From left: Murray and Shirley Popplewell with Dr. Douglas Freeman, WCVM Dean at the grand opening of the Rae-Dawn Arabians Equine ICU and Foal Centre. Photo by Kyrsten Stringer.

WCVM opens new equine ICU and foal centre

A new centre that will allow equine specialists to provide the best possible care for mares and foals and other sick horses is now open at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

By WCVM Today

The new Rae-Dawn Arabians Equine Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Foal Centre was made possible by a generous gift from Murray and Shirley Popplewell, who are long-time clients of the WCVM’s Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) and its field service. The Popplewells donated $200,000 to the college to establish the facility.

“It is with great pleasure that Shirley and I can see the facility enhanced with the addition of this intensive care unit,” says Murray Popplewell, who delivered a speech during the centre’s grand opening on May 26.

“I have often said this [college] is the best-kept secret in Saskatoon. The average person does not realize the hours, days, weeks, months and years of dedication, lifetimes spent in research and development, the learning that changes students’ lives, the love and care that takes place within the walls. We as animal lovers know just a portion of this, and we are so grateful for this college.”

The Popplewells’ Rae-Dawn Arabians breeding farm is near Saskatoon, Sask., while a second operation is located in Scottsdale, Ariz., the epicentre of the Arabian show world. The successful breeders hire WCVM students for foal watch each year, and several students work year-round on their farm.

“The support of great clients like the Popplewells is so important — for the hospital and for the students in particular. They have a first-class operation that is really well run, really well managed. It’s a great place for students to learn about breeding farm medicine,” says WCVM Dean Dr. Douglas Freeman. “We’re thrilled that on top of all that, they’ve provided a gift to make the creation of this facility possible.”

The new centre includes four spacious stalls — all outfitted with oxygen lines, video monitoring and other tools for delivering specialized care. Two of the stalls are adjoining so a mare and her foal can be together during recuperation. The centre also has a small stock area for mares and foals along with direct trailer access to minimize biosecurity risks.

The newly renovated space brings together updated technologies and equipment, and a client area will allow owners to spend time with sick horses in the ICU. This new space will also be a place for clinicians and clients to talk privately without having to meet in the horse’s stall. These small details will make a big difference for clinicians and their clients.

“Having this space will make our work more efficient, allowing us to focus even more on our patients,” says Dr. Katharina Lohmann, a specialist in large animal internal medicine and an associate professor in the WCVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

“It’s about better care for animals, and allowing us to provide better care for clients.”

Clinicians say they’re happy to have the support of these successful breeders who are making the dream of a foal centre a reality.

“I think it’s fantastic that they wanted to make this donation,” says Lohmann. “They’re lovely people who really care about their animals and their welfare.”

Click here to read the full story about the Popplewells’ life-saving gift to the WCVM.

What is the Rae-Dawn Arabians Equine ICU and Foal Centre? 

The Rae-Dawn Arabians Equine Intensive Care Unit and Foal Centre is a dedicated intensive care unit for critically ill or injured horses in need of specialized and 24/7 monitoring. This centre will benefit foals, post-surgical equine patients and cases that are in need of long-term critical care. This new facility, which makes use of a pre-existing space in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, includes:

  • specially designed stock area for mares and foals
  • a nursing station with an observation room for 24-hour care
  • four larger, quiet and private stalls
  • oxygen lines, winches, power and vacuum plug-ins in every stall
  • built-in shelves and tables for supplies and storage for equipment

For more information about contributing to this new centre’s development and resources, contact Jennifer Molloy, WCVM Director of Development ( | 306-966-7450).