Research Funding

There are two different paths through which PfX projects can be proposed, refined and funded.

Industry funded projects

Any person, industry sector, business or partner involved in the Industry can directly propose a project. The aim of the project would be improved outcomes for that person or business or sector. For instance, scientifically investigating the cause of a particular problem affecting horse health on a particular farm, could lead to better prevention or treatment to alleviate the problem, thereby improving horse health and performance, reducing cost and improving profitability. The project is defined by the problem and its possible solutions. The person, business or entity funding the project gets the benefit of the results and their application, which contributes to their Research and Development strategy.

The party commissioning the project may be an individual, a small or larger business, or a very large industry sector. For instance, the NZRB has commissioned various projects (see below) to directly increase the possibilities of solving problems or reducing risks which are important to the racing sector. Many people are involved in that sector, so the benefits actually become more public than private. In contrast, an individual or business funding research into, for instance, a specific feed, drug, or on-farm situation most likely would capture the benefit, at least for some time.

Current industry projects

One of the major organisations involved in the partnering is the NZ Racing Board. It has funded 7 different multi-year projects, starting up in the first half of 2007 and all being completed by 2011. In brief, these covered:

  • Causes of foal loss. Foals dying in the first months of life will be examined carefully and the bacteria they are carrying isolated. This will allow better understanding of the causes of foal loss, more specific treatment protocols for some diseases, and recognition of the current infectious agents which threaten our foals.
  • Herpes virus in foals. One of the several herpes viruses in foals will be studied to determine if it may be predisposing young horses to serious bacterial respiratory diseases from other causes.
  • Drench resistance. Research into some of the parasite worms of horses will begin focusing on the problem of resistance of the worms to the drenches used to control them.
  • Greyhound disease and management. A national survey of greyhound trainers will provide data on what diseases occur in racing dogs, how often they occur, and how they affect racing. This should identify the factors which lead to sub-optimal health in dogs, and how to alter management to minimise or prevent the problems.
  • Reproductive failure in racehorses. In an attempt to increase production of thoroughbred and standardbred foals, data from many thousands of broodmares will be collected and analysed to determine when breeding failure may be occurring. This will identify the possible causes of production loss, and lead to specific work to correct them.
  • Wastage in the racing industry. Since the number of racehorses starting races in NZ is not increasing, two projects will concentrate on what is contributing to this wastage. One will examine reasons why many horses sustain arthritis in particular joints, and another will determine if conditioning exercise in young horses, before training begins, has an effect on the success of training later on, by reducing injury rates.

Specifics on details of these research projects is contained under the section on the website Projects Funded.

An animal remedies company has funded a large project on a combination medication. The company wants to know if the medication will reduce lameness in horses afflicted with degenerative joint disease, without causing any side effects in the horses. This multi-centered trial involves practising veterinary clinicians, Massey University staff, and a commercial research company.

Equine Trust funded projects

The Equine Trust concentrates on funding projects based on research grant applications in a two-step process:

An Expression of Interest (EoI). These EoI’s are then reviewed by the New Zealand Equine Trust Board and a recommendation made for submission of a full length proposal.

Full proposals (the second part of the process) are then considered and funding based on scientific merit as well as relevance of the research. These projects are “public” based on matters of high priority and national importance to more than one part of the equine industry.

Current Equine Trust Projects

Projects funded by the Equine Trust  include the following:

Manipulation of Connexin43 in tendon lesions
Tendon lesions occur commonly in racehorses and frequently destroy prospects for future athletic success. Many treatments have been proposed but not a single one has been shown to be successful. The answer may lie in the early events that occur after the tendon is injured. This project will study those events and determine if manipulating the proteins that connect tendon cells will result in better healing in the tendon. 

Change in bone and cartilage markers in blood of thoroughbreds in training
There are two distinct populations of 2 year old horses in training – one group which goes through training uneventfully and one group which suffers numerous withdrawals. This study aims to develop a panel of biochemical markers of bone and joint cartilage metabolism to determine if the horses that fail to progress have subclinical musculoskeletal problems at the beginning of training.

Impact-induced fracture of the equine third metacarpal bone
In the athletic horse the lower joint surface of the third metacarpus (the cannon bone) is the most common site of fracture. A widely held view is that frequent high impact loads can produce branching arrays of microcracks in the bone which eventually coalesce leading to catastrophic failure. This study aims to explore how impact-induced microcracks develop including the influence of training and early osteoarthritis.

More details (including abstracts) of projects funded by the Equine Trust are presented Projects Funded.

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