Peterson Named UK Ag Equine Programs Director

Peterson Named UK Ag Equine Programs Director

Peterson said his greatest passion is understanding racing and equestrian surfaces. Here, he studies the dirt track at Churchill Downs.

Photo: Courtesy Dr. Mick Peterson

Racing and equestrian surfaces authority Mick Peterson, MS, PhD, has been named director of the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Ag Equine Programs, the multidisciplinary program that serves as a gateway to all equine activities in the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, and Dickson Professor of Equine Science and Management. He will start January 2017.

In addition to leading UK Ag Equine Programs, Peterson will also conduct research on the biomechanics and mechanical properties of living tissues as they relate to musculoskeletal disease detection and prevention. His teaching responsibilities will include undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of biomechanics, instrumentation, and/or mechanics of materials related to equine athletes in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

“Since its founding, the equine programs at UK has become one of the premier equine programs in the world,” said Peterson. “The potential for future growth in teaching, research, and outreach is tremendous, which can greatly benefit the equine industry and the university. I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting program and look forward to working with a broad range of stakeholders.”

Peterson comes to UK from the University of Maine, where he served as a mechanical engineering professor. His research has linked traditional understanding of engineering mechanics and materials to the biomechanics of animals. His research emphasis has been on the manner in which dynamic response can be used to characterize materials.

During the course of his career, Peterson has worked on a range of equine and animal biomechanics topics, including the impact of exercise on bone density, the development of biomechanical models, durability of cetacean epidermis, the measurement of inertial properties of the equine forelimb, biomechanics of whale interaction with fishing gear, cetacean acoustic response, marine hydroacoustics, and equine gait kinematics on treadmills and tracks.

Peterson said his greatest passion is understanding racing and equestrian surfaces. Originating in work 20 years ago on a new medical imaging technique, this work has gradually grown from an interest in the effect of exercise on bone remodeling to a focus on applying concepts from manufacturing quality control to improved racing surface consistency for the protection of horses and riders.

“The fact that we are hiring our first full-time director reflects how the program has grown and evolved,” said Nancy Cox, dean of the college. “We are privileged to attract such a prominent leader to this position; Mick’s passion for the equine industry and this program is genuine and is matched by our faculty, staff, and students. We will be able to take our service to this signature industry to another level under his leadership and couldn’t be more thrilled by what the future holds for this program.”

Peterson collaborated with C. Wayne McIlwraith BVSc, PhD, DSc, FRCVS, Dipl. ACVS, a professor at Colorado State University (CSU), to found the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, a nonprofit organization that is supported by the horse racing industry and which provides research, testing, and materials characterization services for the industry.

Prior to joining the University of Maine as a faculty member in 1999, Peterson was an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at CSU and before that a post-doctoral research associate and instructor at Northwestern University.

Peterson earned his doctorate and master’s degrees from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute. He also completed additional graduate work at Yale University, Cornell University, and the University of Connecticut in material science, mathematics, mechanics, and signal processing.

He has had additional academic appointments and affiliations with the Swedish University of Agriculture, in Upsalla; the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, United Kingdom; and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

He currently serves on the Jockey Club Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Surfaces Committee and as executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory.

Peterson has published 80 journal articles, three book chapters, 81 conference proceedings, presented 67 additional papers at conferences, and has received six patents.

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