Monday, September 28, 2009

Method developed to diagnose overtraining syndrome.

Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands have succeeded in diagnosing equine overtraining syndrome by measuring nocturnal growth hormone secretion.

Dr Ellen de Graaf-Roelfsema and colleagues conducted the study in conjunction with researchers at Maastricht University, the Free University of Brussels and the University of Virginia (USA).

The study involved twelve Standardbred geldings (average 20 months old) - trained in pairs. Both horses in the pair were managed identically apart from their exercise regime. One was trained normally, the other received an intensified training schedule.

“The intensively trained group clearly showed a loss of performance, indicative for over-reaching or maybe even over training.” Dr Graaf-Roelfsema reports.

"We were able to distinguish between overtrained and control horses by evaluation of their nocturnal GH secretion pattern. However, it is a very labor intensive method and not very practical to use for the individual patient. We are working on that right now."


Friday, September 25, 2009

Search for new approach to equine stereotypies.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer CEVA Animal Health is looking to develop an equine pheromone to be used in the control of stereotypies, and is asking horse owners for help.

Pheromones are substances secreted by the body that have an effect on the behaviour of other animals of the same species. Lactating female mammals release substances called appeasing pheromones. Their function is to calm, and provide reassurance to the offspring, especially in unknown situations. They contribute to the foal bonding with the mare.

Equine appeasing pheromone has been shown to help calm horses in stressful situations. Could it also have a place in modifying stereotypies such as weaving and cribbing?

CEVA Animal Health already markets behaviour modifying produtcs based on pheromones for cats and dogs. These products reproduce natural pheromones that provide a feeling of comfort and help prevent or reduce stress-related behaviours such as urine spraying in cats and firework fears in dogs.

The company is working in partnership with the University of Nottingham’s Veterinary School to carry out initial research in the UK. They are asking owners of horses that display any type of stereotypical behaviour such a crib biting, weaving or box walking to complete a simple online survey about their horse and their management regime.

Liz Mossop BVM&S MRCVS at Nottingham Vet School said “Equine stereotypical behaviour, such as crib biting and weaving, is a difficult problem to manage for many owners. Nottingham Vet School is delighted to be involved with this project which should help to provide some new ideas and answers for both owners and the veterinary surgeons dealing with their horses and ponies. Pheromones have been shown to be very effective in supporting behaviour management of dogs and cats and we hope that an equine pheromone would prove equally useful.”

If you would like to take part please go to and click on the survey link. It should take no more than 15 minutes of your time to complete the survey and your involvement would be very much appreciated.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Iris scanning to identify horses.

Tattoos, brands, passport pictures and microchips may all become obsolete if a project to develop a portable iris scanner for horses is successful.

In the future, it could be that all a horse has to do to have its identity confirmed would be to glance at an iris scanner. The technology is already up and runnning for use in people. Airports throughout the world have started using iris cameras for passenger screening and immigration control as an alternative to checking passports.

The iris has a delicate pattern and, like a fingerprint, each one is unique. No two individuals have the same iris patterns - not even identical twins.

The Sarnoff Corporation has been commissioned to develop the first portable equine iris capture and identification system to help identify and track horses.

Mark Clifton, Sarnoff Corporation’s Vice President for Products and Services, said that the system would allow users to identify horses quickly and accurately, and without undue stress on the animal.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding Seminar

I have just received news of the programme for this year's Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding Seminar, which will be held at Cheltenham Racecourse on 12th November.

The Seminar presents the latest research and thinking on horse health and welfare. It offers owners, trainers and breeders the chance to hear about the latest scientific work and learn how the findings can be applied to the day-to-day management of their horses.

Although it is aimed at Thoroughbred breeders and trainers, most horse owners will find the information relevant and useful.

The morning session looks at infectious diseases. Professor Jose Vasquez-Boland discusses advances in understanding Rhodococcus equi - the cause of a particularly troublesome pneumonia in foals. Professor Jacqui Matthews considers the growing problem of anthelmintic resistance.

The morning finishes with a veterinary student, deemed to be a rising star in the field of equine research, giving a short presentation of their recent project.

In the afternoon, attention turns to jet lag and how it affects the horse's performance. Dr Domingo Tortonese explains the work carried out at Bristol University. Dr Richard Piercy will consider practical and state of the art approaches to diagnosis and treatment of setfast and other muscle disorders. The final speaker, Professor Stephen May, describes the use of the different imaging techniques used to resolve complex musculoskeletal problems.

There is plenty of opportunity to ask questions during the day including, just before lunch, an "Ask the panel" session, which is always lively and often contentious.

For more details see:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Welfare of European horses transported for slaughter.

A recent study highlights concerns about the welfare of horses transported long distances by road for slaughter.

The study was carried out between March and September 2008. Groups of horses were inspected in Romania before being transported to Italy. Other horses were inspected on arrival at slaughterhouses in Italy. A few horses were observed both before and after transportation.

Many of the horses observed in the study, either at the start of their journey, or on arrival at the slaughterhouse, showed evidence of poor health and welfare.

The researchers observed 1519 horses being loaded onto lorries in Romania. They judged that fourteen percent of the animals were not fit to travel in accordance with EU Council Regulation 1/2005 on the Welfare of Animals during Transport. Both recent and long-term injuries were seen. Lameness was common.

1271 horses were observed on arrival in Italy. Of those, the observers considered that 37% were not fit to travel. Many horses showed clear signs of disease, including coughing and nasal discharge, which would have rendered them unsuitable to enter into the human food chain. One in 3 had recent injuries that were likely to have arisen on the journey.

More details...