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Future vet hones her skills at Horse Park

Kisha Roach would be eye-to-eye with the Percheron horse if the mare wasn't about a foot taller than her. As 27-year-old Roach listens to the heartbeat of the Percheron named "Jewel" she is still, exhibiting the necessary air of confidence that she has learned during her time at the Ohio University Southern Horse Farm.

Roach is nearing the end of her time at veterinary school, and is closing it out with a bang, or rather, a whinny. She is under the tutelage of Dr. Mary Toothman, Director of the Equine Reproductive Center for OUS, and it's the first time she has taken on a student in this capacity in over a decade.

Roach was born in Akron and raised in California, but her mother is an Ironton native who had recently returned to take a position at Ohio University Southern. Through a friendship the head of equine studies at OUS, she helped secure Kisha, a graduate of Tuskegee University, the opportunity of working with Toothman, a fellow Tuskegee grad.

During her time at the horse farm Roach has learned the reproductive science of horses, checking mares for ovulation, inseminating them artificially, etc. She had spent little time with horses before working with Toothman, but the preceptor said that the future veterinarian already knows her way around a stallion.

"She's great, she could run this herself. She really already knows this, and knows the field," Toothman said.

Though Roach has had a lot of animal experience, she has mainly worked with smaller creatures. The sheer mass of adult horses has required her to adapt her practices somewhat, which Toothman said is one of Roach's gifts.

"They almost have the tendency to control you," Roach said. "But you have to be able to control them and not be afraid of them and lead them."

Toothman agreed not only that that confidence was necessary, but that Roach had it to spare.

"When you have that air about you, when you go in with confidence, they sense it, and so then they're OK with you," Toothman said. "She seemed to have that right off the bat. I didn't even realize she hadn't had much experience (with horses)."

Roach said she has enjoyed her time with Toothman and would like to someday work with horses in a more permanent scenario. In the meantime however, she'll head to Las Vegas to work with her first loves, small and exotic animals.

But, Roach said, there just happens to be an equine surgery center nearby, so it could just be a matter of time before she again finds herself almost eye-to-eye with a Percheron.