Projects

Currently Funded Projects

Patricia Pearce
$50,000

Strategy against surprise - utilising primary care health data

C Rogers

RUNX2 expression in exercising horses

H Sano

Predicting post anaesthetic myopathy in horses

E. Firth
$44,850

A novel clinical tool to assess fetlock joint morphology and bone health

C. Nicholson
$47,800

Can bone microstructure predict fracture predisposition? Towards in vivo analysis

B. Colborne
$137,289

Modelling Limb Responses

S. Mack
$8,450

Antimicrobial prescribing practice in NZ equine veterinary practice

C. Riley
$132,360

Infrared-based serum biomarkers for the early detection of osteoarthritis in horses

C. Bolwell
$70,177

Management practices in the Standard bred breeding and racing industries

L. Kamm/Chris Riley
$112,676

Identifying universal donors of equine stem cells

E. Firth
$27,614

Limb Pathology

G. Fitch
$35,730

Changes in airway dynamics with fitness and training in standardbred race horses

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Patricia Pearce
$50,000

Strategy against surprise - utilising primary care health data

Abstract: This project once completed will produce a sustained improvement in the quality and quantity of equine health related information available in New Zealand,

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C Rogers

RUNX2 expression in exercising horses

Abstract: Musculoskeletal injury is the single largest reason for involuntary loss of equine athletes in racing and other equestrian sports. Despite understanding some of the risk factors for different injuries we still have relatively poor understanding of the early developmental processes (molecular and DNA level) that place horses at risk to injury. With the increasing development of molecular technology in laboratory species (rodents) we are starting to understand how quickly the animal responds to exercise and how this response either protects or predisposes the animal to injury. This project utilises cell free RNA data for specific genes associated with bone development and change from two unique data sets to establish baseline data on the response of the juvenile horse (less than 18 months) and the mature horse to exercise. The juvenile data will help us understand the normal pattern of growth and development when at pasture, and from those at pasture with extra canter exercise. The mature horse data will be collected from endurance horses and provides a unique model of the response of horses to large volumes of moderate intensity exercise. Together these data sets permit identification of the genetic response of juvenile and adult horses’ musculoskeletal system to moderate level exercise.

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H Sano

Predicting post anaesthetic myopathy in horses

Abstract: General anaesthesia is necessary for most surgical and many diagnostic procedures. However, the death rate associated with anaesthesia is extremely high in horses (0.9- 8.0%) compared with other species (humans: 0.01%, small animals: 0.05-0.1%). As many as 50~78% of deaths following anaesthetic recovery in horses are a result of severe muscle injury (myopathy). These problems are generally associated with poor delivery of oxygen to muscles because of cardiovascular depression caused by the anaesthetics and/or muscle compression due to improper positioning of a horse. As a result, a poor quality of recovery from anaesthesia may occur, resulting in long bone fractures, and the horse being put to sleep. However, current anaesthetic monitoring measures indirect parameters such as blood pressure and not blood flow and oxygenation in the muscle. Therefore, a direct measurement of muscle oxygen would be useful because the ultimate goal of anaesthetic management is to deliver enough oxygen to tissues. We aim to investigate whether a tissue oxygen sensor can predict post anaesthetic myopathy. The findings will be translated for use with veterinarians locally and internationally to improve the quality of equine anaesthetic recoveries, and to decrease the mortality and wastage associated with anaesthesia.

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E. Firth
$44,850

A novel clinical tool to assess fetlock joint morphology and bone health

Abstract: Fractures of the cannon and other bones in the fetlock joint are common, can have tragic consequences, and are related to distances and speeds at which Thoroughbreds race and train. A new approach is to develop a technology array that can predict fetlock joint fracture risk in an individual horse, based upon shape, bone density and forces acting on the joint. Such models have enormous potential as clinical tools to prevent catastrophic injury. This project aims to develop the first component of the array, a statistical Shape Model, to predict the size and shape of the joint surfaces, and bone mineral densities at all points beneath the joint surfaces, using data from routine digital imaging. The model will indicate how mechanical stress, the key biomechanical determinant of fracture, is distributed into the underlying bone, and predict risk of fracture in particular sites. We will study the relationships between joint size, joint shape features, and bone mineral densities in 40 pairs of thoroughbred fetlock joints using state-of-the-art shape modelling techniques and statistical prediction methods already being applied in human fracture risk strategies, to produce the Shape Model. The resulting ‘fracture prediction tool’ will enable rapid on-screen reconstruction of individual anatomy, which with workload data (the second part of the array) and clinical assessment, will improve fracture risk prediction.

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C. Nicholson
$47,800

Can bone microstructure predict fracture predisposition? Towards in vivo analysis

Abstract: The equine industry is facing a serious problem with its supply chain. The number of horses entering race training is declining, with many of those failing to ever start in a race, resulting in a low number of career starts per horse. There is growing evidence to show that morphological changes at sites of condylar fracture in the cannon bone occur before training has even begun, suggesting factors related to early bone and joint development may contribute to later musculoskeletal problems. It is also being increasingly recognised that the chemical structure and composition (microstructure) of bone has a vital role to play in its fracture resistance, since very minor variations in the bone mineral or collagen at the molecular level can change the properties of the whole bone, including its strength and ability to resist fracture. Previous work has established that there are microstructural differences in bone at fracture predisposition and control sites and between individuals with normal and abnormal cartilage. The goal of this project is to develop the experimental methodology to allow bone samples to be analysed with no prior preparation, enabling the project to be moved towards the ultimate aim of non-invasive analysis in live horses.

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B. Colborne
$137,289

Modelling Limb Responses

Abstract: The physical properties of riding and racing surfaces have been associated with catastrophic injury and wastage in horses. Surfaces have been studied with regard to their ability to absorb the concussive forces between the horse’s hoof and the surface, and the surface can be measured in terms of its ‘hardness’. Most of the work done has been epidemiological and related to description of the surface. There is an important gap in our knowledge concerning how the equine limb responds to variation in surface properties. The horse can use its limb muscles to stiffen the limb or make it more compliant. With the advent of new software for musculoskeletal modelling, it is now possible to predict the amplitude and timing of this limb response from the surface properties. We propose to model the equine limbs using AnyBody® and to use our new gait analysis hardware and software to challenge the model to respond to variable inputs that are representative of real variations in racetrack surface integrity. The outcome will help to guide the assessment and maintenance of racetrack surfaces for the prevention of catastrophic injury and wastage.

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S. Mack
$8,450

Antimicrobial prescribing practice in NZ equine veterinary practice

Abstract: Antimicrobials (antibiotics) are commonly prescribed to humans and animals for the treatment of infectious conditions. The use of antimicrobials is important in maintaining human and animal health and welfare. Bacteria resistant to antimicrobials (antimicrobial resistance) are of global concern in both humans and animals health. The development of antimicrobial 2 resistance in horses will lead to poorer outcome of treatment for infections. There is a risk of increased foal mortality due to resistant bacteria causing disease. There is also great concern for wastage of racehorses due to resistant bacteria causing airway disease and affecting the horse’s long term performance and possible survival. Responsible antimicrobial prescribing can help prevent the development of antimicrobial resistance. Currently, in equine veterinary practice in New Zealand there is no restriction to the use of antimicrobials. Antimicrobial prescriptions are based on an individual veterinarian’s clinical judgement. A recent study of bacteria causing respiratory diseases in young horses in New Zealand identified that 39.2% (392/1000) of horses had at least one multidrug resistant bacteria. This study highlighted that multidrug resistance is an emerging problem for young horses in New Zealand. Determining the current antimicrobial prescribing patterns of equine veterinarians is a critical next step to determine the risk of antimicrobial resistance development in New Zealand and hence the potential impact on equine health and the equine industry.

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C. Riley
$132,360

Infrared-based serum biomarkers for the early detection of osteoarthritis in horses

Abstract: The early diagnosis, prevention, and management of joint disease are priorities for the New Zealand performance horse. There are advances in molecular, genetic and other serum and synovial fluid biomarkers for the prediction, early diagnosis and staging of musculoskeletal disease in horses, but they have not generally translated into routine use. Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) of joint fluid is a sensitive and specific biomarker method for the diagnosis of traumatic arthritis and osteochondrosis, requiring only a few drops of fluid. It is an economic, rapid and potentially accurate tool that has been shown to have potential in equine joint disease. Our program aims to develop FTIR as a practical, economic and method for the routine screening of competitive horses for the early detection of joint disease. A proof of concept study in rabbits with osteoarthritis, has demonstrated the potential to detect arthritis with the FTIR analysis of serum. Our objective is to develop this for the performance horse. We will study arthritis in young Thoroughbreds using an internationally accepted approach, and compare samples by infrared analysis to identify serum FTIR-based biomarkers to predict osteoarthritis, from early to chronic disease, over 70 days. The findings will be translated for use with trainers and owners, to monitor their racehorses in training and racing for early indications of joint disease.

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C. Bolwell
$70,177

Management practices in the Standard bred breeding and racing industries

Abstract: Although Thoroughbred racing is the largest of the three racing codes in New Zealand, the Harness racing industry in New Zealand is ranked 10th out of 22 countries that participate in the sport. Unlike Thoroughbred racing, there has been little attention focused internationally or nationally on the production or management practices of Standardbred racehorses or issues surrounding wastage in the harness racing industry. The way horses are managed and raced is different between the two industries, which means the knowledge of breeding, training practices and factors associated with wastage in the Thoroughbred industry cannot be easily applied to the Standardbred racehorses. The aim of the project is to describe the current stud farm management and training practices of Standardbred racehorses in New Zealand; providing information that will enhance our understanding of the way horses are managed in the harness racing industry in New Zealand. This information may then be used as a foundation upon which future investigations may be based to explore ways and means to mitigate wastage in this industry.

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L. Kamm/Chris Riley
$112,676

Identifying universal donors of equine stem cells

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E. Firth
$27,614

Limb Pathology

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G. Fitch
$35,730

Changes in airway dynamics with fitness and training in standardbred race horses

Abstract: The limitations of resting endoscopy in the identification of airway abnormalities that occur during exercise are well recognized (Barakzai et al 2011, Kelly et al 2013). Abnormalities of the upper airway observed at rest have been correlated with subsequent racing performance/earnings in Thoroughbreds (Garrett et al 2010), but not Standardbreds. For many horses, such grading may not reflect functioning when racing. Dynamic airway examination (scoping while exercising) was first performed using high-speed treadmills, but has been superseded by dynamic overground endoscopy (Pollock et al 2009, Van Erck 2011, Priest et al 2012, Compostella 2012, Pollock et al 2013). This mobile endoscopy system enables race conditions to be simulated to fully assess the upper airway for performance limiting problems of the upper airway, so as to more accurately diagnose conditions such as dorsal displacement of the soft palate that may only be manifested under extreme exercise levels (Lane et al 2006). More severe grades of laryngeal hemiplegia may be easily recognized at rest, but lower grades and many other conditions that may limit performance, may not. Dynamic endoscopy has recently been reported in the diagnosis palatal instability, axial deviation of the aryepiglottic folds, changes in epiglottic conformation, dorsal displacement of the soft palate, ventral deviation of the corniculate process of the arytenoid cartilages, and dorsorostral development of the dorsal laryngeal mucosa (Pollock et al 2009, Priest et al 2012, Compostella 2012, Pollock et. al 2013, Allen and Franklin 2013) It has also been observed that degree of head flexion can subsequently lead to dynamic airway obstruction both in trotters and in riding horses (Van Erck 2011 ). A recent study performed in 72 Thoroughbred yearlings observed the difference in findings between resting and dynamic overground endoscopy (Allen and Franklin 2013). Not surprisingly the latter enabled diagnosis of various abnormalities causing airway obstruction occurring only during exercise supporting the benefits of this technique. In this study dorsal displacement of the soft palate was correlated with upper-airway/pharyngeal inflammation. Recently dynamic overground endoscopy use has increased markedly, leading to a greater knowledge of the structures involved in upper airway malfunction. However, the pattern of progression of these problems in young racehorses is unknown. A study using dynamic endoscopy of a group of horses during training preparation period is lacking, would give further insight into the progression of airway problems in racehorses, and may allow for earlier intervention by the trainer and his/her veterinarian ..