Increased funding for equine research is vital for the improved well being of our horses.
By The American Quarter Horse Journal horse health columnist Dr. Tom Lenz | May 13, 2009
The American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation regularly has panels of equine researchers to determine the future needs and directions of pressing health issues. Here are some interesting facts from a recent research summit.
The meeting was sponsored by groups that support equine research, including AQHA, which funds research through the American Quarter Horse Foundation. The 31 attendees included representatives from university research groups, research funding organizations, commercial animal health companies and governmental agencies.
The goal of the meeting was to prioritize the types of research that should be conducted, that is, specific areas such as laminitis (founder), colic, lameness and reproduction.
In addition, the group was challenged with finding ways to increase funding for equine research and to improve collaboration among the various organizations.
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Surprisingly, there are few researchers focusing on finding solutions to horse problems, and that number seems to be decreasing.
There are several reasons for this troublesome trend.
The first is that more and more veterinary students are opting for careers as practitioners, rather than staying in school to earn advanced research degrees, which may require an additional three to five years of work and study after veterinary school.
Part of the problem is that state funding has decreased for universities during the last decade or so. Therefore, nearly all students have a substantial loan debt at graduation, so rather than remain in college to earn a master’s degree or doctorate, they immediately enter the job market to start paying down their debt.
The other reason for decreased equine research at veterinary colleges is the shift from clinical research to basic research by many of the veterinary researchers. Veterinary researchers, in increasing numbers, are focusing on biomedical research using animals as models for human diseases or basic research where mice and rats are the primary research model, again due to a decrease in funding by the states to the veterinary colleges.
Unfortunately, the result is that fewer and fewer veterinary colleges are doing research that is aimed specifically at the horse and the diseases and conditions that adversely affect it.
The conference attendees discussed ways to overcome this problem and strategies to raise more money specifically targeted at equine research. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds little equine research, mostly focused on diseases that impact the national and international movement of horses.
The last portion of the meeting was dedicated to prioritizing medical conditions where the group thinks research should be focused. The group agreed that lameness (laminitis, arthritis, navicular disease, tendon injuries) was the highest research priority, followed closely by gastrointestinal problems (colic) and respiratory problems (pneumonia, flu, rhino, etc).
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There’s also a strong need for the organizations to collaborate in order to not only increase funding for equine medical research but also to find students to work toward becoming research scientists.
Because of the diminished role of universities in funding horse research, it becomes more important for us to donate our time and money to the American Quarter Horse Foundation to support research that will improve the health and welfare of our horses.
You can view a list of the equine research projects the Foundation has funded.
To support equine research: donate now.
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