Commentary: Horse Health Research Needs Funding

Research is an important, but not always visible, part of the horse industry. Basic research is often conducted in laboratories away from horse farms and racetracks. However, results from basic research are frequently the starting point for clinical research discoveries used in veterinary practices all over the world.

The Department of Veterinary Science at the University of Kentucky (UK) has a history of more than 100 years of basic and clinical equine research. We have a strong tradition of working with veterinary practitioners and horse owners/ managers to address health concerns in horses. Vaccines for six of the 10 most common equine diseases were developed at UK. Research in response to infectious disease outbreaks, abortions, parasite problems, and fertility problems has provided important solutions to equine health problems. These UK accomplishments could not have been possible without strong support from the horse industry.

The Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center is today a state-of-the-art facility, with more than 20 active research faculty who dedicate 100% of their time to equine research. Comprehensive research programs in infectious diseases and immunology, genetics and genomics, musculoskeletal science, parasitology, reproductive health, and pharmacology/ toxicology are generating new knowledge that helps veterinary clinicians provide the best care for horses.

Human medical research is funded through federal and state tax dollars as well as many charitable, well-funded foundations. Research on horses is also important but is poorly supported. Almost no federal or state funds have been set aside for equine research. Equine researchers are dependent on support from private sources, horse organizations, and other groups to improve the health and well-being of horses. The total research funds available in North America from the major research contributors (the Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation, the American Quarter Horse Association, and the Morris Animal Health Foundation) is less than research dollars received by many individual departments at medical schools around the world.

Additional funding for equine research is therefore necessary. During the difficult financial times we currently face, charitable gifts are declining. However, equine health problems are not taking a break. In order to not fall behind, we need to bring together horse owners, breeders, managers, veterinarians, and others with an interest in horses to sufficiently fund research on equine health-related issues at universities and research centers.

Research has a central role in the health and well-being of horses. Financial gifts in support of that research help build a strong foundation for healthier horses, improved safety for the athletic horse, and protection against infectious diseases when horses are transported locally or internationally. Thank you for your continuing support.

For information about the Gluck Equine Research Center and making gifts to support research, visit the Web site at ca.uky.edu/gluck.   

Contact: Dr. Mats Troedsson; 859/257-4757; Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center; University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.

This is an excerpt from Equine Disease Quarterly, funded by underwriters at Lloyd's, London, brokers, and their Kentucky agents.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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