding shed palm beach equine clinic phantom mare.
Inside the breeding shed, PBEC houses a hydraulic phantom mare. Photo by Jump Media.

“We can raise or lower our phantom with the push of a button so it can be the appropriate height for the stallion,” said Dr. Atwood. “Previously, we had to bring a tractor in to raise and lower the phantom. We also do not have to take weather into consideration anymore now that the breeding shed is covered. There is enough space and privacy for safe and convenient breeding on-site at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.”

Additionally, Palm Beach Equine Clinic incorporates the use of a SCA® CASA (computer assisted sperm analyzer) system into their reproduction work. An excellent way to improve quality control of a stallion’s sperm, the system evaluates sperm motility (velocity and type of movement), concentration (sperm count), morphology (sperm shape), DNA fragmentation (counting of fragmented sperm), vitality (live and dead count) and acrosome reaction, which is what ultimately allows the sperm to penetrate the egg.

From on-site experience to computer technology, Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers Dr. Atwood the opportunity to be at the forefront of equine reproduction, a place she has always strived to be.

“I wanted to come into a practice that had a developed program in place, but what is even more important to me is mentoring and teaching my technicians and clients about reproduction,” she said. “It is so important to make sure these techniques are shared and promoted for the continued success of veterinarians, owners, and most of all  the horses.”

What is Embryo Transfer?

The most popular wave of advancement that has hit the horse sport industry over the past several years is the process of embryo transfer.

Embryo Transfer Process:

  1. A donor mare and stallion, who hold the genetics of the future foal, are bred.
  2. At seven or eight days of pregnancy, the embryo is flushed out.
  3. A catheter is placed through the vagina and cervix, and an inflatable cuff on the catheter provides a fluid-tight seal.
  4. A lavage fluid with surfactin (added to reduce the “stickiness” of the embryo and allow it to be extracted easily) passes down through a tubing system into the uterine lumen. As the fluid swirls throughout the lumen and drains back out through gravity, it collects the embryo, which is swept back out. The fluid and embryo pass out through the tubing system into and through an embryonic filter.
  5. When the embryo is identified under a microscope, it is removed into a more enriched medium until the time of transfer.
  6. The embryo is shipped to a recipient farm where a young and healthy surrogate mare of decent size receives the embryo. That mare carries the foal to term, but it is genetically created from the donor mare and stallion.

Why Breed Through Embryo Transfer?

Cutting Edge Breeding at Palm Beach Equine Clinic Dr. Katie Atwood

While the process is fascinating, some may wonder why it’s necessary. According to Dr. Atwood, it relieves much of the concern owners have about sport horse breeding.

Advantages for Mares

“The gestation period for a horse is 11 months, so you’re only getting one foal per year when you breed traditionally,” she said. “This allows a mare to produce multiple foals per year, but it also allows that mare to remain in competition. This process can be done on younger mares with no interruptions to their competition and training schedules.”

Horses are now being bred at an ideal reproductive age while they are still in training, which is made even more valuable by the fact that advances in equine science has prolonged the longevity of horses. While 16 or 17 was once the age of an older horse, now it’s commonly seen as the age when horses are winning in the show ring. Thanks to embryo transfer, these horses can enjoy longer, healthy careers and still produce the talent of the future.

Dr. Atwood has seen embryo transfers become popular in dressage and polo, but she has begun to see it span all disciplines, saying, “At the start of the season, I had one farm and a few mares, but now it has quickly grown to several farms with multiple mares at each. It is really taking off because people now realize it does not remove their mares from competition.”

Dr. Katie Atwood - Palm Beach Equine Clinic sperm analysis procedure reproduction

Advantages for Stallions

The process not only keeps mares competing, but it allows stallions to cross continents. Frozen fertilized embryos from working polo ponies in the U.S. are now being shipped to Argentina where they are carried by mares and then trained by some of the best polo trainers in the world. On the flip side, semen can also be frozen and shipped to the U.S.

“Stallions are collected, the semen is placed with an extender and high nutrient base so the sperm has something to use for energy, and then cooled slowly until it is frozen in liquid nitrogen,” said Dr. Atwood. “Once frozen, it is theoretically good forever. Last year, I bred a mare with 1991 semen and she was successfully pregnant!”

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Helps to Bring Chinese Herbal Medicine West

Chinese herbal medicine is a relatively new treatment among equine veterinarians in the western world, but the philosophy of herbals for healing has existed for thousands of years as part of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). Helping to lead the Chinese herbal medicine charge westward, veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) have incorporated the use of herbs and herbal treatments as an integral part of their alternative therapy options for patients.

Similar to the use of all-natural methods to treat illness in humans, herbal medicine for animals also utilizes ancient Chinese formulas aimed at treating the underlying causes of a disease or illness to help the body heal itself, rather than only temporarily treating the presented symptoms.

One PBEC veterinarian who has found these all-natural methods as a benefit in her treatments is Dr. Janet Greenfield-Davis, who specializes in both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.

“There is an herbal product for anything,” said Dr. Greenfield-Davis, who found herbal medicine six years ago when she started specializing in acupuncture, which joins Chinese herbal medicine as two of the most common forms of TCVM therapies. “Herbals treat a variety of ailments from sore muscles to problems affecting the liver, heart, kidneys, joints, and more. I pair the herbals with my acupuncture, which is traditionally the ancient Chinese way.”

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) Methods

Chinese herbal medicine palm beach equine clinic

In TCVM, once a symptom of disharmony in the body or disease is identified, treatment proceeds through four possible branches, including acupuncture, food therapy, a form of Chinese medical massage called Tui-na, and Chinese herbal medicine. From topical treatments, including salves and powders, to edible treatments, Chinese herbal medicine not only draws on natural products, but also on the natural tendencies of the horse itself. Being herbivores, horses ingest herbs found in the wild while they are grazing.

While the traditional methods date back thousands of years, the treatments developed within Chinese herbal medicine are ever-evolving. Coupled with modern technology, historical and ancient Chinese wisdoms are still very effective. In addition, the treatments utilize the properties of many common herbs with widely known uses. By utilizing ginseng for fatigue, chamomile for calming, garlic as an antibiotic, and arnica as an anti-inflammatory, the recipes used in herbal medicine draw from only natural sources. This is making herbal treatments more common among sport horses that undergo drug testing for banned substances while competing.

“The competitive world is accepting herbal medicine more and more every year,” said Dr. Greenfield-Davis. “It provides an alternative for horses at high levels, especially in FEI classes, that need a little extra support. They aren’t drugs, they don’t test, and they are a natural product.”

Alternative Options

Dr. Greenfield-Davis believes that offering such alternative treatment options is a sizeable advancement for PBEC, in that herbal medicines provide owners with another option when traditional western medicines may not be their preference.

“It enhances our practice because it gives owners a place to turn,” she said. “There is a lot of stigma to using particular western drugs, and I think this gives people a choice; they don’t have to use the traditional western medicines anymore because they can now turn to eastern medicines.”

While it is a personal choice to use a more holistic or all-natural approach to veterinary care for some horse owners, herbs also represent a practical alternative. According to Dr. Greenfield-Davis, herbal medicine is the perfect choice when treating a horse with an aversion to needles, or for horses that do not respond to particular medicines or therapies.

“We are able to work in a more natural way instead of using steroids and things of that nature,” added Dr. Greenfield-Davis. “In some cases, I will use solely herbals and the treatments produce a lot of wonderful results.”

As PBEC continues to advance its alternative medicine therapies, the equestrian community is also learning to accept new possibilities. For PBEC and Dr. Greenfield-Davis, Chinese herbal medicine is a step into the future with a nod to ancient Chinese history.

About Dr. Janet Greenfield-Davis

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Janet Greenfield-Davis

Dr. Greenfield-Davis grew up in Northern California, and her passion for horses started during her time showing hunters on the “A” circuit, which later led her to study veterinary medicine at California Polytechnic State University. She graduated from veterinary school at the University of Glasgow in 2010 and has since specialized in equine acupuncture and herbal medicine. Dr. Greenfield-Davis hopes to continue her studies in holistic medicine by incorporating food therapy into her treatments at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

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