Info Flow

When did we lose our way? How did it happen? What was the reasoning behind horse owners asking questions about health care, putting up money for research to find answers, then being ignored when breakthroughs occurred? I've been asking these questions for years, and there are no answers.

Oh, there are replies. And there are valid points made, the most reasonable of which is that without having academic peers review the science behind the research, any research, whether valid or not, could be put forth to the lay person. Therefore, anyone could do "research" and come up with "answers" to a problem that might or might not be scientifically valid, or even safe for horses. That is a strong statement.

Yet, why should horse owners have to wait sometimes two years or more for information to be published in a peer-reviewed journal before they have access? What if the Gluck Equine Research Center in Kentucky had waited until they had a cure for EPM before offering guidance to desperate horse owners? What if The Ohio State University had said they couldn't do any surgeries on wobblers until they were absolutely sure that there was no better way to treat these horses? What if breeders weren't told about CID in horses, and they continued to produce foals which died and horses which carried the trait to the next generation?

The answer to all of these is trouble and heartache for horse owners, their horses, and their veterinarians!

Sometimes breakthroughs in equine health care are made, yet they are reported in obscure or esoteric publications, sometimes in foreign countries. How long is too long to wait for that information to be transported, or translated, to horse owners and their veterinarians here in the United States? One sick horse is too long.

The Horse is striving to act as a conduit and a repository for this information. In a perfect world, once these papers were accepted by the peer-reviewed publication, an abstract, or the basic information from the research, could be put into the public domain so everyone can benefit. A simple synopsis, in lay language, that could be available to anyone, anywhere. Horse owners could look in one place to find the latest information about to be published on EPM, wobblers, or CID. They could find out who is doing the research and what that research hopes to accomplish.

Are a few words--i.e., when administering Daraprim to EPM horses, it should be given one hour before or two hours after feeding hay--of benefit to horse owners?

Of course they are!

Should horse owners or their veterinarians have to wait for a paper to be published on a topic, or a speaker to discuss breakthroughs at a seminar, to find out about these management or educational tidbits that could keep horses healthier, or even alive?

Of course not!

So why is that happening? Tradition. Because researchers need peer-reviewed publications in order to verify their work. They need peer-reviewed publications in order to advance in their careers. They need peer-reviewed publications in order to get funding to do even more research. But to get funding, they have to prove to horse owners and fellow researchers and veterinarians that their work has potential merit, and for that, they cite need in the industry.

Then the industry waits.

This is not to say that researchers don't share their information. They understand the need for practical, useful pieces to find their way into the public domain. They work hard for the people who own horses, and they deserve as much credit and funding as we can possibly give them. They work with the writers at The Horse and other lay publications so that we can bring that information to you as quickly as we uncover it. But it would be simpler for us, and them, if we had a "system" to work together.

The current "system" that nearly prohibits the researcher from talking about his or her progress until an article has reached peer-reviewed print needs changing. It needs a small side road for the information to find its way into that public domain quicker. We provide part of that road, but it would help if the road were paved instead of an unmarked path.

Not all information that appears in scientific journals is necessary to the horse owner, or even to the practicing veterinarian. Some research is necessary to enable other research to progress. A new lab technique, such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction), has been used extensively since it became available, yet the knowledge of that particular technique in and of itself is not of benefit to the owner of a sick horse. But it can be invaluable in helping other researchers discover the cause or cure of the sick horse's problem.

Researchers are territorial, almost as much as horse owners. They strive to unravel the puzzles in one specific field of research, or sometimes one small segment of one field, often for their entire careers. Breakthroughs are rare; discoveries hard-won. They deserve the credit they have earned from their work, and no one wants to take that away. We simply want to make the information easier to obtain.

We at The Horse over the next year will continue to work diligently to enhance our network of correspondents and news gatherers throughout the world in order to become the lay person's first resource when they seek information on an equine health care problems. We have an internet address (www.thehorse.com) on which appears a weekly news feed of equine information from around the world. That, too, will be improving to help on-line users get even faster horse health and care information.

We live in a world where information and knowledge are power...in our case, power to solve more quickly the illness problems our horses face, or to prevent disease. We will continue providing the information that becomes available from researchers to you as quickly as possible.

In whatever manner possible, we will work to promote better communication and information exchange between the horse owner, the researcher, and the veterinarian in the field. We urge you to continue your support of equine research in whatever manner you can, whether through contributions of funds, horses, or materials, or by way of notes and letters to the universities where this research is on-going to let them know that EPM, CID, wobblers, or whatever is important to you.

Communication works two ways. Let them know you realize their dedication to your horses, and ask for them to respect you by providing information that can benefit horses everywhere.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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