Former University of Limerick student Declan Ryan is the first male winner of the Royal Agricultural Society of England Eqvalan DuoR Equine Thesis of the Year Award.
Declan, who has just finished a BSc in equine science, proved that sex and age have an effect on certain blood parameters in Irish thoroughbred (TB) horses, in his thesis submitted for the competition.
“We had a few racehorses at home before I started college and from time to time we carried out blood tests to query poor performance,” said Declan.
“This started my interest in haematology and it became clear it had more than 20 years since a study had been made of the normal values for a healthy horse.”
Declan used data collected over five years at the Irish Equine Centre in Naas, Co Kildare, whittling 37,254 blood tests into a sample set of 435, to generate a set of normal ranges for Irish TBs.
His research showed significant differences between the level of platelets in the blood of foals and adult horses, and levels of component such as protein, potassium and globulin in the blood of male and female horses.
His range of “normal” results for healthy horses can be used to assess the blood of poorly performing animals.
Declan’s winning thesis was selected from research submitted by universities across the UK and Ireland.
He received his £500 prize on 12 November at the RASE offices in Stoneleigh Park.
Runner-up was Rebecca Mundy of Writtle College, whose dissertation also focused on Irish TBs, looking at recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis and possible dietary risk factors for the condition.
Declan hopes to take out a licence to train National Hunt horses and will use the prize money to buy a new saddle once he returns from California, where he is spending a year with trainer Bruce Hedley.