Researchers Focus on Safety for Equine Athletes

Four veterinarians took to the podium at the International Equine Summit, held in Lexington, Ky., April 28-29 to discuss research involving equine athletes. All discussed studies with which they are involved, with the ultimate goal of making competition safer for all equine athletes.

Panelists included:

  • Lisa Fortier, DVM, PhD, an associate professor of large animal surgery at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.,
  • Mary Scollay-Ward, DVM, associate veterinarian at Calder Race Course & Gulfstream Park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.;
  • Mark Markel, DVM, Ph.D., associate dean of the school of veterinary medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.; and
  • Nathan M. Slovis, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, CHT, director of McGee Medicine Center at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky.

Fortier focused on available therapies that could be performed outside of a hospital setting, such as bone marrow aspirate concentrate. This method uses the horse's own resource (bone marrow taken from the sternum) to treat tendon and ligament injuries. Fortier emphasized that everything heals better if you can treat it closer to the time of injury.

Scollay-Ward presented a study on tracking injuries at Thoroughbred racetracks and emphasized the importance of each track recording injuries and using standardized terminology to help identify markers for at-risk horses.

Markel focused on condylar fractures in Thoroughbreds. Condylar fractures account for 25% of all catastrophic fractures. He discussed how bone deforms when loaded with pressure and said the goal is to determine specifically what is happening that causes the bone to not hold up.

Slovis focused on thyroid endocrinology and the factors that affect thyroid levels. Slovis mentioned how important it is that people not jump to the conclusion that performance horses who can't keep weight on have hyperthyroidism. He also touched on foal affected by Rhodococcus equi pneumonia, and this condition's impact on future athletic performance.

"If they survive, studies have shown they'll be able to compete with their comrades," Slovis said.

Veterinary research on equine athletes continues to make great strides. According to Scollay-Ward, keeping the focus on facilitating collaboration between commercial entities, academic institutions, and veterinary practitioners will increase the pool and range of data available, allowing equine athletes to continue competing at the highest levels with a greater level of safety.

Read more about the International Equine Summit.

About the Author

Jeannie Blancq Putney

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