Morris Animal Foundation's Equine Health Initiative

Horse Health Research from MAF Equine Consortium — Improving Horse Health with Veterinary Research
Morris Animal Foundation's Equine Health Initiative is our largest equine initiative.

Watch Video The Equine Health Initiative is the largest equine health campaign in the organization's history. The first project is the Equine Consortium for Genetic Research. This worldwide research project brings together the best equine researchers in a collaborative effort to improve equine health.

The Equine Consortium for Genetic Research is led by University of Minnesota equine professors Jim Mickelson and Stephanie Valberg, with a total of 32 scientists from 18 elite academic institutions throughout nine countries collaborating on the project's development and completion. The university will receive $2.5 million over five years to complete the project.

The research team will use the sequenced horse genome to identify genes and mutations that contribute to heritable diseases such as musculoskeletal disease, laminitis, recurrent airway obstruction, and bone disease. Because genetic diseases affect horses from every breed, this project has tremendous potential for preventing and treating diseases with heritable risk factors. The project will benefit the entire horse industry, offer new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to reduce animal suffering, and promote equine health and welfare.

To contribute to this critical project, e-mail Paul Raybould, Vice President of Gifts and Business Development, or call 800.243.2345.

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'Eyelights And Lowlights - '09 So Far

First, the 'Eyelights -
Without doubt, the highlight of this year will be the Inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the US.
the 44th President of the United States...Bara...

For me personally, an 'Eyelight is the outcome of my last visit to the ophthalmologist -  that my right eye is now clear of the virus. A viral infection in the eye is apparently Bad Business and can come roaring back if you're not careful. I'm still on a reduced schedule of meds and will see the ophthalmologist again in a couple of weeks
Meanwhile, the rash on my face is slowly getting better, but it's still driving me crazy. I guess I should put this under the Lowlights of the year so far...

Matt managed to make a heart bar shoe for poor Ami. It's been too cold so far to use his adhesive because it gets much too stiff to use in this @%$*&@%! weather we've been having.

A real 'Eyelight for me has been all the well wishes I've gotten from friends and strangers alike. Thanks All! I needed that, believe me!

Now, the Lowlights -

Of course, this attack of shingles has to be my lowest light for quite some time. Plus, the cold doesn't help at all. The rash is not as sensitive as it was, but my sinuses are, and we can't seem to get a break from this weather.

This was one of the coldest Januarys on record for this area, and February isn't getting off to a good start at all. Our high for today was 16, and the low overnight is supposed to be 0. It's supposed to be in the 40s by Saturday, but I'll believe it when I see it.

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Farewell, 2008 - and don't let the screen hit you as you go out the door

the last day of 2008 - finally. What kind of a year was it? The kind you never want to live through again. Just for starters...

National - 

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 13:  Executive Vice Pres...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Photo - Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer for JPMorgan Chase Barry Zubrow speaks during a hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill November 13, 2008 in Washington, DC.

What can I say? Total collapse of the economy seems to say it all. It's not  just the collapse, but the reason for the meltdown that really fries my eggs. All those so called financial experts investing millions, no billions, in instruments backed by, well, nothing. And never even checking to see what the basket into which they were pouring all of their eggs was made of. "Sub-prime mortages" - meaning a person who doesn't even have a job being allowed to take out a mortage - that's what they were made of. As I said, nothing.

Bedrock financial institutions going under, millions of jobs and homes lost... enough.

Then we endured the Election That Lasted a Hundred Years. Even though the election did turn out the way I wanted it to, I can't remember another election as nerve wracking, muck raking and downright infuriating as this one. John McCain, a man I used to admire, demonstrated that he would do absolutely anything to win, including nominate Sarah Palin - about whom the less said the better - as his VP. Can we sink lower next time? I don't even want to know.

Here On The Farm -

We're all still alive, so I guess I should be grateful for that, but otherwise, it hasn't been the best of years. Last January, Mike came down with shingles on his back, chest and down his left arm. He didn't end up with postherpatic neuralgia - for which we are profoundly grateful - but he felt absolutely awful for over a month, and still his a tingling sensation down his arm.

As I posted earlier, Ami developed a laminitis flare up on the clover hay we got this year, and we had to take her completely off it and buy some grass hay. She seemed fine, but she is having real problems on the frozen ground now, and we suspect that her feet were compromised in some way from the earlier episode with the hay.

Also, we still have a barnfull of the clover hay - that we can't even feed Indy because he gains weight overnight on that stuff - and are scrounging to find quality grass hay to get us over the winter.

Matt was here Monday to put a pair of "glue shoes" on her front feet, but both his tubes of adhesive - $25 each - burst their containers when he tried to pump some out. He had to make do with something else until he could get more. He was quite concerned with the additional damage to Ami's front feet that he could see, so we're doing the best we can until he can get more adhesive, and hopefully allow her feet to heal. Ami seems to be feeling better even with the lesser pad he put on her, so we're just hoping for the best. That girl and her feet worry me to death! It didn't help that this December had some bitter cold that we don't usually have until January.

Just to end the year with a real bang, a few days before Christmas I woke up with a killer headache on just the right side of my head. My right eye was very irritated and felt like something was in it. The headache got better during the day, but my eye did not. The next day, the headache was back full force, but the eye seemed better by afternoon. The third day, both the headache and the eye were awful, and we'd had an ice storm overnight.

I could hardly make it to the barn - my head was bursting and my eye was tearing severely. Trees were snapping and breaking all over the place - it sounded like we were in a war zone. Then the power went out. I ask you now, can things be more perfect? Oh yeah.

To make a very long story short, it was indeed shingles on my face, in my hair and in my right eye. This is no small matter, because one can lose an eye to this abominable disease and/or develop postherpatic neuropothy that can last for years or forever. I'm under the care of an ophthalmologist, whom I will see again Monday. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, I can only go out during the warmest part of the day to see the horses because the rash and headache are very cold sensitive. Below 20 degrees or so is murder. Gotta love it.

Happy 2009, everyone...

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Falling Back

If there is one day in the year that I can single out to be consistently depressing, it's the Sunday we go off daylight savings time. On Saturday it's sunny at 6:00 in the evening; on Sunday it's too dark to see at 6:00 in the evening. To me, it's awful.

This year, that Sunday was a nice day - the first in a while - and Indy and I did get in a ride. But, geez, it got so dark so quickly that we had to cut it pretty short. What a bummer. Indy seemed as disappointed as I was. We haven't had a chance to ride since then either, and it's very possible we won't get to ride again until spring. How dismal is that?

We haven't had any bitter cold - yet - but it's been cold and/or windy/rainy/snowy just about every day. The ground is squishy and torn up, so when it does freeze it will be hard as a rock with as many craters as the Moon. Just like last year. Oh, goody.

Of course there's never a dull moment with Indy around, under saddle or otherwise. For instance...

As Mike and I were going to the barn one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I noticed Indy munching the grass along the fence line. He certainly was enjoying himself with those big mouthfuls of green grass. Wait a minute! There's no grass like that along the fence in the paddock! Right. Indy was eating the grass on the outside of the fence, stretching his neck over the top of the fence as pretty as you please. This fence has a hot wire across the top, but we had shut it off while we were replacing part of it and hadn't turned it back on yet. It had been off for weeks, but Mr. Smarty Pants had finally figured that out and was munching while the munching was good.

So, of course Mike and I had to drop everything and get the fences hooked up again before Mr. Troublemaker pushed to old part completely down. Indy looked SO disappointed when he realized the top wire was hot again. Sigh. Sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do.

Another problem we've had this season is all that clover that was in the field last summer - which is now in our hay of course. We had to take them off our hay because Ami was having serious problems with her laminitis flaring up, and both of them were gaining weight so rapidly that they seemed to get bigger by the day. Great.

It's hard to find good grass hay around here. We have a round bale that Joe took of our back field that's good grass, but it's not gonna get us through the winter even if the guys are on a diet. We are still using a bit of our "candy" hay - for desert? - but not much. Ami is doing fine now, and Matt was just here and said her feet look good again, so we have to be careful with the clover to make sure they stay thay way.

Then there was Indy's foot - left fore to be exact. I'd noticed a small crack in the front part of the quarters and what appeared to be a flare developing between that point and he heel. When Matt picked up the foot, he said, "There's your flare," as we looked on in amazement - it wasn't the hoof wall that was flaring - it was the entire quarters flaring sideways from a big crack in the sole of Indy's foot! None of us had ever seen anything like it. Matt said he must have hit something really hard - really hard. His sole was fractured and only his bars and buttress were holding the side of his foot on. Matt said, "If his bars and buttress weren't so awesome, he would've lost the whole side of his foot." All that and I don't think Indy even knew anything happened. He's not taken a lame step - whenever it happened or now.

Matt trimmed of the "flare" as much as possible, and the foot looks great. And we just let it grow off. I just wish I knew that in the world he could have hit to hard as to do that to his foot. At least it's not bothering him.....

Here it is almost December, and the guys are still confined to the paddock. We are still having cold nights, but warm(er) and sunny days - today for instance is sunny and expected to hit 48 after a low of 19 overnight. So, all that green grass out there is madly making fructose while the sun shines. Ami would come up sore after one hour on that stuff. Sooner or later they always get out there, but his year may be later than sooner.

One more piece of news - I was reading one of my many horse magazines, and in the grooming section they suggested using a doggie slicker brush on thick winter coats - carefully of course. It sounded like a reasonable idea, so I tried it. Indy loves it, naturally; Ami hates it, naturally. Too bad she doesn't like it because it's lots easier on me than a curry, and it really gets through that thick hair. At least I can use it on him, and he's the one that wants to be groomed endlessly anyway. LOL!

It turned out to be pretty decent today despite the morning low of 19 degrees. Tomorrow night however, we're supposed to start getting snow lasting through Monday. We are under a winter storm watch from Sunday afternoon until Monday evening. Indy - the world's foremost Snow Man - says, "It's about time!"

As long as he's happy.....

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Equid Emotions and Laterality: Is there a Connection?

This is going to be an interesting thing to check out.

clipped from www.thehorse.com
Does your horse give "dirty" looks? Rather than trying to read his expression, you might be able get some clues about how your horse really feels about objects by paying attention to which eye he uses to observe them. French behaviorists reported that horses explore and process information about various objects differently, depending on the emotional importance of the item.

According to co-author Martine Hausberger, PhD, director of research at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique at the University of Rennes in France, "In the past few years, researchers have suggested that a link exists between a lateralized response and emotions in animals."
Read the entire article at http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=12599

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Debate over horse meat gains new life - U.S. news- msnbc.com

Horses being transported to slaughter at a now-defunct Texas plant.

The Animal Welfare Institute says these horses, including one with cut and swollen eyes, were among animals being transported to slaughter at a now-defunct Texas plant. Such cases illustrate the inhumane treatment of many horses destined for the meat market, the group says.
Dixie Wilson / ARTEX

Mike Stuckey
Senior news editor

The emotional debate over slaughtering horses for human consumption gained new life in Washington this week as a House committee approved a measure that would ban the practice nationwide and halt the export of U.S. horses destined for dinner tables in other countries.

While it’s unclear whether the Judiciary Committee’s Tuesday approval of the slaughter ban will lead to passage by the full House and Senate before the clock runs out on the current session of Congress, the panel’s hearings refocused attention on an issue that has motivated animal-welfare groups for years.

Horse meat in package, bought in a Dutch supermarketImage via WikipediaOutraged by what they say is cruel treatment of horses sold for meat, the groups already have succeeded at forcing closure of the three remaining U.S. horse slaughterhouses — two in Texas and one in Illinois — in recent years. But since thousands of horses are still exported for slaughter in Canada and Mexico, and many states have no laws that would prohibit the opening of new plants, the groups have been seeking federal regulation since 2001.

“There’s absolutely no way to make it humane,” said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute, one of the ban’s principal backers. “It’s an industry that cannot be regulated to make it humane.”

So the “Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act,” sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of Judiciary, and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., would make it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to possess or transport horse meat for human consumption or horses intended to be slaughtered for human meals.

A necessary option

But opponents of the law, including some cattle ranchers, horse breeders and veterinarians, say that the now-defunct U.S. slaughterhouses, regulated and inspected by the Department of Agriculture, were run in a humane fashion and provided a necessary option to deal with unwanted horses.

“From a welfare perspective, they’ve made things a lot worse,” said Mark Lutschaunig, director of governmental relations for the American Veterinary Medicine Association, which represents 76,000 U.S. vets. Lutschaunig said his group is hearing reports of a sharp increase in cases of horses being neglected and abandoned by owners who can no longer sell them at auction for slaughter.

Despite the fact that horse meat is widely eaten by Europeans and Asians, the vast majority of Americans have no interest in taking a bite out of Old Paint. Since no U.S. horses are raised for that purpose, they only come to the meat market as castoffs: old, sick, too unruly to ride or genetically deficient. Because horses are not regulated as meat animals, Heyde said, the process by which they are slaughtered is fraught with cruelty.

About 100,000 American horses are exported for slaughter in Mexico and Canada each year, roughly the same number as when the U.S. slaughterhouses were operating. There are about 9 million horses in the United States, according to federal estimates.

Harrowing stories, images

Web sites maintained by Heyde’s group and others contain harrowing accounts, photos and videos of horses being transported to the slaughterhouses. “Deprived of food, water or rest, the horses are forced onto double-decked cattle trailers” and hauled for 24 hours or more, according to the Animal Welfare Institute’s site. “Callous workers use fiberglass rods to poke and beat their faces, necks, backs and legs.” At one plant in Mexico, horses are “stabbed repeatedly” with knives in “a barbaric practice (that) simply paralyzes the animal. The horse is still fully conscious at the start of the slaughter process, during which he or she is hung by a hind leg, his or her throat slit and body butchered,” it says.

CONTINUED - page 2

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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra