The Importance of Equine Research
Roy Jackson - Thoroughbred Owner
Ogden Mills Phipps: It's hard to talk about health and welfare of horses without thinking of the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro.
His sudden rise to fame and his subsequent eight-month struggle for survival endeared this colt and his connections to racing fans, horse lovers and the general public the world over.
In good times and bad, Roy and Gretchen Jackson graciously shared Barbaro and his story with the world.
They have been widely admired goodwill ambassadors for our sport, and they have generously given much back to the sport over the past 30 years.
They will be honored tomorrow night when the New York Turf Writers Association presents them with the Alfred Vanderbilt Award as the people who did the most for racing in 2006.
Roy is with us today and he's going to spend a few minutes talking about the Barbaro experience, laminitis and the importance of equine research.
Roy Jackson: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for the kind introduction.
It always comes back to thinking about two things when I reflect on the past:
[The first is] how fortunate we were to have bred a horse like Barbaro and to have shared his journey.
The second thing is all the positive things that came out of it, one of those being the education of the American public about veterinary medicine and the importance of, and the need for, veterinary research.
Today, I'd like to spend a few minutes discussing equine research, which has become dear to my heart.
In our eight months of visiting Barbaro at New Bolton Center, we were able to witness what equine research has done and what the advances have done…It also brought home to me the need for continued research in the future.
I'd like to share one incident that happened that really brought home to me the need for research, particularly in the laminitis area.
Gretchen and I visited Barbaro almost every day…We saw seven horses that came in with laminitis and none of them made it out of there. Dancer, Art and Cotton were a few of them. One day, I had to pass Art's stall and on this particular day, there was a nurse standing there and I said, "How is Art doing?" And she said, "Not very well."
She pointed to a steel table and on it there was a complete hoof that had come off Art. It was just like you'd taken your shoe off and put it on the table. It's that kind of incident I experienced that really brought home the need for research, particularly in the laminitis area.
Briefly, I'd like to tell you about a few exciting things that are going on at the program I know best: the New Bolton Center's laminitis initiative.
The dean, Dr. Joan Hendricks, had made research on laminitis a priority before Barbaro's accident because it kills more horses than anything except colic. In the colic cases, the horses often develop laminitis too.
Let me tell you a little bit about what's going on at New Bolton Center. As of July 1, Dr. Hannah Homer was appointed as researcher for the laminitis initiative. What is she going to do?
First of all, she's trying to find a biological marker for laminitis. We men take a PSA test. She's trying to do the same thing - to develop a blood test that will tell about the initial onset of laminitis.
Don't laugh at this one. The other thing she is doing is working with "nude" mice. Nude mice are mice that have been engineered so that they don't reject foreign tissue. What she will be doing there is injecting hoof tissue in the mice and then studying the treatment and what the various reactions are.
A number of other things are going on. A company named Game Ready, which has done work with professional athletes, has developed a boot that is going to be used with cold therapy. The doctors know that cold therapy works in stemming laminitis. It reduces the metabolic need of lamina tissue, it reduces inflammation, and it reduces the volume of triggers.
Very interestingly, if they can reduce a horse's leg to 38 degrees, they know they can keep it there for a long period of time. And it really helps in the cases of laminitis.
One of the sidelights of that is that they're doing some studies with Icelandic ponies that are subjected to very cold temperatures to see if they have a lot of cases of laminitis or not.
One of the other interesting areas involves a new drug that they'll be doing research with that is an anti-inflammatory.
Also, they're doing research with stem cells to see if they can be used to regenerate the hoof of a horse that has had part of his removed.
The last thing I might mention is that they're developing a shoe that will measure the weight that a horse carries on each leg and thus be able to judge if a horse is starting to shift like Barbaro did and put more weight on one hoof.
These are just a few of the things that are going on at New Bolton, and I think they deserve the support from all of us.
I'd like to briefly, before closing, talk a little bit about what's going on with funding in the research area.
The Grayson [-Jockey Club Research] Foundation, the Gluck Center and the Thoroughbred Charities of America will have contributed about $1,900,000 to equine research in 2007.
This is a healthy figure, but Dean Joan Hendricks, in an article in The Blood-Horse, back in May, entitled "Seize the Moment," pointed out from her medical experience that at the University of Pennsylvania every year, they get a number of grants from the federal government for clinical research. The $1,900,000 that is being contributed here is less than one of those grants.
I think Penn got 15 grants last year for human research and one of those grants was more than the $1,900,000.
So there is a need for all of us to join together and increase the funding for the betterment of horses.
In closing, I'd just like to say that Gretchen and I can think of no greater legacy for Barbaro than to see the awareness he has created of laminitis translated into increased dollars for research so that all horses some day will be free of laminitis.
Ogden Mills Phipps: Roy, thank you. We can't overestimate the importance of equine research
for the future health of our breed.