Cornell University Welcomes New Blood Donor Horse

Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA) welcomes its newest permanent working animal: Mike, a 9-year old Belgian draft horse. His job involves a lot of time off lounging outside. But a few times a year when emergencies strike, Mike will play a key part in saving horse's lives.

"He was originally an athlete, pulling weights for sport," said Kalli Anderson, veterinary technician at the Equine and Farm Animal Hospital. "But he was performing poorly, not eating much, and losing weight. His owners brought him to us on March 16, 2010 to find out why. We discovered he had arthritis in his front feet. The pain was probably hurting his appetite."

The diagnosis put an end to his sport career, but Mike's visit to CUHA proved to be the beginning of a new career helping the Hospital's equine patients for years to come. When Mike's bloodwork revealed that he had the right credentials for the job, the Hospital bought him as its new equine blood donor.

At the time, the hospital's former blood donor horse, Joan, was 28 and hospital staff had been looking hard to find a good replacement with blood type Aa/Qa negative (the equine equivalent of "universal donor").

"We were testing blood from horses from the equine park and research projects for years, hoping to find a good donor, but nothing was coming up," Anderson said. "When Mike came in, we got permission to test him. Draft horses have good antibodies, so we were hopeful. Mike turned out to fit the bill."

"He's still getting used to us, he internalizes and snorts a lot, and he's working through his fears," said Anderson. "He's a quiet horse, easy to manage and good for students to learn on."

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