In 2009 the AAEP Foundation conducted a survey to assess the thoughts and opinions of the membership in defining and prioritizing the needs for equine health research. This followed an initial survey in 2003 to establish the needs for equine research and gather the necessary data to accomplish this portion of the mission. The 2009 survey was to see how the needs perceived by our members had changed.

Funding for answering important equine health questions is always in short supply, and a key element of the AAEP Foundation's mission is to act as coordinator of equine research and serve the industry by defining the greatest needs in the realm of equine health throughout the United States and around the world.

In total, 572 members finished surveys (88% in the United States, 6% in Canada, and 6% in other countries). When asked to rank the most pressing equine health care problems they faced and wish they had answers for by body system, members ranked the musculoskeletal system the highest from the choices they received (85%), followed by gastrointestinal (82%), respiratory (74%), endocrine (67%), and nervous (62%).

Specific conditions cited most commonly by AAEP members as needing research were laminitis (63%), colic (52%), arthritis (49%), tendon injuries (44%), navicular disease (36%), racing injuries (34%), suspensory ligament injuries (32%), foot problems (31%), OCD (osteochondritis dissecans, 28%), rhinopneumonitis (herpesvirus, 26%), recurrent lower airway disease (24%), and foal pneumonia (23%).

Members ranked technologies they thought needed research, with 1 as the highest need and 7 the lowest. Seventy-one percent of respondents scored horse-side laboratory tests 1-3, followed by regenerative medicine (64%), imaging (53%), genetic testing (39%), vaccines (39%), tumor treatments (33%), and other (18%).

Another significant finding was that 71% were willing to participate in research by recording data from specific types of cases and controls in their practices. The results of this study are to be shared with partner organizations, foundations, and the industry for their use. In addition, the AAEP has sent these findings to the USDA for its use in prioritizing equine research on a national level and evaluating the necessary appropriations to those projects. A critical audience for the results is the Equine Research Coordination Group (ERCG), which consists of all significant funding bodies and research institutions and is managed by the AAEP Foundation.

Since the 2003 survey, various ERCG members have funded studies (both in progress and completed) on such topics as laminitis, arthritis, and colitis. Participants are listed on the AAEP Foundation's Web site (

About the Author

C. Wayne Mcllwraith, BVSc, FRCVS, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, Dipl. ECVS

C. Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, FRCVS, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, Dipl. ECVS, is Director of the Orthopaedic Research Center, Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University, and a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More