Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine
The speed behind the Thoroughbred is awe-inspiring, especially when that power comes from such fragile components. Any good horseperson knows that the best way to celebrate and to manage that speed and power is to better understand it.
Which is the premise of The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.
Incorporated in 1940 thanks to an initial campaign to raise $100,000 for equine research funding, the first donation was to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. The school was researching periodic ophthalmia, or equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) or moon blindness, an acute inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye.
“From the beginning, the aim was to support research at existing institutions through funding, rather than carry out the research itself,” said Jamie Haydon, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.
In fact, William Woodward, Sr., chairman of The Jockey Club in 1939 had stated, “The formation of the foundation is the result of the conviction of a large number of persons devoted to the raising and breeding of horses that there is a positive need for further research in veterinary medicine and in the breeding, raising and handling of horses.”
Flash forward to 1989 and the Grayson Foundation was combined with The Jockey Club’s research foundation that was started in 1984 to now be the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Inc.
“We exist to help all horses by funding excellent and significant veterinary research at universities throughout North American and beyond,” said Haydon. “(We) have no alliance with any one university, so the foundation is free to fund the best research regardless of where it takes place.”
Since the early 1980s, the foundation has funded 412 specific research projects at 45 universities and provided more than $32.1 million. Topics such as shaker foal syndrome, the first equine influenza vaccine, new vaccination approaches against R. Equi pneumonia, muscular factors influencing airway size in exercising and so much more.
For a foundation whose mission is to create a healthier species in the horse, choosing the right research that can make a difference can be difficult, but the right choice can be crucial.
“We are going to continue to identify and fund equine research that has the largest impact on the health of all horses by using the professional independent commitment of our Research Advisory Committee,” explained Haydon. “Equine disease and injuries extend to all types of horses. These ailments do not single out one particular horse, breed, or discipline. All horse owners may deal with laminitis, colic, musculoskeletal injures, sick foals, respiratory issues, and many others.”
That committee is led by Grayson Veterinary Consultant Dr. Johnny Mac Smith and Dr. Steve Reed from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. Dr. Smith scrutinizes each grant and assigns members to review and score the grants. The 32-person committee consists of a diverse group of subject matter experts from academic intuitions and private veterinarian practices across North America.
Some of the more recent research opportunities have reached an urgency in recent headlines. Funding for the first equine positron emission tomography (PET) scan helped to develop a new machine in 2019 that enables veterinarians and researchers to image the limbs of standing horses using light sedation and eliminating the need for aesthesia. This has now led to success in identifying lesions that other tools had failed to identify.
“By the end of 2022, this new machine will be installed in eight locations across North America and one in Australia for use by veterinarians for our horses’ safety,” says Haydon.
With several outbreaks of Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) last year, the foundation looked back at what research projects was funded that led to the effective treatments now available to veterinarians nationwide to battle the virus. Studies funded by the Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation have culminated with medication to reduce the cell-to-cell spread of EHV-1 and help to suppress the virus.
All for the health and protection of not only the racehorse, but all horses.
To learn more about the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, visit their website https://www.grayson-jockeyclub.org/
The Charity Spotlight is presented by Richard Pearson’s Avion Law, a California-based firm specializing on the aviation industry. Avion Law has a “giving back” program supporting awareness campaigns and donating to charitable organizations in and outside of horse racing. For more information on Avion Law, click here.
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