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Science Corner

Horse gaits controlled by genetic mutation

March 2014

New research in Animal Genetics has revealed that a horse's gait is influenced by a genetic mutation spread by humans across the world. The team behind this new insight, led by Dr Leif Andersson from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, explored the distribution of a mutation in the DMRT3 gene. The DMRT3 gene, known as the 'gait keeper', is central to the utility of horses to humans, as it controls a range of gaits, including the pace.

New equine species discovered in Ethiopia

March 2014

Two teams of researchers have announced their discovery of a new species of fossil horse from 4.4 million-year-old fossil-rich deposits in Ethiopia. Scott Simpson, professor of anatomy at Case Western Reserve University and co-author of the research, says the finding of this "horse fills a gap in the evolutionary history of horses".

Earlier and more reliable detection for horses with PPID

February 2014

New guidelines developed by the Equine Endocrinology Group (EEG) will assist with early and reliable detection of Cushings in horses. Cushings disease, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) affects the pituitary gland and is associated with elevated levels of hormones in the blood. A condition more common in older horses, those with PPID have a wide range of clinical signs depending on the stage of the disease, from loss of energy and excessive hair growth to muscle wasting.

Understanding Early Pregnancy Loss

October 2013

Researchers have long grappled with why a considerable number of pregnancies fail to progress beyond the first five weeks. While the explanation is still unclear, recent research from Christine Aurich's team at the University of Vienna suggests the mare's immune system may be an underlying factor. This research from the Vetmeduni's Centre for Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer, recently released in the journal Reproduction, Fertility and Development, marks the next step in understanding how mares can reach full term.

Selenium and the Immune System

October 2013

A new study investigating the effects of selenium on the immune system of adult horses has recently been released in the Journal of Animal Science. Led by Dr Laurie Lawrence, animal science professor at the University of Kentucky, this research marks the first extensive study into the effects of different selenium levels in horses. While selenium levels are considered higher in Australia than in some European countries and New Zealand, it is lower than in other countries such as Norway, Japan and Canada.

Is your horse in the mood to learn?

July 2013

Behaviour scientists say that learning processes are universal and just like all beings, horses can be trained, or more precisely they learn to modify their behaviour by three distinct processes: trial and error (operant conditioning); association (classical conditioning); and getting used to things (habituation). They named these the Principles of Learning, or Learning Theory; an apt name because as many horse people will tell you, they may work perfectly in theory, but turn out to be a lot more complex to put into practice.

New research shows equine lameness can be measured

June 2013

  For many years, opinions on the value of flexion tests in assessing equine lameness have been divided but now new research looks set to turn what has always been regarded as a subjective process into a wholly objective one. The comprehensive study, recently published in Equine Veterinary Journal’s (EVJ) in partnership with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, has shown that a wireless, inertial sensor-based system can effectively measure the horse’s response to a flexion test.

How accurate is thermography of horse's legs?

May 2013

Since its introduction fifty or so years ago, thermography has been increasingly used by vets to pinpoint the cause of lameness in horses.  The method is fast and safe and is based on a simple idea.  The horse’s body surface emits infrared radiation that can be detected by an infrared camera, which is both easy and inexpensive to use.  

Gluten Sensitivity in Sport Horses

January 2013

  Apr. 30, 2012 — Chronic inflammatory small bowel disease has an increased prevalence in sport horses. The disorder is associated with intermittent colic, weight loss, poor performance and anemia. Chronic inflammatory small bowel disease (ISBD) seems to have a predominance in dressage horses, but its exact cause is unknown to date.   Researchers of the Free University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University in the Netherlands have now identified gluten sensitivity as a potential cause of equine chronic inflammatory small bowel disease in sport horses.  

Survival of the Females: Horse Embryo Study Provides Important New Information

January 2013

Dec. 18, 2012 — It is well known that many mammals are able to adjust the ratio of male and female young depending on the surrounding conditions at the time of conception but how precisely this is accomplished remains a matter for debate. A recent study in the group of Christine Aurich at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has provided important information on how the survival of female embryos may be enhanced under conditions that would otherwise tend to favour the birth of males. The work is published in the journal Theriogenology.  

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