Rutgers Annual NAERIC Yearling Benefit Auction

Twelve Belgian/Quarter Horse cross yearlings will be sold on May 1, 2005, at an auction that will benefit the Rutgers Cook College Young Horse Teaching and Research Program. The auction will take place at the Round House on the Cook College campus in New Brunswick, N.J., and it will include eight fillies and four geldings.

This is the sixth annual auction of its kind. This year's crop of yearlings includes toveros, medicine hat Paints, sorrels, and chestnuts, many with attractive markings. Most are half-siblings or full siblings to horses sold in previous years.

The annual selection and acquisition of weanlings from a pregnant mare urine (PMU) ranch in North Dakota provides more than 30 students each year with the opportunity to train and handle young horses and to participate in a variety of research activities. The horses, which are registered with the North American Equine Ranching Information Council (NAERIC), arrive at the campus each September.

The students help with the research of Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate professor of animal science at Rutgers. Additionally, George H. Cook Honors students design and conduct their own research projects, usually looking at some aspect of behavior and/or nutrition.

These foals have contributed to the discovery of new and important information on the nutritional requirements of rapidly growing horses. Ralston's study emphasis has been on finding ways to optimize nutritional management to prevent developmental orthopedic disease. Ralston and her students also strive to obtain new information on managing prolonged (34-plus hours) transportation stress and preventing "shipping fever" in horses of all ages. (See below the studies these yearlings participated in during their time at Cook College.)

Beyond what these horses contribute to the students and to research, they also are great public relations ambassadors for the Equine Science Center and the Department of Animal Science Teaching, Outreach and Research programs at Cook College through the publicity surrounding the auction and Ag Field day.

This year rancher and professional auctioneer Rod Hiatt will lend his valuable knowledge to the event. For details, photos, and information on the yearlings, visit and click on "NAERIC Young Horse Program." To visit the horses or for more details, contact, or call 732/932-9404.

Studies performed with this group of yearlings have included:

  • A comparison of growth, glucose/insulin metabolism and behavior in weanlings fed a "total mixed ration" (TMR) cube ration versus those fed a "standard" ration of free choice hay, and a growth-formulated concentrate. The study began in mid-October. Results to date indicate that the TMR cubes might be a very good alternative for people who have trouble getting consistently good hay for their young horses.
  • A collaboration between Cook College seniors Steve Gotz and Elissa Lappostato (George H. Cook Scholar) and Tess Soroka of Princeton University investigating various indices of stress and the effects on behavior. Thanks to Soroka's mentor, Princeton's Istvan Pelczer, PhD, they will be using metabonomic (evaluation for changes in metabolite levels) technology to evaluate nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analyses of saliva samples collected from the weanlings throughout the year. According to Ralston, this is an exciting opportunity for the students to gain experience in an area that is on the cutting edge of science. Results to date suggest that NMR analysis of saliva might be useful in studies of stress and nutrition.

In March the horses will be turned over to the Animal Fitting and Handling course in preparation for in-hand showing on Ag Field Day on Saturday, April 30, and from there they will proceed to auction on May 1.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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