Name: Sydney E. Hughes

From: Lexington, Ky.

Degrees and institute where received: University of Kentucky, B.S., Animal Science

Sydney Hughes enrolled as a graduate student at the Gluck Equine Research Center when the opportunity arose to work on a project with Ed Squires, PhD, Dipl. ACT (hon.), director of the Equine Initiative and executive director of the University of Kentucky (UK) Gluck Equine Research Foundation,and Mats Troedsson, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, director of the Gluck Center and chair of UK’s department of veterinary science.

"I am from Central Kentucky, and after working in New Zealand and Ireland I returned to Lexington and was an assistant for Dr. Walter Zent (DVM, at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute)," Hughes said.

During this time Hughes met and worked with Squires while gathering information for her project.

"After meeting with Dr. Squires, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Gluck Center," she said.

Hughes' main research focus has been the athletic performance of Thoroughbred foals born to mares exhibiting signs of and/or receiving treatment for placentitis (inflammation of the placenta). She also is interested in the effect of reproductive status at the time of breeding and season on incidences of dystocia (difficult birth).

"We did a retrospective study on the performance of racehorses from mares with suspected placentitis in Central Kentucky," Hughes explained. "Many mares in the area are treated for placentitis; however, few studies have investigated the performance of their foals. The financial costs that accompany treating mares for placentitis include ultrasound monitoring and administering medications daily, so information on the performance of the offspring from treated mares would benefit anyone involved with horses."

Another study Hughes participated in, also involving Thoroughbreds, focused on risk factors affecting incidences of dystocia.

"We looked at the effect of maiden, barren, and foaling mares at the time of breeding on incidence of dystocia, as well as the frequency of dystocia early in the foaling season compared to later in the season," she said. "Asphyxiation due to dystocia is one of the leading causes of late reproductive loss in the mare and this study provided information on its occurrence during the foaling season."

Hughes has also done a side project on equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG), ahormone produced in the pregnant mare used as a medication for enhancing reproduction in ruminants and laboratory animals.  

"We investigated a means of increasing eCG levels in the pregnant mare by inducing twins," she said. "Increasing the levels of eCG in the individual mare could potentially decrease the costs of maintaining horses for the hormone's production."       

Hughes said she plans to continue working in equine research and is interested in investigating the effects of fetal programming and performance of equine athletes.

Shaila Sigsgaard is a special projects contributor to the Gluck Equine Research Center.

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