By American Quarter Horse Foundation Manager of Programs Laura Owens
The American Quarter Horse Foundation is creating equine research opportunities whose results can positively affect all corners of our industry.
“Because I come from four generations of Quarter Horse owners and breeders, it is important for me to know I’m supporting horse health. That’s why I give to equine research.” -- American Quarter Horse Foundation Manager of Programs Laura Owens
Growing up, I remember helping my grandfather in the barn. I would clean stalls, feed and sometimes even help him "doctor" horses. On occasion, I witnessed some gruesome stuff, but one of the most confusing times for me was when his roping horse, "Badger" (Badger Joe Cat), developed heaves. I was about 8 years old when my grandfather told me, “Think of heaves just like your allergies, and aren’t some times worse than others?”
Equine heaves, also known as recurrent airway obstruction or RAO, is a chronic respiratory disease similar to asthma in humans. Heaves is frequently diagnosed in adult horses and is believed to result from an allergic reaction to dust particles such as molds that are often found in hay or in the barn.
Despite the high number of horses affected by heaves, the exact triggers for RAO and their sources are not known. When a new molecular method called immunoproteomics was developed, researchers at Purdue University conducted a study to determine how the process could help industry professionals identify the specific molds or fungi that cause heaves.
Through this study, it was determined that it is more important to know hay dust composition than how dusty the hay is, and that the same fungi can be found in moldy and good hay. Both hay types can trigger an asthmatic attack in horses with RAO.
“The Foundation grant allowed us to determine that RAO horses produced antibodies recognizing specific molds,” says lead researcher Dr. Laurent Couetil. “Hopefully, this will lead to the possibility of testing horses to find out what triggers their respiratory allergy.”
Researchers are already working toward the next steps and believe future studies should confirm the individual fungal species responsible for RAO attacks, which will help find new ways to test for and treat heaves.
All those afternoons helping my grandfather in the barn fostered a passion for our horse and his well being. Equine research is crucial to better understanding the issues that affect our horses.
Learn more about how you can have a positive effect on horses now and in the future, through American Quarter Horse Foundation-funded equine research.
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