As far as summer jobs go, Teryn Gilmet and Nita Hynes found themselves pretty good ones. The two second-year University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) students worked behind the chutes at the 2016 Calgary Stampede doing animal welfare research under the supervision of UCVM’s Ed Pajor.
Pajor, a professor in animal behavior and welfare at UCVM and Anderson-Chisholm Chair in Animal Care and Welfare, is recognized internationally for his animal behaviour and welfare research. He’s been conducting research on rodeo animals at the Calgary Stampede for several years.
“I’ve had my eye on working for Dr. Pajor for a couple of years, but I had no idea I would end up behind the chutes at the Stampede. It’s just so exciting,” says Gilmet. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had. You get to work in such a cool environment.”
First Stampede experience, boots and all
On top of everything, it’s Gilmet’s first time attending Stampede. The Edmonton native embraced the opportunity, even buying a cowboy hat and her first pair of cowboy boots for the occasion.
“I’ve never worked in rodeo before so it was a whole new world,” says Gilmet. “I was really impressed with the standard of welfare the Stampede has brought the animals up to.”
Gilmet’s research project focuses on the water usage of bucking horses after they perform in the rodeo, using cameras to monitor the animals’ water consumption. Hynes, meanwhile, is looking at differences in post-rodeo behaviour between the horses that performed and the re-ride horses that were prepped to perform but did not.
“They get the same sort of experience in the chutes but they don’t actually perform so we wanted to see if there’s any difference post event between their behaviour and the behaviour of the horses that did perform,” says Hynes.
After the show, the real work begins
Now that the Stampede is over, Hynes and Gilmet are analyzing the many hours of video recording the horses’ post-performance behaviour. Hynes says she enjoys scouring the footage and marking down the behaviours she observes.
“The footage is really good so we actually get to see a lot of detail. It’s interesting to see that the horses’ individual behaviour varies too,” says Hynes. “They manage their time differently in the pens.”
Hynes was only able to gather a relatively small amount of data, which she will use to develop a framework for future studies of this sort.
Gilmet and Hynes both say they hope to return to the Stampede to take on another research challenge.
“I have a really big interest in animal behaviour and welfare so I’m excited to be able to use my experience from this summer with a veterinary degree,” says Gilmet. “I’m really excited to see what doors that will open.”
For now though, the pair is content with a summer featuring front row seats to world-class rodeo — and research.
Source: University of Calgary