Retired Racehorses to Participate in Texas A&M Study

More than 100 horses currently being cared for by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) will take part in a study at Texas A&M University that will attempt to identify genes in horses predisposed to fractures and catastrophic injuries.

"We're looking for some kind of genetic trait that may make the difference," said Jana Caldwell, a PhD student in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She is working with a team specializing in genetics, which is headed by Bhanu Chowdhary, PhD.

"It seems fitting that our horses at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation would find a way to give back," said Diana Pikulski, executive director of the TRF.

The Equine Genetics Laboratory will receive tissue samples from horses who suffer catastrophic injuries from a group of regulatory veterinarians throughout the country. Researchers will also look at TRF horses that did not sustain career-ending injuries in 30 or more starts. This is a blind study, meaning researcher won’t know which group they’re looking at.

"The TRF horses are all over the country and have been exposed to all kinds of track conditions,” said Caldwell. “We'll use approximately 170 of them in our study.

No organized studies have been carried out up till now to study the genetic aspect of racing career longevity. Hence, the team is undertaking this work with the long-term goal to identify genetic signatures that can help to predict which horses might be at higher risk of being injured on the track than others.

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