Thousands donated to equine research after member body scraps plastic cards

An equestrian organisation has scrapped its plastic membership cards and donated the amount it would have spent on them to equine research.

Ontario Equestrian chose not to hand out cards to its 22,000 members in 2017, which cost $1.50 each (£0.89), and instead put the $30,700 (£18,262) towards funding research into equine digestive health.

The money was given to Equine Guelph, a non-for-profit organisation at the University of Guelph that is committed to “serving the horse and its industry through education, research, healthcare promotion and industry development”.

The cheque was presented by the Ontario Equestrian vice-president Peter Chiddy to Dr Jeff Witchel, professor and dean of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), which is located on the campus of the University of Guelph.

Two academics at the college are studying “what is normal” when it comes to what lives in the equine gut.

OVC researcher Dr Luis Arroyo is setting up a simulated equine gut, dubbed RoboGut, to help understand what a healthy horse’s microbiome (microorganisms) looks like.

“I am deeply grateful for their support of this research program and the investment to this devastating equine illness, colitis,” said Dr Arroyo.

Dr Scott Weese, of Equine Guelph, added it is “not always easy” to find money for studies that establish “fundamental baselines”, such as this one.

“This funding from Ontario Equestrian is so important so we can have confidence in our interpretations for future disease studies,” said Dr Weese, who is analysing faecal samples from healthy horses over the course of a year.

His aim is to learn if the microbiota are impacted by seasonal changes, gain insight on different diets and how they affect the microbial population, and to study the composition versus function of microbiota.

Gayle Ecker, director of Equine Guelph, welcomed the funding and thanked Ontario Equestrian.

“Ontario Equestrian has been a long-time and valued partner with Equine Guelph and we have joined in many partnership programs that support horse health, welfare and safety,”said Ms Ecker.

“This research funding, is a great addition to the Equine Guelph research program at the University of Guelph and will build on existing areas of expertise at the University in support of horse health.”

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday