Foundation Study Investigates Means to Avoid Caterpillar Contamination on Farms

The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation announced today that it is funding a study to be undertaken by Prof. Daniel A. Potter, a renowned entomologist at the University of Kentucky, to facilitate the extermination of Eastern Tent Caterpillars on horse farms before they can harm horses next spring. The goal of the study is to provide the horse industry with the means to avoid this infestation before any caterpillars or materials produced by them can be ingested by mares.

The caterpillars have been identified with the outbreaks of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS) which have caused hundreds of both early and late fetal loss in mares in Kentucky and neighboring states in the last two springs.

Prof. Potter and his team will be testing various types of applications, both to egg masses of caterpillars and to cherry trees that harbor them. This effort will seek practical solutions that horsemen can pursue that are effective in killing the caterpillars, while safe to horses and other environmental elements. The schedule calls for results of these tests to be available prior to the stages in the caterpillars' development that they are identified as threats to the health of horses.

"This study comes outside our normal grant cycle," said Edward L. Bowen, president of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, "but in this case we felt it is extremely important to do something to anticipate the return of the problem.

"Since the serious outbreak of MRLS two years ago, various research efforts have marched through stages of identifying the source. While final answers are being sought long term, it is clear that protection of the horses as soon as possible is paramount. Ways to destroy the caterpillars have been sought, and we see this special supplemental project of Prof. Potter's as a way to improve the odds in favor of the horse and horseman."

The project is estimated to cost $50,000. It is the eighth project which Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has funded addressing aspects of MRLS and resultant health concerns to mares. The projects have totaled approximately $300,000.

"Clearly, MRLS is one of the very highest priorities for horsemen today," added Bowen, "and the Foundation feels a strong responsibility to be proactive. We admire the expertise of the many scientists who have addressed this issue and who have come so far, and we hope this additional project successfully supplements existing knowledge in a way that allows farm managers to protect their horses from another outbreak in 2003."

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