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Laminitis Research

Funding equine-related research, including that of laminitis, is no small order, so the American Quarter Horse Foundation has stepped up to the plate.

The American Quarter Horse Journal
September 4, 2013

Laminitis research story in the September American Quarter Horse Journal

Get down in the dirt with laminitis findings funded by the American Quarter Horse Foundation in "Hoofing the Cost of Research" in the September American Quarter Horse Journal. (Journal photo)

It takes approximately a quarter of a million dollars to train one Ph.D. student for five years. And while universities might have laboratory space, they don’t have the money to fund the research. Scientists have to find grants and other sources to pay for studies and the people to do the work.

“The funding is critical,” said Samuel Black, a Ph.D. and veterinary professor at the University of Massachusetts. “Research is expensive, and without support, it just cannot be done. There is no hardwired money in the educational system to support research. All of it is generated by competitive grant writing and federal resources. Universities don’t cover the costs of paying students’ salaries – graduate students’ or technicians’ salaries.”

Black was recently interviewed for an article in the September 2013 edition of The American Quarter Horse Journal on the research he and his team have been doing on laminitis.

He estimates that a graduate student’s stipend, or salary, is approximately $22,000 a year in addition to fringe benefits such as health and employment benefits and approximately $15,000 in renewable expenses and resources to do experiments.

“So it costs $50,000 per student per year to do Ph.D. research and a quarter million dollars to graduate one,” he said. “The only federal resource that is devoted to equine research currently is the USDA through NIFA, which is the food and agricultural organization, and we are lucky that they are still funding laminitis research because there’s a strong push to have funding largely directed toward food animals.

“The number of funding agencies supporting horse research per se and laminitis research in particular is very, very small compared, for example, to the amount of money that is spent to study cancer immunology or cancer molecular biology,” he added. “It’s a drop in the ocean and yet progress, I think, has been remarkable by the relatively small number of investigators in this field.”

The American Quarter Horse Foundation provided money for Black’s laminitis research.

AQHA’s commitment to improving horse health through research began at the 1960 AQHA Convention in Amarillo. Following a presentation to members that described several diseases threatening the horse industry, the AQHA Equine Research Committee was formed with a $20,000 budget.

The first grant, a $10,000 award to Texas A&M University to study equine parasites, ultimately led to today’s medications that control parasites in horses.

More than a half century later, AQHA and the American Quarter Horse Foundation continue to be dedicated to help all horses through scientific research, and more than $9 million in research grants has been awarded to colleges and universities, thanks to generous tax-deductible donations from AQHA members and corporate sponsors.

Among the notable discoveries or advancements achieved through Foundation research funding are:

  • Immunizations of horses
  • Validated the diagnosis of equine infectious anemia
  • Anatomical and functional consequences of tail alterations 
  • Discovery of the cause of hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, development of a specific DNA test for HYPP and recommendations for management of horses afflicted with HYPP 
  • Established the feasibility of using DNA markers for routine parentage verification 
  • Use of cloned gene products in diagnosis and vaccination of “Potomac Horse Fever” 
  • Discovery of the cause of hereditary regional dermal asthenia, also known as hyperelastosis cutis, and development of a DNA test for HERDA 
  • Discovery of the cause of polysaccharide storage myopathy and glycogen branching storage deficiency, development of a diet to manage tying up and creation of a DNA test for both GBED and PSSM.

A list of current studies funded by the Foundation can be found at www.aqha.com/foundation, along with information on the other programs offered by the Foundation.

To learn more about the breakthroughs that have been made in laminitis research, be sure to read “Hoofing the Cost of Research” in the September issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

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