Cushing's Syndrome

The Foundation funds research to find cures for this devastating horse disease.

This summer, the American Quarter Horse Foundation received a typewritten letter and $15 gift to equine research from 12-year-old Brianna Hogg of Burleson, Texas.

Here is her letter, an inspiration to all of us who love our horses and want to help the American Quarter Horse Foundation improve the lives of all horses.

To Whom It May Concern:

In the past month, I earned $15 by working around the house, and I would like to donate that money to equine research. My very first horse, "Brownie," recently came down with Cushing's disease while I was at my Horse Judging Camp at Texas A&M in College Station.

I started riding Brownie when I was 8. Now, she may never be rideable ever again, has only one eye (due to a fungal infection) and is a little hard of hearing (she's 23). So please put my $15 toward researching Cushing's or fungal infections. I now have another horse to ride for a friend until his exchange student gets here, then we'll share her for a few months until she goes back to New Mexico. It feels good to give to something that may benefit me later in life. I plan to go to Texas A&M and become a vet. Would you please send me some information about Cushing's, fungal infections, or where the AQHA research fund is cutting edge (in words I can understand, if it is available)?

Thank you for your time to send me information and for sponsoring ongoing research.


Brianna Hogg

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When the Foundation received this heartfelt letter, Director of Development and Advancement Services Chris Sitz called Brianna to thank her for her gift. After visiting with Brianna's mother, Nancy, Chris learned the story of how she and Brownie had grown up together showing, playing, parading and pasture playing. No one could mistake the fact that this horse taught Brianna every life experience she would need.

This is what Brianna told Chris:

When I learned that my horse, Brownie, was diagnosed with Cushings disease, I was really down in the dumps. She was my first horse, and I love her. It felt like it was the end of the world.

I was writing in my journal about how I felt and looked up and noticed the American Quarter Horse Foundation flyer on my desk. I decided to give my $15 of allowance that I have saved up to help horses like Brownie.

There are many sick and/or hurt horses out there. Just think if everyone had a drop of water and put it in a jar, pretty soon there would be a nice-size drink. My allowance is like that drop of water, but if everyone gives one, it will grow like that drink of water.

I thought about giving my $15 to the Foundation and decided that horses needed it more than me. This makes me feel really good inside.

The Foundation was saddened to learn that only a few short days after a visit to photograph the special duo for a marketing campaign, Brownie was humanely euthanized to end her suffering from complications associated with Cushing's syndrome. Our heart goes out to Brianna and the Hogg family for the loss of their beloved horse.

Keeping the Memory Alive

For so many horse owners who have shared the indescribable bond with an equine friend, the pain associated with that loss is never forgotten. Often, we find solace in small things like helping a friend with the difficult decision to end a horse's life, purchasing a special memento and even making a gift to an organization like the American Quarter Horse Foundation. The Foundation strives daily to improve the health and well-being of horses, preserve our history, educate future industry leaders and connect horses with individuals who need them. The Foundation needs your help to continue this great work. Every gift makes a difference, as Brianna so eloquently explained. We encourage you to reflect on your passion for the American Quarter Horse and donate online.

Cushings Syndrome

Cushing's disease, or equine pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), is one of the most common endocrine system problems in horses. Most horses affected by typical Cushing's syndrome are older (greater than 18) and can be recognized by the presence of specific signs such as laminitis, weight loss, excessive drinking and urination, and a long hair coat (failure to shed out at the end of winter). Other clinical signs may include chronic infections and infertility, increased appetite and abnormal distribution of body fat.

Unfortunately, there is no test currently available to identify PPID in its earliest stages, and it's believed that certain treatments could delay PPID's progression if administered earlier. Often, afflicted horses suffer from the effects of PPID while showing no outward evidence of it.

The first clinical signs of PPID are usually laminitis or infertility, but those conditions appear well before current testing methods can positively identify the disease. With your help, the American Quarter Horse Foundation can pursue its goal to improve the health and well-being of all horses by funding research projects related to the health, welfare and utility of the horse.

Projects are submitted from across the country by researchers and veterinarians who are on a quest to tell us what our horses cannot. Your support, combined with the scientists' education, diligence and discerning nature, is a formidable team.

America's Horse keeps you updated on the latest happenings within AQHA and the Foundation. Become an AQHA member today and start receiving this fantastic magazine that features practical training and health articles as well as personal stories of folks like you who enjoy their Quarter Horses.

Foundation Programs

    • Scholarships

Deadline for applications is January 2, 2009. Applicants will be notified beginning the first week of May 2009. A list of the 2009 recipients will appear in the July issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

    • America's Horse Cares

Deadline for applications is March 2, 2009. Click here for an application.

    • Equine Research

Deadline for project proposals was December 1, 2008. We received 53 applications. Applicants will be notified beginning the last week of April 2009.

    • Merle Wood Award

The 2008 award presentation is scheduled for Sunday, March 8, during the AQHA Convention. Deadline for 2009 nominations is April 1. Click here to make your nomination online.