Equine volunteers needed for new, groundbreaking research

A new DNA test is being developed by the Animal Health Trust (AHT) to identify Thoroughbred racehorses with an increased risk of fractures – and they need your help.

All ex-racehorses entered in the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse qualifier at Bury Farm, Buckinghamshire on the 10th of June will have the opportunity to take part in this groundbreaking research. All it entails is the horse having a simple DNA swab taken, but the outcome for those racehorses who could be affected by fractures will be massive once the results are in.

At present 11% of horses in race training will sustain a fracture during their careers, and the goal of this research is to significantly reduce this number. The AHT have established a link between DNA and the likelihood of fractures in Thoroughbreds and the team are now developing a new test, which will identify those at risk. The test will be a DNA swab and to validate the test, the AHT are taking swabs from racehorses that finished their careers sound.

The AHT’s head of stem cell research, Dr Debbie Guest will be on hand at Bury Farm to take the swabs from those riders who are happy to volunteer their horses. “We are aiming to take a simple swab test from around 250 control horses who finished their career sound,” explains Debbie. “We’ll take the same number from horses that sustained fractures during their time on the track and then we’ll be able to compare.” The swab taking will continue at the qualifiers for the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse finals at Vale View, Melton Mowbray and also at Burghley Horse Trials.

Top race and, very recently retired show horse, HM The Queen’s Barbers Shop recently had his DNA swab taken as part of the control group in this research. His rider and producer Katie Jerram says: “We are delighted that Barbers Shop could take part in this valuable study. This new test will be brilliant for the future of British Thoroughbreds.”

Over the past 20 years, much has been done to reduce the number of fatalities on racecourses, including reducing the number of runners in some races and changing fence profiles. However, over the past 10 years the level of the fatalities has not changed. It is hoped that this research will help as it  examines the biological factors as to why some horses are more predisposed to fractures than others.

If you have an ex-racehorse who retired from racing with no known fractures and you’d like to take part in the development of this new test, please contact Debbie on Debbie.guest@aht.org.uk  

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HM The Queens retired racehorse Barbers Shop with Dr Debbie Guest. Pic credit SMR photos

HM The Queens retired racehorse Barbers Shop with Dr Debbie Guest. Pic credit SMR photos