Caterpillar Prevention is Focus of New Study

Finding a way to rid Central Kentucky horse farms of Eastern Tent Caterpillars is the goal of a new study being financed by the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.

The foundation announced Friday that Daniel A. Potter, a renowned entomology professor at the University of Kentucky, will conduct the study that aims to provide farm owners with a way to avoid infestation. The caterpillars remain a prime suspect as a cause of mare reproductive loss syndrome, which caused the abortion of late-term foals and early fetal loss in hundreds of broodmares during the last springs.

Potter and his team will be testing various types of applications, both to egg masses of caterpillars and to cherry trees that harbor them. They are seeking practical solutions that effective in killing the caterpillars, while safe to horses and the environment.

"This study comes outside our normal grant cycle," said Edward L. Bowen, president of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, "but in this case we felt it is extremely important to do something to anticipate the return of the problem."

While Bowen acknowledged there are no final answers regarding the cause of MRLS, he said Potter's study should "improve the odds in favor of the horse and horseman."

The project is estimated to cost $50,000. It is the eighth project which Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has funded addressing aspects of MRLS and resultant health concerns to mares. The projects have totaled approximately $300,000.

"Clearly, MRLS is one of the very highest priorities for horsemen today," added Bowen, "and the Foundation feels a strong responsibility to be proactive. We admire the expertise of the many scientists who have addressed this issue and who have come so far, and we hope this additional project successfully supplements existing knowledge in a way that allows farm managers to protect their horses from another outbreak in 2003."